New Head Start center, affordable housing project approved for Lexington’s East End

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The final parcel of the Bluegrass Aspendale public housing redevelopment that began more than a decade ago is finally moving forward.

On Thursday, the Urban County Planning Commission unanimously approved a development plan for 10 single-family homes, five town houses and a Head Start center on a tract of now-vacant land across from William Wells Brown Elementary School on Shropshire Avenue.

Starting in 2005, and fueled largely by federal Hope VI grants, the Lexington Housing Authority has redeveloped the former public housing complex into a mixture of affordable apartments, townhouses and homes.

The land on Shropshire is the last piece of the original development plan, said Branden Gross, a lawyer for the housing authority .

The area has long needed an early childhood education center. The group is partnering with Community Action Council to build and run the Head Start, Gross said.

The Board of Adjustment approved the Head Start earlier this week, he said.

Lexington Housing Authority Executive Director Austin Sims stood in 2013 at the site of a newly constructed neighborhood on the former Bluegrass-Aspendale site .
Lexington Housing Authority Executive Director Austin Sims stood in 2013 at the site of a newly constructed neighborhood on the former Bluegrass-Aspendale site .

The single-family homes will front Shropshire but there will be access to the homes from the back via a newly constructed smaller one-way road.

Some members of the commission questioned why the housing authority choose to put so few homes on the parcel. Others wondered why the housing authority did not want to build more affordable apartments, given the decrease in home ownership over the years.

Gross said nearby Equestrian View, which is part of the Hope VI housing authority project, also has larger lots and lawns. Those affordable housing projects sold quickly.

“Just because someone qualifies for affordable housing doesn’t mean they don’t want a yard,” Gross said.

A small area plan for the East End had designated the parcel for single-family homes.

“Home ownership in the area has been low,” Gross said.

Others questioned why several large trees on the property would have to be removed.

Some of the trees will have to be cut to make way for the development but the housing authority plans on replanting trees to make up for the tree canopy loss, Gross told the commission Thursday.

Others praised the proposal, saying more opportunities for home ownership were needed in the East End. The neighborhood also needs an early childhood education center to help boost educational attainment.

Billie Mallory, an East End resident, said she was disappointed the housing authority had not met with area residents to talk about the proposal The Head Start will add significant traffic at the corner of Fifth Street and Shropshire Avenue at certain times of day. Building a new road will also change traffic flow in that area, she said.

Gross said developers are not required to meet with residents before submitting a plan. Also, the plans for the redevelopment of Bluegrass Aspendale have been vetted in the public for more than a decade.

“I am disappointed in the process but I am in no way opposed to this project,” Mallory said.

Equestrian View and the redevelopment of Bluegrass Aspendale has brought a mix of home ownership and higher quality affordable housing that was needed in that area, Mallory said.

First developed in 1936, Bluegrass Aspendale was Lexington’s first public housing project. At its height, it had 900 government-subsidized apartment units in the area between Third and Seventh streets and Race and Magnolia. Over the past 16 years, the area has been redeveloped to include 400 homes, town houses and apartments.

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