Locals voice concerns about downtown redevelopment

Consultant Barry Alberts addresses attendees of Tuesday’s public forum on downtown redevelopment. (Alfred Miller/alfred.miller@state-journal.com)

Locals got another shot at voicing their concerns about downtown redevelopment — and, this time, they went off script.

On Tuesday night, a crowd of about 50 people — many running for local elected office — gathered at Capital City Christian Church for a second forum organized by CityVisions, the consulting firm Frankfort hired to craft a master downtown redevelopment plan.

Amid the calls for improved traffic flow and greater variety in downtown housing and businesses, some locals strayed from answering the prescribed group-discussion questions.

“The Farmers Market sure would like to hear some dialog about commitment about preserving the Farmers Market location,” Franklin County Farmers Market organizer Richard Jones said in a prepared statement that also noted mankind’s great debt to agriculture.

Asked after the forum about the Farmers Market’s fear of potentially being relocated from its riverside spot, CityVisions’ Barry Alberts told The State Journal he did not yet have any initial thoughts on the market’s location. He described the Franklin County Farmers Market as a valuable downtown activity generator and said he had worked previously with the Lexington Farmers Market located near that city’s historic courthouse.

Rebecca Ruth Candy owner Charles Booe also veered from Tuesday’s program by voicing a number of personal concerns, including the navigability of downtown Frankfort by large vehicles. Even as the city prepares to reduce lanes on Second Street as part of an $8 million federal grant, Booe’s bourbon-ball factory in South Frankfort has found it difficult to find truckers willing to navigate local streets, he told The State Journal. Booe has the same concerns about tour buses and trailers hauling boats.

Alberts told The State Journal he had met previously with Booe to tour the 3.1 acres of undeveloped riverfront property adjacent to Booe’s factory.

Tuesday’s meeting was organized in response to recent calls for more transparency and inclusiveness by county leaders. A number of county magistrates had expressed alarm that CityVisions appeared to be moving beyond the information-gathering phase without making more of an effort to solicit input from county residents. CityVisions’ $100,000 contract is technically with the City of Frankfort, but the Franklin County Fiscal Court is covering half the cost.

Next Tuesday, Alberts and partner David Gamble of Gamble Associates will hold a third public gathering at downtown Frankfort’s former Mitchell’s Clothing Store building. That meeting — now slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. — will mark the beginning of the “next phase” of Alberts’ work, the consultant told attendees Tuesday. While Alberts promised to continue meeting with citizens to collect input, he is now analyzing how what he’s observed so far matches up with economic feasibility, he said.

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