Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Lexington Isn’t So Bad…

I graduated from the University of Kentucky here in Lexington. I had always told myself I would leave as soon as possible but wouldn’t ya know it a job came my way that I could not turn down. I moved from the “suburbs” of Lexington, about 6 miles from the heart of the city (nothing is actually very far from the city because Lexington is so small, but I promise traffic makes it seem a lot further, that’s another story) to a one-bedroom apartment in the epicenter of our small downtown. It is almost a night and day difference which may surprise people. I literally live one block from my office so I rarely drive which is a RARE occurrence in this city (I believe we have the largest carbon footprint per capita of any city in the US, I blame that on the people who live in the surrounding counties because it is cheap and work in Lexington). Downtown has restaurants upon restaurants like you wouldn’t believe, French, steak houses, American, Thai, Mexican, Italian, hot dog stands, bistros, delis, bakeries, it is almost ridiculous. I still haven’t been to nearly all of them and I have worked and lived downtown for nearly 6 months. We have a farmers market every Saturday that takes up an entire city block. Of course for those of you who do not follow collegiate athletics we have the Kentucky Wildcats who are two blocks away. Most people understand that in college towns night life is a big deal and I live within walking distance of any and all relevant night life spots, oh and I pay barely 30% of my total income (which is actually better than it seems because I have little to no transportation costs) for rent, live on the 9th floor of a 20-story apartment building with a balcony looking west (the only real view of Downtown Lexington).

Here are the problems.

I graduated with a degree in Landscape Architecture. I was told from the start to leave Lexington because there were no good design jobs here or in this state for that matter. I lucked into my job as an Urban Planner with a firm that is based in Atlanta and is unlike any other opportunity in Lexington. That said, not only does Lexington lack good creative jobs the jobs they do have are in these nondescript office parks halfway out of the county. No one wants to move downtown then drive back out of town to work? At least no one my age, they would rather live cheap and travel cheap for the most part which is kind of sad because downtown has so much to offer.

The politics here are uber conservative. They talk a liberals game but have the walk of someone straight off George Bush’s farm. They are however starting to turn it around.

Lexington provides a landscape unlike any other in the entire world. The bluegrass for those who don’t know is a world class landscape with some of the most beautiful pastoral views and the most luxurious horse farms imaginable all within 15 minutes of downtown.

THAT said, living costs are too high, driven by the University and old historic neighborhoods. It is very hard to find cheap, nice living which leads to people wanting to expand our urban growth boundary (the first of its kind – I think it was 1954 when it was put into effect?)… expanding our urban growth boundary ruins that pastoral landscape everyone loves… So what is more important – cheap housing or irreplaceable land? We will see. Lexington is in dire need of some changes up top especially within the planning realm and I think they are starting to happen which excites me.

I feel like moving here and planning to stay here is similar to buying a stock cheap; Lexington is not worth a whole lot as far as being compared to other cities I would like to live in but the potential is boundless.

Sent by Louis from Lexington, KY

2 Responses to “Lexington Isn’t So Bad…”

  1. Libby Says:

    That is a fabulous summary of the city, and a very helpful first-person assessment of what’s really available to people there. I visited Lexington once and found it to be to my liking in its personality – of course, I am a “college town” kind of person and like that ambiance – but I can imagine that creative jobs are hard to come by unless you land something cool at the university. Do you think you’ll stick around for the long haul?

  2. Technology Work in Smaller Cities Says:

    [...] after you’re 20 miles from downtown in midwestern cities.  A college town like Lexington works pretty well – there’s a good mix of people, places to eat and such.  And it’s working hard to [...]

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