York St. Lexington, KY. Future site of LuigART Makers Spaces.

York St. Lexington, KY. Future site of LuigART Makers Spaces.

Update – If it’s wrong, make it right.

Kentuckian musicians Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore collaborated on a project called Dear Companion. Sub Pop records describes the project: “recorded in the first half of 2009 in their home state, Dear Companion explores their ties to the place they love and aims to draw attention to the problem of Mountaintop Removal coal mining (MTR) and its impact on the people and heritage of central Appalachia.” One of the tracks on the album is called “Only a Song,” it’s about the realization of what our rolls are in change, in creative placemaking. It’s about making a difference, and what drives us to make us to think bigger than ourselves. The first verse goes:

I wouldn’t make a sound if I wasn’t so angry.
I wouldn’t be run’n if it wasn’t so far to go.
I wouldn’t keep on if there wasn’t something worth keepin’.
I want to believe that this mountain can be moved.
But this is only a song, it can’t change the world.

Just as Ben and Daniel wanted to bring attention and solutions to the problem of Mountaintop Removal, a resource extraction method that destroys everything in it’s wake, the NoLi CDC is bringing attention and solution to the urban equivalent of Mountiantop Removal- absentee, predatory home ownership. The problem is that this greed driven short-sighted business model has destroyed a historic neighborhood. We’re going to going to fix it, and bring in new longterm business models to the neighborhood. Now the neighborhood has some muscle, a voice, and upward mobility.

We’re going to empower the North Limestone Neighborhood (NoLi) – one person at a time, one house at a time, one block at a time. We’re not afraid to say we have an idea and we have the gumption to execute on it.

The LuigART Maker Spaces, situated in the historic heart of Lexington’s Northside, will be a mecca for creatives. Artists, Musicians, Woodworks, Hackers and Creative Entrepreneurs – we want them all. We’re taking 35 shotgun-style homes and a historic hemp factory and converting them into affordable housing and workspace for the creative class. We’re not only helping the Makers, we’re revitalizing the neighborhood while maintaining its charm and character.

In the past couple months, we’ve closed on our first eight houses and have begun construction on the home for our first resident, Rachel Hockenberry, a graduate of the New England Conservatory’s Abreu Sistema Fellows program. Rachel moved to Lexington with a goal: To serve as director for the state’s first El Sistema-inspired program, a free music program for area youth, headquartered right in our neck of the woods. A NoLi CDC partner, the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra, has made a commitment to the NoLi with this program; and we will provide the Director of their program with free housing within the LuigART Maker Spaces community for as long as the program exists.

Recent Wins

We have come a long way in a short time. Since we’ve gotten going, some significant developments have happened in our community that is adding to the momentum.

-Arlington Elementary, on North Limestone St, is in the process of applying to become a “School of Innovation.” If successful, it would radically shift how this public school operates, allowing them to change up the length of the school day, hold classes outside the school, and let students opt of out of nationally standardized tests in lieu of presentations that demonstrate learning.

-The NoLi Sustainability Plan won an Award of Excellence from the Kentucky chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The Sustainability plan was developed in cooperation with planning group Urban Collage and the NoLi Neighborhood Association.

-Consultants on behalf of the Lexington Fayette-County Urban Government said there would be no major obstacles to prevent making North Limestone a two-way street. This is something that the city has been considering for sometime, and would be a boon for the NoLi.

Insight

While working to affect change in the NoLi, we’ve realized that one of the biggest barriers is control. Predatory businesses and landlords that control key land parcels hold back the community in strong ways. To make a substantial impact, we have to shift that control to us. By controlling as much property as possible, we can ensure a sustainable and meaningful transformation that benefits the entire community.

This program is only the first of many that we hope will have a powerful, sustainable impact not only on the neighborhood but also the city of Lexington. We believe in artists, we believe in makers and we believe in the Northside. We want to believe that this mountain can be moved. But this is only a song, it can’t change the world.

York St. Lexington, KY. Future site of LuigART Makers Spaces.

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