Council pulls plug on funding for Davis Bottom Farmers’ Market, new Salvation Army building

Lexington, Ky.–The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council has decided to cancel two projects that were previously funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) due to the deadlines associated with the federal coronavirus relief money. The council approved the rescission of the preliminary award of $2 million to the Salvation Army of Lexington for relocation to a new location and $4 million to the Lexington Farmers’ Market for building and relocation in the Davis Park area, previously known as Davis Bottom, at a work session held on Tuesday.

A rendering of the proposed Davis Bottom farmers’ market site. (Courtesy of Lexington Farmers’ Market)

Instead, the council has decided to allocate $2 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, $1 million to renovate the Black and Williams Community Center on Georgetown Street, $1 million for a project to reimagine Phoenix Park, and $2 million to the Community Land Trust for a new community building in Davis Park. The Community Land Trust owns the land in Davis Park.

According to a report by the Herald-Leader’s Beth Musgrave, the funding is part of the $121 million in ARPA funds allocated by the city in 2022, and the projects have to be completed and the funds spent by December 31, 2026, as per ARPA guidelines. Maj. Andrew Miller of the Salvation Army explained that the shelter for women and children ultimately decided not to meet these deadlines, and the Salvation Army’s plans to buy a different property did not come together in time to meet all the spending and construction requirements.

Josh England, market manager for the Lexington Farmers’ Market, told Council the market would remain in Tandy Park, downtown Lexington, for the time being, due to the cancellation of the relocation project. The market had proposed a permanent location in the Davis area off of Oliver Lewis Way, but it struggled to find enough space for all vendors and faced parking and access issues. The market was also supposed to receive matching funds from other grants or private fundraising, but the project cost was more than $9 million, and the deadlines were too tight.

As a result of the cancellation of these two projects, the city has re-allocated the ARPA funds to other projects that can meet the deadlines, including affordable housing, community center renovation, and park reimagination projects. The council and the organizations involved have been working together to ensure that the funds are used effectively and that the projects meet the guidelines and deadlines set forth by ARPA.

Watch or read England’s testimony to Council below:

Josh England, Lexington Farmers Market, 2/28 Council Work Session Public Comment

Josh England, Council 3. Today I’m speaking on behalf of the Lexington Farmers Market specifically with regards to business items on the agenda which withdraws the funding awarded to the market for the permanent site in Davis Bottom. I first want to thank the City Council for asking the community to dream big as part of planned use for the ARPA funds in 2021.

This allowed citizens and organizations to have a platform to share their ideas, concerns and hopes for improving the city they call home. The city continues to face many of the same systematic and long term planning deficits that became apparent during the initial waves of the COVID pandemic. As reflected in the proposed adjustment. Affordable housing is growing more and more out of reach for many of the Lexington community.

Construction and repair costs have ballooned, and homelessness continues to be a growing concern. Parking and transportation are also at the forefront of many businesses and citizens daily concerns. And we thank you for working and listening to residents and businesses that would have negatively been impacted by the parking authority changes. So where does this leave the Farmers Market project?

Without this critical piece of funding, we must stop the project and evaluate wait what the future looks like for a dedicated permanent facility. We aren’t necessarily giving up on the project, but the withdrawal of this funding does represent a serious obstacle. We want to thank those in the community that have rallied to the support of this goal, especially Omni architecture and the Lexington Community Land Trust.

While we agree that as plans progressed and construction cost increase nationwide, the overall projects initially presented to the Council would not have been feasible in the timeframe provided by ARPA as it was based on fully funding a $10 million site designed to serve multiple numbers of broader community needs. We were hopeful that a phased or pared down initial approach to the project could be completed by the required deadlines and sought out and shared estimates and projections that suggested that that objective would be feasible.

All that being said, despite the setback to our long term sustainability plans, we intend to continue to work to provide a living wage for farmers, sustain farms and farmlands, provide Lexington with fresh, high quality, accessible agricultural products, and stimulate the local economy. Our regular market events and food access programs will continue in Tandy Park for the foreseeable future and on South and Drive in Alexandria Drive.

Finally, we will continue to work to provide a safe, welcoming space for all of our neighbors and friends to have year round, dedicated, permanent access to food that we feel is a vital part of a resilient city. We will also continue to advocate for the Lexington community and would encourage the Council to find a way to use the part of the withdrawn funds to promote local small businesses and support accessible use of downtown spaces by the whole community by providing things such as bathroom facilities and additional parking.

Thank you.

Josh England, market manager for the Lexington Farmers’ Market, 2/28/2023 public comment

More information on the proposed project can be found here.