WINCHESTER, Ky. — A small plot of land at 1 Dept St. in downtown Winchester that was once home to dirt, grass, gravel and a dilapidated silo is now the location of new construction that the Winchester/Clark County Farmers Market will use.

What You Need To Know

  • Winchester Design Studio opened in 2018

  • Effort is collaboration among several entities

  • New area for farmers market opens soon

  • Plan is to expand program throughout Kentucky

The project is part of a revitalization plan that is aided by students from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE). The project, called the Winchester Design Studio, is a collaborative effort among the city of Winchester, CAFE’s Department of Landscape Architecture, UK’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky and the UK College of Design. The studio’s goal is to bring regenerative enhancements to the town of nearly 19,000 people about 20 miles east of Lexington. 

The Winchester Design Studio began in 2019 as a three-year pilot project to visualize how a downtown storefront could look by fully embedding the design and economic development resources of UK into a small community. Winchester Design Studio Director Ryan Sandwick said due the large nature of the project required a storefront across from the courthouse at 11 S. Main St. in Winchester, a move he said allows the most efficient use of the university’s community design work.

The location of the Winchester/Clark County Farmers Market at 1 Depot St. before renovations began. (University of Kentucky)
The renovation of the location of the Winchester/Clark County Farmers Market near completion. (Spectrum News 1/Brandon Roberts)

“Areas that have experienced decades of downtown disinvestment, specifically rural towns, can overlook their existing assets,” he said. “The collaboration with CAFE brought Winchester’s assets to the forefront and we’ve been able to tie Winchester’s regeneration efforts in with their heritage and the things that make the town unique.” 

Sandwick said community design is an important approach in downtown regeneration efforts, but smaller communities are frequently underserved. The UK project provides these services through both an academic and professional setting and addresses the community’s needs based on their specific circumstances.  

“Originally, the studio’s aims were to assist the town with physical downtown development and community design,” he said. “In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the scope of the program. The goal pivoted to include support for the community with an emphasis on health and wellness. With this revised focus, the mission of the studio adapted to reflect what it would look like to design a city for children and more shared experiences among community residents.” 

The Winchester Design Studio helped bring positive change with a book club to facilitate conversations about ways to advance health and wellness. The Happy City Virtual Book Club brings together members from around central Kentucky to discuss avenues to attain more happiness in their local environment. Topics discussed were the health impact, designing areas for children and being community advocates. After piloting this book club through the Winchester Design Studio, additional book clubs began and adapted based on Cooperative Extension audiences and their needs.  

The studio also assisted the Winchester-Clark County Farmers Market’s effort to create a permanent facility. 

“We’ve worked on a master plan for Depot Street with the city and the farmer’s market to help create a new downtown green space as a northern anchor of Winchester,” Sandwick said. “One great unforeseen benefit is that other projects to improve the area, such as the renovations of other structures, are underway, which has been really exciting to see. While we don’t take credit for those projects, I can’t say they would have happened if we hadn’t been such strong advocates pushing forward over the past few years.” 

Sandwick added the Winchester Design Studio has repositioned design in the community and has centered students’ efforts on beneficial, real-world projects. 

Harrison Knifley, a 2021 landscape architecture graduate currently a designer with the landscape architecture company EDSA, was one of many students who touted the experience of working with the studio helping their careers. 

“As a young professional, I could not have hoped for a better initiative to galvanize my career,” Knifely said. “While working with the Winchester Design Studio, I was able to tie university practice with practical experience while consecutively sharpening my design skills. Most importantly, though, I started to understand the importance of asking, ‘Why does design matter?’ Having the experience to communicate the ‘why’ behind the design has no doubt amplified my growth within our practice.” 

Sandwick said the studio has been the first real-life experience for many students because they had to design for specific situations, such as with housing security. Second-year students from UK’s School of Interiors also worked with housing service providers that help people in Winchester and Clark County experiencing homelessness and substance use disorder. Sandwick said students created designs specifically geared to bring dignity and hope.

A rendering of the final project at 1 Depot St. in Winchester, which includes an amphitheater. (University of Kentucky)

“The first time someone walks into a provider, how does the design of the building make them feel? They want to know that they are welcome and dignified,” he said. “It was a little overwhelming to some of the students at first, but it really pushed them out of their comfort zone and will help, not only the community but the students as they continue in their work.”

The Winchester Design Studio Project Coordinator Cameron Correll is a 2018 UK graduate with an architecture degree and is a Winchester native. She said the Farmers Market embodies the work the studio tried to do in Winchester and as the program comes to and this year, projects in other parts of Kentucky have already begun or are complete.

“We’ve done some work in Cynthiana and we’ve got some internships coming up this summer and we’ll be focused on Flemingsburg and Irvine,” she said. “We continue to do work with other communities across the state. A nice thing about the studio is our goal was first to be in Winchester and support the efforts in Winchester, but we also have a statewide commitment. Everything we do in Winchester is almost like a pilot that can then be applied across the state. We have countless programs that we’ve tried out here in Winchester, and then we’ve turned them into either how-to guides or programs that can then be led in other areas across Kentucky. While we are very Winchester-focused in the sense that we have a physical location here, we still are also providing resources across the state.”

Originally a three-year program that later became a four-year program, Correll said although the project in Winchester is ending, the progress in the city will probably continue.

“It’ll transition into a locally led effort we can help facilitate and still be mentors on,” she said. “We will kind of give it a soft landing. The economic development arm here has been a really great partner and we do a lot of work with them already. We know there will be people that are going to step in and help this effort.”

Main Street Winchester received a certificate of accreditation as a 2021 Kentucky Main Street Program from the Kentucky Heritage Council.