Lexington's North End - highlighted in light gray

Throughout this document, you will find the words, images, and values of North End residents displayed in all of their varying forms. This variation reflects the complexity of the socio-economic changes happening in the North End.

Throughout the process, the Cultural Plan uncovered opinions of many longtime North End residents that were less polarized than the dialogue that tends to accompany conversations around community change and gentrification. Residents valued seeing public art, but wished it better reflected the diversity of the neighborhood. Residents valued seeing the historic buildings that they grew up around being repaired and renovated, but worried that increases in property values could potentially drive them out of their own homes. Residents loved seeing new businesses open, but wished that those businesses better served their needs or was at a price point they could afford.

This contradictory nature of development and change in the North End is partially the result of a lack of focus from any community or economic development entity on what the neighborhood actually wants or needs as a whole. While different entities focus on different groups within the community - from younger, wealthier newcomers to those that are the most marginalized - none focus on the patchwork quilt that is the whole of the North End. This does nothing to help shift the feelings of social fragmentation, unwelcomeness, and economic segregation that have underpinned narratives of the North End for generations.

In order to both provide a sense of focus and incorporate a wide swath of community development work happening in the North End, the Cultural Plan takes a multi-faceted look at the changes that are currently happening. 

LTMS Students Participating in the Cultural Plan Process

It begins with a History of Lexington’s North End written by Peter Brackney, a local historian who authors the blog Kaintuckeean. The history of the North End of Lexington is a complex narrative consisting of both entrepreneurship and the struggle of marginalized communities. The History section pulls together information about the North End from various sources to tell the stories of individuals and events that shaped the neighborhood into what it is today. Stories ranging from the agrarian industrialism of Luigart and Loughridge to the horrific lynchings that occurred in Brucetown in the late 1870s, these moments and individuals describe the neighborhood and frame its complex legacy.

The next section of the Cultural Plan - Data - lays bare the changes that are happening in the North End. Much of this information and mapping was put together from the 2000 US Census and the 2014 American Community Survey by Jessi Breen a University of Kentucky’s Department ofGeography PhD candidate and North End resident. The Data section attempts to give factual evidence illustrating that there are significant demographic changes taking place in the North End.

From 2000 - 2014, the North End saw a significant drop in African-American population from (40.4% of the total population down to 32.7%). This coincides with population growth among both the White and Latino populations. The significant growth of the Latino population shows that the North End is not entirely following the “typical” gentrification paradigm, usually associated with a replacement of poorer non-white residents of a community with wealthier, white ones.

North Limestone Neighborhood Rain Barrel Workshop

The North End’s housing landscape is also in flux. Gross rents in the North End are increasing - with almost a complete disappearance of rents in theless than $350/month range. It is important to note that these trends mirror the gross rent movement of Fayette County as a whole, while still remaining less expensive, on average. There was also a significant increase in property values during this period, which are still proportionally lower than than the rest of Lexington.

Often omitted from typical plans is the human impact of neighborhood change. In an effort to address that, the Cultural Plan contains a series of images and quotes gathered from residents in our community about the changes that they are seeing. These stories and images of Neighbors were gathered by Steve Pavey, another North End Resident. The images add another layer to the complex narrative surrounding the North End. There are photos of both longtime and new residents, accompanied by their words about the changes that are occurring, juxtaposed with images of neighbors meeting and interacting.

The goal of the first few sections of this Cultural Plan are to try to offer three distinct ways of looking at the current state of Lexington’s North End: a data-centered approach, a history-centered approach, and a people-centered approach.

Following that is a series of sections regarding the community’s vision for its future. It is organized into the following subsections: Assets & Culture, Businesses, Services, Food Access, Public Space, Arts, and Public Art. Each section ends with a list of recommendations for next steps. 

North End Residents Participating in the Cultural Plan Process

Community opinions were gathered for these sections through a variety of means. In an effort to take community input out of the “town hall” and into the neighborhood itself, in 2014 & 2015 the North Limestone CDC and UK partners hosted several neighborhood walks with students from neighborhood schools - specifically Lexington Traditional Magnet School and the STEAM Academy. These walks, which included the principals of these schools as well as teachers (many of whom were residents of the North End), took place along theNorth Limestone Corridor from Third Street to Arceme / Park View; students took varying paths between the two boundaries. 

During these walks, students and faculty were asked to use their fivesenses to observe their surroundings, and record the emotional impact that was elicited. Following these walks, which took 60-90 minutes, participants were then asked to fill out a 12-page survey, which included questions, mapping exercises, and more. This phase had people participate in groups of 20-30. After the youth phase of the process, several groups of North End residents, business owners, and social service organizations were also asked to participate in the process. During this phase, the groups were significantly smaller - groups of 5-10 - and took even more widely varying paths than the participants in the previous phase. Aside from the reduction in size of the groups, the process was the same as it was for the youth.

North End Residents Working on the North Pole Community Garden

In late 2015 and early 2016, North Limestone CDC and University of Kentucky’s Community Innovation Lab hosted a series of bilingual community dinners in the neighborhood. At these dinners, attendees were asked to share their ideas about food access, businesses & entrepreneurship, community assets, and more. Responses were recorded via post-it notes on the walls, group conversation, and one-on-one conversations. 

North Limestone CDC staff also spent time in more personal one-on-one interviews, as well as on-the-street interviews.

These methods of engagement are what contributed to the Vision section of the document.

The Culture & Assets section of the Cultural Plan discusses the tangible and intangible things that residents value about the North End. Neighborhood culture in the North End was associated with the people who live and work in the neighborhood; and residents indicated that seeing and hearing their neighbors is what makes them feel at home. In order togenerate a better understanding of these assets, the Cultural Plan recommends that the North Limestone CDC create a human asset inventory of the North End. This Asset Inventory will allow a more fine-grained level of understanding of what human assets already exist within the North End.

The Services section of the document details community opinions and needs regarding the different types of services that are offered in the North End. It highlights the missed opportunities of connecting existing services with existing residents, which is a theme that runs throughout this document. This section recommends creating a better framework to connect existing residents and services through working groups and convenings, as well as conducting more in-depth studies of several fields in the neighborhood, specifically: Housing, Community & Social Services, Education, Healthcare, and Transportation.

Castlewood Fresh Stop Market

The Business section of the Cultural Plan discusses the changing business landscape in the North End. While the neighborhood is seeing a growth in new businesses, it also shows a lack of businesses in the North End that meet daily needs for residents. While new jobs are coming to the neighborhood through new businesses, very few of them are hiring residents that have lived in the neighborhood for a significant period of time. The recommendations include improving networking between businesses, assisting businesses with growth opportunities, and creating incentives for making the business landscape more equitable and more representative of the neighborhood itself.

The Food Access section documents a lack of access (both geographic and economic) to fresh, healthy foods in the North End. The report highlights the successes of services like Fresh Stop Market and Seedleaf, and creates recommendations to build upon these services and models to encourage more access andavailability of options. 

Perhaps the most lengthy section is Public Space, which includes open public space, streets and roads, parks, and more. This section describes the importance of quality public space that is designed with everyone in mind. It discusses the overall poor conditions of the street and sidewalk infrastructure in the North End. It brings up design issues that neighbors have with the handful of parks in the neighborhood: Duncan, Castlewood, and Brucetown Park. It then creates a list ofrecommendations for specific issues dealing with public spaces in the neighborhood. 

North Limestone Neighborhood Cleanup Event

The Arts, Culture & Creativity section explores the connection between art, culture, creativity, and community development. It discusses the wide range of opinions regarding public art in the North End. The neighborhood has seen a significant increase in the amount of public art- specificallymurals - in the area, and the community has had a variety of reactions. The section discusses how public art can make residents feel disempowered in their own communities if they do not value or identify with the artwork. It makes a series of recommendations to make the entire process of creating public art in the North End more equitable and inclusive, including thecreation of a toolkit to allow more people to commission public art that is informed by neighborhood values. It then details arts and cultural organizations that exist in the North End. It talks about the tension between art, community development, and gentrification, and ultimately takes a deep look at how artistic process can be used as a tool to breed more inclusive community development practices through examining El Sistema, a group musical education model.

Following this Vision section is Looking Ahead, which brings the conversation back to what community development is, how it happens, and creates a set of guidelines for how community development should happen in the North End. These guidelines do not just apply to community development organizations, but also to anyone working in the broad scope ofsectors that combine to make up the North End. These principles are as follows:

Community Development in Lexington’s North End should be:

  • Accomplished without Assumptions - Information, data, facts, and direct conversation should underpin all decisions related to community development work in the North End. All information should be validated, people should be talked with directly, and all information should be seen within the context of the community.
  • Equitable - Decisions made regarding community development in the North End need to be informed by those that have been historically left out of the conversation, and that might require different techniques and tactics to provide spaces in which all feel comfortable. True community development is messy - many people will disagree, and it is up to to those doing the work to balance what the majority wants with what is actually needed.
  • Self-Determinant - The community itself should set the course for community development in the North End, and should be provided with opportunities to make it happen themselves. It should recognize that individuals in the community have the true expertise, and it should provide them with the tools to self-actuate their own wants and needs whenever possible.
  • Built on Existing Assets - Community development in the North End should be built on what is already there, not on bringing in new things. This is not to say that all exterior influences should be barred and the neighborhood should become insular,  but more emphasis should be put on finding the hidden assets of the community and providing opportunities for those to grow.
  • Creative - Creativity and culture are a big part of life in the North End, and that needs to be imbued throughout all sectors of community development in the neighborhood. These aspects bring a humanity to community development that can otherwise be missing, and are essential for good practice.

The final section of the Cultural Plan discusses ways to keep the Cultural Plan updated and relevant moving forward. It provides specific instructions on how to update the current sections of the document on an annual basis, as well as indicating what topics still need to be researched and added to the Cultural Plan. A schedule for both of these points are provided at the end of the document. 

This Cultural Plan contains three years worth of listening to and engagement with the residents, businesses, and social service organizations that make up the North End. Careful measures have been made to ensure that this document represents their wishes and desires, but it is impossible to reach everyone. It goes without saying that there are individuals and groups whose voices were not heard in this process. No organization or individual can claim this document as justification for not engaging with the community in the future.  It is the hope that this document will provide the basis for organizations and individuals working towards community development goals in the North End to understand that all voices need to be heard.