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UK Alumni Association holds dedication ceremony for new Alumni Commons

Matthew Mueller
Construction workers walk through the site on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, at Alumni Commons in Lexington, KY. Photo by Matthew Mueller | Staff

The University of Kentucky Alumni Association held its dedication ceremony for Alumni Commons on Friday, Sept. 29.

Alumni Commons is part of a $9 million development project dedicated to the beautification of the Rose Street Plaza between Columbia Avenue and Huguelet Drive. The Alumni Association pledged $3 million to the project in 2022, according to the Alumni Commons website.

The website detailed that the UK Alumni Association is a non-profit, self-governed organization that supports and keeps alumni connected to the University of Kentucky.

Jake Lemon, vice president of UK Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, sees the project as “the best solution to the ‘Rose Street Problem.’”

The ‘Rose Street problem’ refers to safety issues regarding pedestrians crossing the street during high traffic. 

“From 1958 to 2008, UK Archives cataloged 70 articles in the Kentucky Kernel that referenced the ‘Rose Street Problem,’” Lemon said.

Janie McKenzie-Wells, president of the Alumni Association, said the Alumni Commons will be a welcoming place for alumni, students and others, namely pedestrians commuting through campus.

“We were given a study of the number of pedestrians that use this area, and it was 19,000 pedestrians that cross through here on a daily basis,” McKenzie-Wells said. 

Alumni Commons, which has two gates on either side of the space that prevents vehicles from driving through, serves as another option for pedestrian travel.

Chad Polk, a 1994 UK alumni and member of the Alumni Association, also views the development as providing a safer alternative for pedestrians.

“The nice thing is it shuts down the traffic, it’s a lot safer than it used to be when I was here,” Polk said.

At the dedication ceremony, McKenzie-Wells delivered a speech to dozens of UK alumni who came to watch the ceremony.

“As a student I would have never imagined that Rose Street would be transformed into a place for students and alumni from all over the world to gather and collaborate,” McKenzie-Wells said. “It’s a stunning new renovation of our campus, and it truly captures the spirit of the University of Kentucky.”

With the name ‘Alumni Commons’ displayed on both gates, both its name and its dedication wall “reflects the deep and resounding appreciation that the University of Kentucky holds for its graduates,” McKenzie-Wells said.

Situated between the Chemistry-Physics Building and the Mining and Mineral Resources Building, the Alumni Commons is in a spot frequently used by students to move between north and south campus.

“We’re gonna call this the heart of campus,” McKenzie Wells said. 

Future events are planned at the Alumni Commons, with a Homecoming Block Party slated for Oct. 11, which will be open to all of UK.

According to McKenzie, Alumni Commons will also be home to “a new tradition.” 

The two gates on either side of the Alumni Commons will remain closed for the majority of the year, only opening at the Wildcat Welcome Festival and before winter and spring commencement.  

“We encourage our students to walk through these gates as new students, and to walk out of them as graduates,” McKenzie-Wells said.

At the end of the speech, the gates were opened for the alumni to be, according to McKenzie-Wells, “the first to walk through.”

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