A Block Party!
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In this issue

A Block Party!
Did You Know?
In Other Words
Recent Projects

"Y'all know who run the block right now
All we need is a mic and a beat
And a couple of speakers
And some turn tables out in the street, come on!"

Will Smith
"Block Party"

A Block Party!

The little neighborhood that could. That's how I would describe our little slice of Lexington where our studios have been located for more than a decade. Our neighborhood was born as "Morningside" in the middle of the Great Depression. Government was doing everything it could to offer hope to Americans, and building new infrastructure to spur business was one way. Morningside became a thriving warehouse district anchored by bottling, lumber, and distributing companies.

National Avenue 1934

But eventually it became cheaper for these kinds of businesses to move to the outskirts of town than to maintain the aging, gargantuan buildings. Lexington, like most cities, was left with crumbling monuments to the New Deal.

Morningside not only lost thriving businesses, it lost its identity and dignity. It was no longer a neighborhood. It had became just another area full of ugly warehouses with broken windows, broken pavement, and broken hopes. It was just a shortcut from Main Street to Winchester Avenue - if you dared drive through it.

In the mid-1980's, Randy Walker bought a piece of property here for his electrical contracting business. The price was good, but the neighboring vacant building was an eyesore. He bought it, fixed it up, and rented spaces out. But that wasn't enough. The building next to that was an eyesore, so he bought that. And so on.

Thirteen acres later, he was joined by his two sons who shared his vision to renovate these scarred ruins back into the grand structures they once were. Randy, Greg, and Chad knew that bottling and distributing companies weren't the right fit anymore. They saw retail, food, arts, fitness, and creative services as the right fit. But the zoning excluded most of these types of businesses. It was time for a plan.

If this neighborhood was created from the Great Depression, you could say it was re-created from the "Great Recession." The economy needed a booster shot again. The mayor and council recognized that adaptive reuse would revitalize older districts that no longer attracted the businesses they were designed for. Infill redevelopment was becoming all the rage with cities, but the Walkers were already doing it. With their plan approved by the city, the rebirth began. Our little slice was becoming a neighborhood again. But what would it be called?

The Walkers decided early on to wait before putting a label on this area. In a Business Lexington article, Greg Walker said, â€œMany similar infill redevelopments branded their areas first and then began the redevelopment process. We made the decision a long time ago to wait until we were close to the end before we gave the area a name.” The Walkers did something else out of the ordinary - they let us, the neighborhood, choose the name.

After careful research and design, the Walkers were presented with names, logos, and marketing plans from an advertising agency. The Walkers assembled all of the neighborhood business owners and presented us with two very compelling logos and plans. One recalled the past while acknowledging the flavor of Kentucky. The other also recalled the past, but emphasized the future.

At the unveiling this past week, the Walkers, along with Mayor Jim Gray, unveiled the nearly unanimous winner.

Mayor Gray unveiling logo

Greg Walker, Mayor Jim Gray, and Chad Walker

Warehouse Block logo

What's in the mark?
The elements of the logo are detailed

Our neighbors, Lexington Ice Sculptures, fittingly sculpted the logo out of a block of ice.

The unveiling party took place in the courtyard behind us, where railroad tracks used to run up to the warehouses.

Daisy, the wonder studio dog, relaxes in the corner art garden.

This isn't the end of redevelopment. The Walkers have much more planned, including a new 40,000 square foot building on National Avenue that will include creative retailing. Said Greg Walker, â€œWe all recognize that we are doing much more than purchasing, renovating and leasing properties. We are building a community, one which we believe could be a model for other commercial infill projects to follow." 

So what about that block party? Stay tuned, the Walkers are planning a block party in August that will feature entertainment, art, crafts, and open houses. But come on down now, because you don't have to wait until the block party to join in on the fun.

Did You Know?

  • Morningside Woodcrafters on National Avenue developed their name from the neighborhood history.
  • "Block" was chosen over "District" because it denotes a community that is close knit.
  • Dynamix Productions offices are in the former offices of Walker Electric and Walker Properties.
  • Custom manufactured mouthpieces for brass instruments are made right here on North Ashland Avenue at Pickett Brass.
  • Eight (and counting) fitness studios make their home in Warehouse Block.
  • The Mentelle Neighborhood Association and businesses that don't lease from the Walker Properties were included in the Warehouse Block branding discussions.
  • Beautiful classical music can often be heard drifting from the Kentucky Ballet Theatre behind us.
  • Why would groups of people intentionally have themselves locked in a room and try to escape within an hour? Because they're flocking to Breakout Games on Ashland Avenue.
  • Greg Walker was interviewed about Warehouse Block by Tom Martin in our studios for an upcoming Q&A article in the Herald Leader, as well as featured sound bites on WEKU-FM.

In Other Words

According to the National League of Cities' Sustainable Cities Institute:
  • Urban infill is defined as new development that is sited on vacant or undeveloped land within an existing community, and that is enclosed by other types of development. In other words, filling in the gaps between properties already developed.
  • Urban infill can remove eyesores, make areas safer, and build up enough community to develop and sustains parks, recreation, and retail.
  • If not managed properly by local government, urban infill can encroach on adjacent neighborhoods, favor historic building demolition for new developments, displace families, and dramatically drive up property values.
  • Brownfield redevelopment is a broad term used to describe the reuse and revitalization of abandoned, underutilized or stigmatized properties through the use of one or more local, state or federal programs. In other words, recycling property to slow urban sprawl.
  • Brownfield areas that are redeveloped can turn non-tax generating properties into tax-generating properties for municipalities.
  • Brownfield redevelopment can preserve green spaces.
  • Costs for redeveloping brownfield properties can be nearly impossible to accurately predict.

Neil Kesterson

Recent Projects

  • Keeneland Preakness and Belmont simulcast radio spots (Team Cornett, Lexington, KY)
  • "Investors Unite" Radio (RunSwitch PR, Louisville, KY)
  • "Ryan Quarles for State Ag Commissioner" TV (Grit Creative, Frankfort, KY)
  • "Shadows" TV for Kentucky GOP  (Grit Creative, Frankfort, KY)
  • "Whitney Westerfield for Attorney General" TV  (Grit Creative, Frankfort, KY)
  • Radio for Kentucky GOP (Grit Creative, Frankfort, KY)
  • Bank of Lexington on-hold messages (Logical Marketing, Lexington, KY)
  • "Latest Edition" TV for Baptist Health Lexington (Cruxial Creative, Versailles, KY)
  • "Unwanted Horse Coalition" 10-year anniversary video (AAEP, Lexington, KY)
  • "Energy Star Appliance" TV (East Kentucky Power, Winchester, KY)
  • Ongoing sales training modules for Lexmark International, Lexington, KY
  • Valvoline Synthetic Oil / Jeff Gordon radio campaign  (Team Cornett, Lexington, KY)

In Production

  • “I Remember the Old Home Very Well: The Lincolns in Kentucky" documentary (Witnessing History, Lexington, KY)
  • Audiobook for "Frederick's Queen" by Suzan Tisdale on Audible/Amazon (Brad Wills Narrator)


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