A much-discussed riverfront development took a step forward recently.
Consultants for the City of Frankfort’s riverside property known as Blanton’s Landing released an update on their ongoing feasibility study for a new project there.
There are four basic elements of the project as currently designed:
• An outdoor entertainment venue on the long, flat space of the landing’s east end.
• A Kentucky River overlook at Ann Street.
• A dock underneath the overlook.
• A land-based terrace connecting all three of those spaces.
As of now, there is no cost estimate for any potential projects on the land.
The city’s current focus, according to city Development Director Eric Cockley, is on public input and finalizing a feasibility study that will later go before the city commission.
Citizens can comment on the study at the city’s “Frankly Speaking” website, https://franklyspeakingky.com.
A representative of the primary consultant — MKSK, which has a studio in Louisville and has worked on several projects in the Louisville area — said the firm evaluated several factors before choosing a terrace option in lieu of an option closer to the river.
“After evaluating each of these options thoroughly from multiple perspectives, including overall experience, operations, maintenance, durability, and cost, we are recommending the terrace option,” Luis Huber-Calvo said. “It provides the best opportunity to reconnect with the river, a durable structure within the fluctuating water levels of the Kentucky River and multiple opportunities for water recreation.”
Interim City Manager Tom Russell said he thought the city had gotten past a significant hurdle in selecting a basic vision for the project moving forward.
“Coming up with the concept of this thing was a difficult step,” Russell said. “I won't say the most difficult because when we get financing, obviously that'll be a hurdle, but there are a lot of ideas out there. We've kind of narrowed this down to the one scope for a plan. And I think that's a huge hurdle right there, and I think the concept design that we have now is something that's very doable.”
Community Engagement Project Manager Blair Hecker added that much of the process was informed by the community’s downtown master plan. The plan details a desire for increased “activation” of Blanton’s Landing, and mentions a river overlook at Ann Street.
“Something that’s so important to understand is the master plan is our general guidebook,” Hecker said. “In order to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money, these design plans are so important, because they help us to do exactly that — to nail down those nuts and bolts and get a product that everyone wants and that’s going to be usable.”
Still, what those key components — the dock, the overlook, the event space and the terrace — look like is up in the air.
The MKSK rendering of the Blanton’s Landing area labels the outdoor event space as an “amphitheater” and says that some parking would be available there as well.
Cockley added that respondents to the city’s recent Parks Master Plan outreach effort said that event space was a top need, which would bode well for a amphitheater.
“Multiple other initiatives have told us that this is something people want,” Cockley said. “The biggest things that keep getting repeated are river access and additional event space — an amphitheater, specifically, has been mentioned a lot. So we could check both those boxes here.”
Though the city owns the large Blanton’s Landing plot just south of the Kentucky Military History Museum, the current draft involves a terrace snaking along the back of several private properties. The largest landowner in the area of interest is the Crumbaugh Properties, which has office space and property underneath and west of the Capital Avenue bridge.
Current renderings of the proposed terrace depict it going underneath the overlook patio at Goodwood Brewing and behind the WesBanco (formerly Farmers Bank) building and stopping at the Sullivan Square Garage, where the proposed Ann Street overlook would be.
As for financing, city officials have been mum on what they believe the price range will be. Cockley said that the final step of the feasibility plan will be financial considerations.
“Probably the last step will be, ‘What are the financing options?’” Cockley said. “So the consultant will help us identify any potential grant funding and will help us have discussions about if there are any members of the business community that might be interested in a public-private partnership for any of this.”
Cockley said he hopes to work with the consultant to submit a draft feasibility study to the city commission soon, then create a final version based on that feedback.
Russell, Hecker and Cockley all emphasized the importance of citizen input as the project moves forward.
“It is really important that we want people to see this, we want people to interact with it. We want people to tell us what their questions are,” Hecker said. “I think we're getting awesome feedback so far, but we don't want to put something out there that the community's not going to utilize and not going to meet their needs. I think more outreach will help us also potentially prioritize projects, too, depending on what budgets might be for the future.”