London officials to unveil new Town Center project
The City of London and City of London Tourism are excited to unveil plans for a new public space right in the heart of downtown.
The project, appropriately called Town Center, is now a vacant lot on Main Street between East Ninth and East Maple Streets next to London Elementary School.
The city recently purchased 1.42 acres from Catholic Health Initiatives, who acquired the property in the early 2000’s to use for parking for Marymount Hospital just up the hill on Ninth Street.
The lot became available when a new St. Joseph London hospital was constructed at Exit 38 on I-75, and Marymount Hospital was demolished.
While the name of the space may change once final plans are completed, the project name pays homage to the former motel that stood on the property before CHI purchased it.
City and tourism officials, along with other stakeholders, will have the opportunity to define the scope of the project at a design workshop, with a detailed master plan to follow within six months.
Some ideas for the vacant lot have already been discussed. They include:
•Creating a space that is inclusive for many activities including but not limited to concerts, festivals, ice skating, art shows, etc.
•Planning for a stage/performance area, bathroom facility, green space and lush tree canopy.
•Designing the space to be adaptable and allow for heavy foot traffic.
Additional ideas and concepts will be gathered during the design phase of the project.
Town Center Park is the result of a concerted effort by city and tourism officials to expand park and wellness facilities and to draw tourists to London using the city’s three percent restaurant tax.
The new Whitley Branch Veterans Park will be dedicated following the veterans parade in London at 1 p.m. Saturday. The park on Dixie Street includes the Rotary playground, walking track, picnic area and bark park for dogs. In addition, new shelter houses and restrooms facilities will be completed over the next year.
Significant enhancements have been made to all city public spaces since the inception of the restaurant tax and tourism commission, including completion of the London-Laurel County Wellness Park and Treetop Adventure at Levi Jackson State Park, plus improvements to Mill Street Park.
Archeological study finds a “Motel 6”
on the banks of the Little Laurel River
Thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherers made their way through what is now Laurel County and made camp at a “Motel 6” on the banks of the Little Laurel River.
That was the conclusion of an archeological study conducted recently by the Kentucky Archeological Survey on a 135.5-acre tract of land that will soon become Laurel County’s newest industrial park.
The London-Laurel County Industrial Development Authority purchased the tract at the corner of U.S. 25 and KY1006 last fall and named it the Greer Industrial Park South after the longtime landowners.
The archeological study was required before any industrial development could proceed at the site.
“This is a necessary step to ensure the property is clear of artifacts and ready to develop,” said Paula Thompson, executive director of the industrial development authority. “This step is required if you intend to apply for federal grants, use federal funds, or create a build-ready site, which we are.”
The development authority contracted with the archeology department at the University of Kentucky to conduct a site survey. The land had to be plowed with 12-ft wide furrows crisscrossing the property.
Thompson said she had many calls and inquiries from people wanting to know what was being planted at the farm. Plowing was needed to bring any artifacts to the surface. Then, archeologists waited for a hard rain to further reveal artifacts before beginning the survey.
Eric Schlarb, a staff archeologist with UK, headed the site survey along with three assistants. They undertook the painstaking process of walking all the plowed furrows in search of artifacts. They put down red flags when they found things of interest.
Initially they wanted to investigate an area where a large farmhouse used to exist on a road just off KY 1006. But Schlarb said the house had been “blitzed” by a bulldozer and nothing of value was found there.
Other promising areas for artifacts were the mounds on the south end of the property that overlook the Little Laurel River. Careful investigation of the mounds produced one artifact of prehistoric origin.
“We did find a prehistoric site,” Schlarb said. “We couldn’t determine the date because we didn’t find any diagnostic tools, like an arrowhead or anything. But we did find what we call a scraper. This would have been a stone tool for scraping animal hides.”
Schlarb said high ground next to a river would have been a perfect place for prehistoric hunters to stop and make camp.
“An area like that, the best I can describe if I were talking to the public, they were using it like a Motel 6,” he said. “You stop by for one night. Maybe you re-sharpen your tools. You discard your tools and move on.”
Chips off of stone tools used by the hunters also were found on the property, but nothing more of interest that would require further excavation and study.
“For that being a dairy farm for a hundred years, and all the plowing that took place, plus erosion, it was difficult to find anything more of significance,” Schlarb said. “But we definitely know that people were on the tract of land prehistorically.”
With the archeological study completed and nothing found that would hinder development, the industrial development authority is proceeding with building infrastructure into the park.
“We are happy to report there were no environmental or archeological issues found with this study and we are ready to move forward with our first entrance road,” Thompson said.
Do you know someone who has given a lifetime of service to London-Laurel County? If so, nominate them as a London’s Living Treasure. Help us honor those who have given so much to make our community the best place to live!