City planning ‘rock star’ to visit Frankfort

Jeff Speck will speak, host workshop in Frankfort

By Ryan Quinn, Published:

Jeff Speck, a city planner who supports pedestrian-friendly downtowns and has called suburban sprawl America’s worst idea ever, will speak and host a workshop in Frankfort this week.

Speck, whose design firm is based in Washington, D.C., wrote “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” and co-wrote “Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.” He’s the former director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts.

“He’s kind of a rock star for anybody who’s interested in community planning,” said Diane Comer, public information officer for the Kentucky Heritage Council. 

Comer said Speck shares the simple message that making a community pedestrian-friendly can improve its public health, sustainability and economy. Speck argues that the vast majority of money spent on driving goes out of local economies.

Speck supports planting trees, narrowing streets, preserving historic buildings and investing in public transit, Comer said.

Frankfort residents are currently struggling to revitalize their urban area, and the city is moving toward overhauling the Second Street corridor to make it greener and more suitable for walking. 

At 7 p.m. Thursday at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St., Speck will give the keynote presentation at the 2014 Kentucky Main Street Program winter conference — the first of four events in a series this year, Comer said. 

Speck will also host a workshop 9-11 a.m. Friday in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet auditorium at 200 Mero St. 

The Frankfort conference, which began today, is focusing on walkability in city planning. It is presented by the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office in partnership with Preservation Kentucky, according to a press release.

Speck’s lecture is $10 and his workshop is $25. A single day of the conference is $35 and the full conference registration for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is $100. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at A complete conference schedule is located at

Full conference participants will get to attend the premier of the new documentary on the 100th anniversary of the Governor’s Mansion tonight at 7:30.

Other events include “Main Street Transformation!” 2-4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Marcus building, 309 St. Clair St. Attendees will work with experts to assemble a full storefront display for The Woolery Weaving Center, an expansion of The Woolery next door expected to open by February. The exercise is meant to show how occupying an empty storefront can dramatically transform a street.

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  • Don't walkable cities dramatically out perform low density auto transit dependent sprawl in almost every important economic, enviromental, & public health comparison? Particularly the cost/benefit analisys to local citizens, taxpayers, & small business owners. I think Mr. Speck sees a future of better mobility, greater mobility diversity, less auto congestion, and much better quality of life for everyon, particularly kids, seniors, handicapped, & low income, not to mention the growing % of folk who hate being stuck in traffic. I beleive more walkable cities will generate more revenue and actually mitigate transportation costs.

  • hhmm he works for a firm...I smell "a study" coming on----- majority of money spent on driving goes out of local economies. People "driving" to work, walmart, kroger, pic pac, shell, etcc provide $ to the local economy.  People driving to work provide us with payroll taxes, people driving to walmart pay sales tax, people driving anywhere pay a state and federal fuel tax.  DRIVING provides us with more revenue than walking ever will.  Know why cities developed around waterways, highways, railways? Because of transportation and the ability bring in and goods.  Cities didn't grow because they had a sidewalk downtown.

  • Please don't let Mr Speck be downtown after five pm, because that's when the sidewalks are rolled up.

  • Bla bla bla bla more downtown.  The city likes deannexing stuff or better yet let downtown form its own city.   We live in the CITY of FRANKFORT.  

  • 'Other events include “Main Street Transformation!” 2-4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Marcus building, 309 St. Clair St.'

    That's funny- this is the first I've heard of this event at my building! But I am happy to have the Woolery expanding into the first floor space.