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Transforming a downtown identity through urban creek restoration and connective multi-modal corridor design.

Lexington, KY, USA

At a Glance

Town Branch Commons is a hybrid park network, multi-modal trail system, and water filtration landscape designed to connect Lexington’s rural and urban communities and reinvigorate the downtown. Begun as a competition in 2013 and currently in design, the project has secured $23.1 mil. for design and construction.

Problem Addressed

Lexington’s urban area forms the headwaters of Town Branch. While the stream itself is buried below ground, waters emerge in different ways throughout the city. Storm sewer outlets, sinkholes, culvert openings, and manholes express the flow of Town Branch, which is formed by the urban runoff of Lexington’s pavements and parking lots. While the water body is concentrated into two underground culverts in the downtown core, as it moves towards the Bluegrass Country it transforms into an open canal system, then a fully day lit stream channel. The project seeks to make the traces of the buried creek visible, using context-specific techniques to daylight the stream and filter the urban run-off, improving the storm water management and water quality of Lexington’s drainage system. In addition, Lexington lacks defined, safe multi-modal pathways between neighborhoods. The project traces the underground creek and its moments of reveal with a multi-modal corridor through Lexington’s downtown core, aligning this new creek with urban connectivity.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government used/is using the Town Branch Creek restoration and Town Branch Commons greenway to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Combining public open space, multi-modal transit and streetscape improvements, storm water management, and ecosystem services, Town Branch Commons is a multi-functional urban landscape that follows the 2.5 mile path of the historic Town Branch creek through downtown Lexington, Kentucky. The Greenway exists within the right-of-way and completes a 22-mile-long trail network that bridges the urban city center with the rural Bluegrass countryside Town Branch and Legacy Trail systems. Beyond the individual benefits it will provide, the project reconnects the city with its Bluegrass identity and builds a legacy public space network for the 21st century. The design draws on the local vernacular materials of fences and stone walls and uses the local limestone (karst) geology as inspiration for a series of pools, pockets, water windows, and stream channels that brings water into the public realm.


  1. Establishes a connected 2.5 mile multi-modal corridor.
  2. Completes the missing link in a 22-mile-long trail network that bridges the city center with the Town Branch Trail and Legacy Trail.
  3. Creates 35,000 SF of Bio-swales that delay, store and filter storm water run-off prior to diversion into the city stormwaters system.

Who Should Consider?

Large, medium or small sized communities with urban capital projects. This project was able to synthesize an approach to mitigate multiple complex issues, while creating a fresh identity for Lexington.

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