Ok, I know this is one of those things that’s easier said that done but think about this for a moment.
The University of Kentucky just abandoned the idea of building a retirement community at Spindletop Farm. The idea was flawed on a number of levels. The largest probably being Lee Todd not doing the necessary ground work to make the plan a reality.
Speaking as a retired alumnus of UK, the idea of living in a retirement community almost in Scott County was a non-starter.
That started me to thinking about what kind of retirement community would I like to live in, definitely not something that reminded me of houses on a country club fairway.
After some thought, I decided I would like to live downtown. Now this is not a particularly original thought, but one that apparently hasn’t reached Lexington. And no I’m not talking about a block of apartments where the kids have decided to warehouse grandma and grandpa until they die. Nor am I talking about a Gated Community for the too rich to live among the masses.
I’m talking about a viable, livable community that is a larger component of a diverse livable downtown Lexington.
But what would it take to build a retirement community in downtown Lexington?
There seems to be a growing awareness that we are chewing up too much Bluegrass building new subdivisions we need to develop some of the thousands of acres of land, not to mention the vacant lots, already zoned for development.
The University of Kentucky wants to build a retirement community;
There is an interest in building bridges between the University of Kentucky and city of Lexington through town and gown cooperation;
A retirement community with strong ties to the University could provide a financial boost to community life downtown, perhaps enough to bring in a grocery chain and other necessary elements for a functioning community.
What make this kind of a project so difficult? Below are some of the myths and facts around infill projects from Urban Infill Housing: Myth and Fact™
The market for urban infill housing is weak.
A back-to-the-city trend is energizing the housing market in many cities. In many others, city governments have adopted innovative programs to encourage housing demand and production.
Assembling land for urban infill housing is likely to be difficult and time-consuming, and land costs are likely to be prohibitive.
Issues related to land acquisition vary from city to city. In some cities, land is readily available and affordable. In others, it is scarce, expensive, and mired in legal entanglements. Many city governments offer developers assistance with the acquisition and assembly of land, and creative options are available.
Financing for the development of urban infill housing projects either is not available or is too complicated to be worthwhile.
Financing is usually available for well-conceived projects. It can range from simple private deals to quite complicated public/private partnership structures, depending on the specifics of the project and the market.
Cities tend to have complex zoning and building codes and long-drawnout building permit processes that make the development of urban infill housing too risky and time consuming.
The degree of complexity of zoning and building codes and the time required to process building permits vary from city to city. Many city governments have streamlined their review and permitting processes.
Urban properties usually have some form of environmental contamination, making them too risky to develop.
While previous uses on or around many urban sites are quite likely to have contaminated those sites to varying degrees, evolving government programs have made cleaning up environmental problems less costly and less risky.
Urban infill housing sites lack adequate public infrastructure and amenities, or the infrastructure is severely deteriorated and too expensive to repair.
In most cities, existing infrastructure elements and urban amenities represent a positive and highly marketable feature for infill projects. In many cities in which the advanced age of infrastructure constitutes a barrier to development, policies are in place to mitigate the expense of needed infrastructure improvements.
In general, the community opposition encountered in cities is harder to deal with than that encountered in suburbs.
The amount and character of community opposition tends to vary depending on the specifics of the project and the neighborhood. Neighbors and the local political
establishment actively support some urban infill housing proposals.
Inflexible historic-preservation requirements make the rehabilitation or conversion of urban structures for use as housing infeasible.
Development involving historic structures can be complicated, but renovated historic structures often add significant market appeal and value. In addition, tax credits for
historic preservation make the rehabilitation and conversion of historic structures more feasible.
A livable retirement community as part of a diverse downtown Lexington, would take some work and cooperation, but it could be done.