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New attractions bringing more people to downtown Lexington

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The new Icehouse Amphitheater is fast becoming a hub of activity in downtown Lexington. Some 1,000 people attended the local Craft Beerfest at the facility. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)

When the town of Lexington unveiled its Vision Plan in 2012, one of the main goals was to redevelop Main Street and downtown as the “Heart of Lexington.”

Phase I began in 2012 with development of Lexington Square by a partnership among the town, county, Lexington County Law Enforcement Officers Association, Lexington Beautification Foundation, Lexington County Bar Association and the Dennis Corp. The park features landscaping, a fountain and the Lexington County Law Enforcement Memorial.

Phase I also included the Downtown Commercial Façade Program. In 2012 and 2013, the town invested $65,000 in 13 recipients and has seen a return on investment of $589,000.

“These projects are important to the growth of the community,” said John Hanson, Lexington’s director of planning, building and technology.

Children enjoy the playground at Virginia Hylton Park. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)Downtown and residential growth are working hand in hand to entice businesses to make a move to the Lexington area.

“Commercial developers say rooftops bring the commercial growth,” Hanson said. “If people want certain amenities, you have to have the residential growth to support it. Businesses don’t want to draw customer bases away from current facilities.”

Hanson said it all feeds into the economy of the area, providing new jobs and supporting existing jobs.

Many of the new activities and renovations around downtown have features that are family-friendly, including Virginia Hylton Park, the Icehouse Amphitheater and the creation of the Snowball Festival and Movies in the Square.

Hanson said there are plans to expand the Icehouse with two outparcels of land that he hopes will be commercially developed. There are also plans to add parking for the Icehouse at Church Street, with an added entrance to Virginia Hylton Park.

 “To some extent, a lot of the activity is to support the kids that are already here,” Hanson said. “Families are coming to the area for the schools and quality of life, so it’s tough to strike a balance between bringing in new families and keeping the ones we have. We would love to see people moving into the downtown area.”

To entice residential developers to pursue possible downtown housing, Hanson said Lexington had its zoning ordinance redone in 2008 to support that kind of activity. It features an overlay district to give possible developers a little more flexibility. The town also added a mixed-use category.

“Part of what we’re doing with the public activities is trying to bring more people downtown to make it attractive to a developer,” Hanson said. “We have created a business license incentive for the downtown area with the mixed-use requirement. We had a proposal for some apartments a few years back.”

The Old Mill is another section of downtown with ongoing plans. Before the dam burst during the 2015 flood, leaving the mill’s pond empty, Hanson said the town had plans for a walking trail. If the plans ever get put back in place, it is another possible attraction.

As far as the businesses at the Old Mill’s buildings, Hanson said he hasn’t seen anyone planning on leaving.

Reach Travis Boland at 803-726-7543.

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