Town Branch Commons: An Urban Transformation in Lexington, Kentucky

Honor Award

Urban Design

Lexington, Kentucky, United States
Gresham Smith
Client: Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG)

The details and craft elevate this project from pragmatic to iconic. It serves as an exemplar of a public project that returns streets to pedestrian experiences while integrating ecological design principles to enhance landscape performance and reflect regional characteristics. The beautiful use and organization of materials tell a compelling story of this place. The thoughtful placemaking details, coupled with the large-scale community and green infrastructure impact, are commendable.

- 2023 Awards Jury

Project Credits

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG), Client

Gresham Smith: Louis Johnson, ASLA; Patrick Henry, ASLA; Erin Masterson, ASLA; Jared Kaelin, ASLA; Jonathan Henney, ASLA; Trey Rudolph ASLA; Terry Mulvaney, (Design Team Lead, Final Design & Implementation; Landscape Architect of Record)

Strand Engineering, Subconsultant

Aguilar Stone Masonry, Subconsultant

Pace Contracting, Subconsultant

Lord Aeck Sargent, Subconsultant

Third Rock Consultants, Subconsultant

Lochner, Subconsultant

AECOM, Subconsultant

University of Kentucky, Partnered Institution

Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau (VisitLex), Partnered Institution

Town Branch Trail, Inc., Partnered Institution

Acheulean Consulting, Subconsultant

Art Inc. Kentucky, Subconsultant

Yvonne Giles, Subconsultant

Kenneth Brooks, Subconsultant

Element Design, Subconsultant

EHI Consultants, Subconsultant

Project Statement

Developed over a decade of partnership with government, landowners, and residents, Town Branch Commons is a transformative multi-modal trail linking open space across Lexington, connecting rural and urban communities. Weaving along the path of the buried Town Branch Creek, all aspects of design are inspired by local karst geology and Bluegrass landscapes, drastically expanding the city’s tree canopy and green infrastructure while carving out space for protected bike and pedestrian lanes through a downtown “road diet.” Beyond the greenway, the Commons is also a long-term public education initiative that has involved multimedia events, videos, and interpretive signage created with local historians.

Project Narrative

Weaving 2.5 miles of green infrastructure and multi-modal transit through downtown Lexington to the rural communities on either side of Fayette County, Town Branch Commons is a transformational public space project for the city and county at large. Developed over a decade of public-private partnership, investment, iterative design, and engagement, the project is the culmination of in-the-weeds coordination with stakeholders and funders at the federal, state, and local level—a model for urban-scale green infrastructure projects in mid-sized American cities.

Inspired by the karst geology and native Bluegrass landscapes of Central Kentucky, the Commons thread limestone features through nearly every aspect of the design. from interactive water features to signature “cross-hatch” paving and traditional dry-laid stone fences created with local stonemasons. At a broader scale, the Commons represent a dramatic investment in resilient green infrastructure—curbing urban heat island effect, drastically expanding the city’s tree canopy, and introducing lush, native bioswales. The Commons also link into a regional open space network, connecting to the Legacy Trail and Town Branch Trail to the North and West in Fayette County.

Specifically, the project helped reconnect a historically Black community on the East End to Main Street, introducing a more direct connection through Thoroughbred Park and a new destination playground at Charles Young Park as part of larger civic investments secured through the planning process. It also improved connections at the Transit Center downtown, which primarily serves residents without other transportation options.


  • Furniture
    • Please note: we had not anticipated this need via the listed submission guidelines and will need to populate this information at a later date. Please accept our apologies - we are happy to track down this information in the event of a successful submission, of course.

Plant List

  • Allegheny serviceberry - Amelanchier laevis
  • Eastern redbud - Cercis canadensis
  • Winterking hawthorn - Crataegus viridis 'winter king'
  • Thornless common honey locust - Gelditsia triacanthos inermis
  • Kentucky coffeetree - Cymnocladus dioica 'espresso'
  • Common witch hazel - Hamamelis virginiana
  • Sour gum - Nyssa sylvatica
  • American hophornbeam - Ostrya virginiana
  • London plane tree - Platanus x acerifolia
  • Swamp white oak - Quercus bicolor
  • Red oak - Quercus rubra
  • Scarlet oak - Quercus coccinea
  • Bald cypress - Taxodium distichum
  • 'Jim Dandy' winterberry - Ilex verticillata 'Jim Dandy'
  • 'Red sprite' winterberry - Ilex verticillata 'red sprite'
  • Switchgrass - panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'
  • Luykens laurel - Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken'
  • Purple prairie clover - Dalea purpurea
  • Blue flag - Iris versicolor
  • Blue wild indigo - Baptisia australis
  • Little bluestem grass - Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Prairie dropseed - Sporabolus heterolepis
  • Summersweet - Clethra alnifolia 'hummingbird'
  • St. Johns wort - Hypericum calycinum 'fiesta'
  • Carolina rose - Rosa carolina
  • Dwarf fothergilla - fothergrilla gardenii
  • Smooth witherod - Viburnum nudum 'winterthur'
  • Arkansas blue star - Amsonia hubrichtii
  • Butterfly milkweed - Asclepias tuberosa
  • Rattersnake master - Eryngium yuccifolium
  • Rough blazing star - Laitris aspera
  • Yellow coneflower - Ratibida pinnata
  • Black-eyed susan - Rudbeckia hirta
  • Purple coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
  • Clustered mountainmint - Pycnanthemum muticum
  • Joe pye weed - Eupatorium fistolosum
  • Sassafras - Sassafras albidum
  • Staghorn sumac - Rhus typhina
  • Sweet bay - Magnolia virginiana
  • Bottlebrush buckeye - Aesculus parviflora
  • Foamflower - Tiarella cordifolia
  • Canadian wild ginger - Asarum canadense