Thursday, March 13, 2003

Burgeoning Burlington treats itself to makeover

By Gina Holt
Enquirer contributor

BURLINGTON - New restaurants, decorations, green space and streetscape are helping to create a more downtown look in the Boone County seat.

Even with the new Boone County Justice Center and new restaurants opening, the small-town community feel is evident in this town whose population now is 18 times what it was in 1986.

Founded: 1799 as Craigs Camp
Name changed: to Wilmington in 1800
Name changed: to Burlington in 1816
Boone Court House Post Office opens: 1807
Population in 1986: 600
Population in 2000: 10,779
Home to County Seat: Boone County Justice Center
Housing units: 4,083
Main Street: Burlington Pike, Ky. 18
Kentucky Atlas & Gazetteer, Census 2000
Bob Jonas, a member of the Boone County Planning Commission, said the Burlington Town Strategic Plan, adopted in October, has been put into action. But it's obviously Burlington-style.

One goal of the plan was to bring more businesses to the downtown area.

"The old hardware store (Burlington Hardware) is going to be opening this summer as a sit-down restaurant called, appropriately enough, The County Seat," said Jonas. "Next to it, and already open, is Co-Co's, a carry-out sandwich shop serving the large working base here in Burlington."

The Roscoe Group LLC owns both restaurants. Arlene Jones, one of the four owners of The Roscoe Group, said the company and Co-Co's were both named after her father Roscoe Akin, a Boone County farmer who passed away in 1988. Co-Co was his nickname.

"He loved to have fun," Jones said. "He would have thought it was funny to have a building named after him."

Co-Co's serves specialty sandwiches for about $3 to $5. It has limited indoor and outdoor seating.

Jones bought the building located on Ky. 18 and Idlewild from her aunt, Margaret Stephens, who decided to sell after the hardware store closed.

"I wanted to buy it because it's been in my family my whole life," she said.

Once the building, which was constructed in 1840, went up for sale, rumors flew that it would be leveled for a parking lot. Jones said she did not want to see the building destroyed.

"I want the next generation to be able to enjoy it and have some of the memories I have."

The County Seat is going to be a family-oriented home-style cooking restaurant. Its hours will be Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"It seems like people go to restaurants, especially here in Burlington, to solve all the world's problems and I thought what better place than The County Seat," said Jones.

Burlington is also home to The Little Place, a longstanding family-owned restaurant that has attracted coffee-cup philosophers and fried chicken fiscal policy debates for years.

The Burlington Town Plan also calls for preserving green space. And that's Burlington style as well.

Stephens has donated approximately one acre of land that sits behind Co-Co's for the county to use as a park but stipulated it must be called Pete's Park, after her husband, whose real name was Alvin Earl.

"We bought the land to build a house but my husband died in 1961 and we never did," said Stephens. "I figure I'd donate the land now so I can enjoy the park."

She said the county can do whatever they want with it but she would like to see benches placed there so people can enjoy the nature.

Several local businesses have been creating more of a downtown feel by decorating for each holiday. Co-Co's, the barbershop and other businesses decorated with red and white lights and hearts for Valentine's Day and now have green lights and shamrocks up for St. Patrick's Day.

Jonas said the Boone County Urban Forestry Commission is preparing for Phase I of the street tree improvement component of the Burlington Town Plan.

"First to see improvements will be Jefferson from behind the new Justice Center northward to behind the administration building. This should be happening within the next couple of months and involves the removal of dead or dying trees with new, appropriately sized trees when they are fully mature in order to avoid conflicts with utility lines and sidewalks."

For the second year in a row, Boone County Fiscal Court has applied for grant money from the State of Kentucky Transportation Enhancement Program for comprehensive sidewalk improvements throughout the town as well as streetlights, pedestrian crossings and a bridge over Allensfork Creek on East Bend Road just south of the town center.

"The goal is to connect more of the surrounding residential subdivisions to the town center," said Jonas.

At Ky. 18 and East Bend, where the old grocery store used to sit, there will be a parking expansion for Burlington Baptist Church in about a year.

"In the meantime, the church has been working with us in coming up with a very nice landscaping plan for the corner that will include trees, bushes, a low-rise decorative wall with ivy, and signage for the church," said Jonas. "It will certainly help the corner aesthetically."

He said county officials would continue to implement sections of the plan.

"We are really excited about the direction Burlington is heading."

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