(The Center Square) – Government officials and representatives from the business community in Lexington, Kentucky are looking forward to receiving a 200-acre parcel of land from the University of Kentucky they say will help the state’s second-largest city compete for economic development projects.
Nearly four years ago, the city and the state’s flagship university reached a deal that would give the city 250 acres of land on the northern end of town in exchange for giving the school control of about 13 acres of roads in and around the campus.
The land is in two tracts at UK’s Coldstream Research Campus. Lexington has already received one 50-acre section, which is shovel-ready for development opportunities. The remaining 200 acres in the back part of the campus will be transferred to the city next year. The deal gives area economic development officials property they can market for business expansion and attraction projects.
More than 60 years ago, officials in Lexington and Fayette County established the urban services boundary, which works to preserve farmland in the outer stretches of the county while keeping development projects within the urban core.
While the pact is hailed by many as a strong example of responsible growth, it can also provide a challenge when trying to attract new businesses or help an existing one expand.
Gina Greathouse, the executive vice president for economic development for Commerce Lexington told The Center Square, there’s not much available land for light industry in the city. Commerce Lexington works with Lexington and surrounding communities to attract new businesses, help existing ones with expansion projects and foster entrepreneurial development.
“There are some little pieces of I-1 (zoned) land, but it's scattered,” she said. “So, there's not one site truly where you could put a 25-acre high-tech manufacturing company right now that's properly zoned.”
That’s where the Coldstream property will help, she said.
The 200-acre site on the northern edge of the urban service boundary should yield about 135 developable acres once infrastructure, buffers and roads are in place. That’s what Erin Hathaway, a project manager for Gresham Smith, told Lexington Urban-County Council members last week during a Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting. Gresham Smith, an architectural and development planning firm, is working with city leaders to develop a master plan for the property.
The firm estimates the Coldstream Park would accommodate nearly 940,000 square feet of industrial space and almost 400,000 square feet of office space.
In a statement to The Center Square, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said thanks to UK’s help, the Coldstream property will address the city’s business growth needs in the near future.
“To give you an idea of the impact of a business park, let’s look back to the 100-acre Bluegrass Business Park, which the city and Commerce Lexington started back in the 90s,” the mayor said. “It is now fully developed. In 2019 the businesses in Bluegrass together produced $93.4 million in payroll and net profits tax revenue. That’s a huge contribution to Lexington’s quality of life and basic services.”
Greathouse said the park could attract computer and life sciences companies, but the city also is looking to lure more agri-tech companies as well.
Lexington officials expect to invest up to $17.9 million in preparing the property to be shovel-ready for companies.
According to the project timeline, the city should officially receive the land in about a year.