Shade canopy wins downtown bracket challenge

After three weeks of community voting in the Winchester Downtown Bracket, the shade canopy project takes the win.

Rachel Alexander, executive director of Main Street Winchester, said the proposed project won by a landslide, joking that the warm weather this week might have influenced the votes.

“The whole experience was fantastic, start to finish,” Alexander said.

Ryan Sandwick, community design specialist with Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, installed the colorful polling stations on the high side of Main Street in late March.

“CEDIK was incredible to work with,” Alexander said.

The Winchester Downtown Bracket, modeled after a college basketball bracket, started with eight place-making projects. 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 benefit the Rowland Arts Center.

“The community ’s response to it was so impressive,” Alexander said.

According to the project proposal, many cities have 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, to be assembled, will take the concept and design a sidewalk canopy to shade a portion of the high side.

“First, we have to figure out how to do it,” Alexander said. “… It is the most complicated project.”

Alexander said the team will construct the shade canopy, which is intended to cost less than $5,000, using grant funds. She hopes the project will be complete by the Beer Cheese Festival.

“We don’t know if we will make it but we are hoping,” she said.

The project is intended to be temporary, though Alexander said she is unsure of a timeline.

The Downtown Bracket was one way CEDIK and the University of Kentucky College of Design were showing good faith in their commitments to downtown Winchester.

CEDIK and the College of Design will open a storefront design studio in the fall in the heart of downtown Winchester. This studio space will house visiting academic design studios as well as various arts programming and support staff from the Small Business Development Center.

Other efforts included a downtown inventory from two graduate architecture students in fall 2018 and a Historic Preservation academic studio during spring 2019.

Overall, Alexander said she was — and is — excited to work with so many different organizations and business partners to make the Downtown Bracket — and the winning project — happen.

“It’s one of those really heartwarming experiences to see everyone come together to do a fun thing,” she said.