MSW installs shade canopy downtown

Published 10:10 am Friday, August 23, 2019

Downtown Winchester just got a little more shady.

Rachel Alexander, executive director of Main Street Winchester, said the shade canopy that won after three weeks of community voting in the Winchester Downtown Bracket is finally up and ready for use.

Main Street Winchester and the University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) created the Winchester Downtown Bracket, modeled after a college basketball bracket, and launched it in early spring.

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The bracket started with eight place-making projects in late March. Potential projects for the bracket fell under four key themes: public art, landscape, amenities and pedestrian improvements. Conceptual themes included murals, installation, parklet, seating, public realm investments, sidewalk canopy, circulation and wayfinding.

Winchester residents chose conceptual project themes to advance in the bracket by casting their vote with donated toiletries and school supplies in color-coded polling stations. The donated items benefited the Rowland Arts Center.

According to the project proposal, many cities had installed a ceiling or canopy above their sidewalks consisting of a variety of materials, from white Christmas lights to umbrellas and beach balls. These materials shade the sidewalk while also providing visual interest and creating a cohesive experience along the block.

Alexander said a team, consisting of MSW, CEDIK, property owners, volunteers, city departments and more, took those concepts and designed a sidewalk canopy to shade a portion of the high side.

“It was a big team effort coming up with something unique and interesting that would get people’s attention,” she said.

The shade canopy, which won the bracket by a landslide in April, takes inspiration from art installations popping up all over the world from Memphis to Los Angeles to Germany.

Alexander said the blue and green fringe canopy casts playful shadows on the sidewalk, makes a relaxing sound as it ruffles in the breeze and makes a great selfie backdrop.

“I really like it when you’re standing under it,” Alexander said. “It feels really fun and whimsical. The movement that is created by the wind, it’s really mesmerizing.”

Alexander said she was thankful to all the organizations, businesses, volunteers and city departments that helped make this project possible.

The team also chose the design because of its light weight, anything heavier may have pulled too hard on the temporary structure needed to support the canopy.

So far, the response from the public has been they love it or they hate it, Alexander said.

“We knew people were going to love it or hate it,” she said. “We’ve expected that, but it is temporary so we wanted to do something outside the box, interesting and eye catching…

“We’ve got people talking and that’s always good.”

Alexander said she stresses the shade canopy is temporary. MSW plans to take it down sometime in the fall.

“It will not be there forever,” Alexander said. “If you hate it, rest assured it will be taken down. If you love it, go enjoy it now while you can, take your selfies.”

Main Street Winchester plans to gather data to monitor the temperature underneath the shade canopy to see just how much it helps on hot days. Alexander said MSW has also monitored how often people are using the tables under the canopy, seeing an uptick in use.

“The shade canopy is drawing attention to them in a good way,” Alexander said.

Alexander said the team constructed the shade canopy using grant funds from The Greater Clark Foundation. However, she said she doesn’t have the total cost of the project yet as MSW is still finalizing the details.

Overall, Alexander said she is pleased with the project from start to finish, adding the project is just the beginning of what’s to come as part of downtown’s master plan. Alexander said the master plan will likely take several more years to implement, but its goal is to make downtown more inviting whether that be by providing shade, installing more seating or making downtown more “park-like.”

“We were trying to get people to use and think about the high side before that project,” Alexander said. “… We appreciate all of the help, we appreciate everyone who came out and voted. We are going to try to get information about how people liked it and if they want to see more.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0015.

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