City of Nicholasville hears presentation from development consultant

Published 4:27 pm Monday, April 17, 2023

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The Nicholasville City Commission recently invited a consultant to advise city officials on what they can do to improve the area for current residents, prospective residents and visitors.

The consultant, Roger Brooks of Destination Development Association, works with cities on tourism, branding, downtown revitalization and development.

Brooks said he “secret-shopped” Nicholasville for almost a week without having any conversations with the city’s attorney or the Commission.

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In an almost three-hour workshop held last Friday, he presented his findings to the Commission and said that overall, Brooks said that Nicholasville is a great city

. Other than its kind people, Brooks complimented the look of downtown and its Kentucky architecture. He complimented the looks of the local schools and the Jessamine County Public Library and said he liked the look and location of the city’s entryways and its welcome signs.

After that—-Brooks focused on Nicholasville’s room for improvement.

According to Brooks, downtown should be the “community living room” where locals and visitors can hang out after work and on weekends and currently Nicholasville’s downtown is lacking any kind of recreation or life after 6 pm.

With Nicholasville’s fast growth, Brooks said that “park and recreational assets have not kept up.”

Mayor Alex Carter said Brooks had much-appreciated feedback, Mmaybe harsh sometimes but realistic and we appreciate that.”

Brooks presented a few ways Nicholasville can improve its quality of life:

• Community Development: In addition to childcare, healthcare, and schools, Nicholasville should focus on offering better visitor information through set stands throughout the city. Brooks also said that downtown needs cleaner storefronts and more plants. His most crucial point in community development was improving the city’s pedestrian access which is lacking even in new developments, such as new apartment complexes and Brannon Crossing.

• Wayfinding: Nicholasville is a “three-minute drive to the countryside in any direction” according to Brooks. A large chunk of what the city has to offer are hiking trails and nature paths, however, there is not enough signage for people to discover these trails on the road, and many sites have incorrect addresses online. He posed improving welcome signs for the different amenities as well as improving visitor information and online information. He said improving wayfinding is also the best way to improve the tourist experience and get them to come back.

• Downtown: Downtown is “Etsy, not Macy’s” said Brooks. He said that Nicholasville’s downtown should have more than the courthouse, law firms, and banks. Instead, downtown should have butchers, bakers, and candle makers. While the city government can’t control who opens businesses downtown, Brooks pointed out some areas that would suit coffee shops, microbreweries, and parks for giant chess sets and table tennis as ideas.

• Marketing: Brooks suggested that with the city and county’s plentiful golf courses and wineries, Nicholasville should call itself Kentucky’s Golf and Wine capital.

Much of what Brooks presented are issues that the city was already aware of, according to Charla Reed, the Executive Director of the Joint Nicholasville and Jessamine County Tourism Commission.

Still, Reed thought it was “wonderful, I think that it’s great to see things through fresh eyes and that’s how you learn and how you grow and discover ways that we’re doing good and discover ways that we could do better.”

Reed said that this presentation did give her some ideas on what the city and tourism commission should prioritize and how they should go about that.”

There are some exciting things Reed and the Tourism Commission are planning for the city and county, like revitalizing the old jail to add pop-up shops, food trucks, artists and a mural done by local children to create a town square, welcoming residents and tourists alike. There is not yet a timeline for the project, but Reed said she’s been talking with architects.