It is an exciting time for Frankfort. As we look to the new decade, we can expect to see a lot of exciting changes, many of which come from Frankfort’s Downtown Master Plan.
There is a substantial amount of work already happening, and chances are you’ve seen projects resulting from the master plan and didn’t even realize it. So, let’s start out the year by tracking the progress of the plan.
To review, Frankfort underwent a community visioning process throughout 2018, engaging in various community conversations that resulted in the Frankfort Downtown Master Plan. The great thing about the master plan is it includes guidelines — not only specific project ideas — that Frankfort can interpret and use to create more projects than what are identified in the plan. While specific larger plan items are being discussed and evaluated (for example, the Broadway bridge), numerous other projects are already underway.
These first three projects were identified by Downtown Frankfort Inc. (DFI) and submitted to the city in September as recommendations for first priorities from the plan. This is their current status.
- Ann Street overlook: DFI’s recommendation is to improve the visibility of the river from the end of Ann Street. The City of Frankfort has initiated work to clear the view of the river at this location. This action was recommended in the master plan, under identified items for the South waterfront improvement. This is an initial step for improved riverfront engagement and has the potential to lead to a more permanent overlook.
- Downtown crosswalks: DFI’s recommendation is to paint downtown crosswalks in the proposed Entertainment District a single color, from the Kentucky Distilled branding palette. City of Frankfort staff are currently evaluating costs and options for this action. This connects to the third master plan guiding principle: Encourage walkability, by creating a more cohesive and pedestrian-friendly downtown.
- Wilkinson/Broadway Railroad trestle: DFI’s recommendation is to create a more welcoming and attractive entrance to downtown by affixing branded banners to each side of the railway trestle. This action is specifically recommended in the master plan, under improving connectivity to downtown. City of Frankfort staff members also are currently evaluating costs and feasibility of this action.
City of Frankfort staff, the tourist commission, DFI and other community groups have also been working on the following projects since the master plan development phase wrapped up at the end of 2018.
- Blanton’s Landing RFP: The City of Frankfort released an RFP in November for the Blanton’s Landing property, located on the riverfront off of Main Street. The RFP is for proposals to revitalize this property, connecting to the first master plan guiding principle: Better engage with the riverfront. It is specifically listed as an action item for improving downtown’s South Waterfront. The RFP is the first step; stay tuned for more action in 2020.
- New downtown sculptures: In 2019, FrankArts — a group of arts professionals and arts organizations formed to foster the arts in Frankfort and Franklin County — installed six sculptures downtown as part of an Arts Downtown program. These sculptures, along with three new murals on downtown buildings, connect to the second master plan guiding principle: Strengthen a sense of identity, which identifies public art as a key component of establishing a unique Frankfort identity. More murals are slated to get underway in 2020.
- Downtown Parking Study: In October, the City of Frankfort launched its public engagement website, Frankly Speaking, with its first study focused on downtown parking. The goal was to collect resident and visitor feedback on downtown’s current parking strengths and weaknesses, to prepare an RFP for a comprehensive downtown parking plan. As downtown is growing rapidly, this action connects to the third master plan principle: Encourage walkability. Creating a user-friendly parking system will allow more residents and tourists to easily park downtown and have ample time to walk to visit stores, restaurants and attend events.
- Clinton and Mero streets: Following the completion of the new Mayo-Underwood Building on the site of the previously demolished Capital Plaza Tower, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, at the city’s request, conducted traffic studies and ultimately made the decision to leave both Clinton and Mero streets two-way in and out of downtown. This connects to the sixth master plan guiding principle: Improve traffic and circulation. Based on master plan recommendations, this gateway into downtown will be more inviting to visitors and easily accessible as a two-way traffic flow.
- Bourbon Marker: In 2019, the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist Commission installed the Kentucky Bourbon Pole at the corner of St. Clair and Main streets downtown. This marker is a tourist attraction, guiding visitors to bourbon distilleries and their distance from Frankfort. The pole signifies the fact that Frankfort is the center point of all the distilleries in Kentucky. This connects to the ninth master plan guiding principle: increasing bourbon/cultural tourism, by improving wayfinding signage to Frankfort’s bourbon attractions.
- New brewpubs: Since the adoption of the master plan in December 2018, two new breweries have opened in downtown Frankfort. The lack of breweries and brewpubs in downtown Frankfort was identified in the master plan as a weakness in early 2018, at the time of the plan’s inception, and is a recommendation under the ninth guiding principle: Increase bourbon/cultural tourism.
To review the guiding principles and identified actions of the Master Plan, visit the city’s website, frankfort.ky.gov. and find the Downtown Master Plan under "Our Community." Make sure you’re following Now That’s Frank on social media to stay updated on all the latest happenings in Frankfort, and we’ll continue to track the progress of downtown’s master plan.
Blair Hecker is the City of Frankfort community engagement project manager. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.