Lexington is always growing. It seems that there is always something new popping up, creating buzz all around town. While Lexington is already a remarkable city, there are many things coming that remind us that the future of Central Kentucky is definitely bright...
Revamping the Lexington Center
Making Downtown Even More Amazing
The heart of any successful community is its downtown, and Lexington Center—which oversees Rupp Arena, the convention center and the Lexington Opera House—is a backdrop of Lexington’s most celebrated events. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and local residents visit Lexington Center for events. Rupp Arena has been host to some of the greatest award-winning musicians and chart-topping artists in the world including U2, Elton John, Tina Turner, KISS, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, and many others. The Lexington Opera House, with its storied history, brings a wide variety of world-class shows to our city each year.
Now, the downtown focal point and one of the region’s most widely-recognized entertainment venues has been approved for a makeover. The $200 million Lexington Convention Center expansion will include a brand new 100,000 square-foot exhibit hall, with the potential for additional growth in the future. It will also boast a new 22,500 square-foot ballroom and an additional 30,000 square feet of meeting facilities. (The complex underwent its last renovation and expansion in 2003, with the addition of street-facings shops along Vine Street.)
According to LCC President & CEO Bill Owen, since Lexington Center is in its 40th year of operation, they are currently taking steps to expand their facility to better serve the next forty years. He said, “The importance of the new Convention Center as an economic engine for the continued growth and prosperity of the city of Lexington, the Bluegrass region and the state of Kentucky cannot be overstated. We are appreciative of the support that is lining up behind this project from our city and state leaders.”
Town Branch Commons
A Downtown Urban Park + Waterway
Many Lexingtonians are dreaming of a beautiful urban park we can all enjoy—and that dream is coming a little closer to reality. Updated renderings for Town Branch Commons were revealed in a public meeting in June. Infrastructure work will begin along Midland Avenue later this year, with most of the construction is planned for 2018 and 2019. Plans call for it to be finished in 2020.
Mayor Jim Gray addressed the city at that time, saying, “Town Branch will be a link between our beautiful countryside and our urban core—a strip of history that will be a path to private investment and economic development.”
Lexington has secured $40 million in federal, state and local grants and loans. Ann Bakhaus of Kentucky Eagle and the Blue Grass Community Foundation are working to raise another $30 million in private funds for some of the park facilities. The greenway is publicly funded and the 10-acre park will be privately funded. Programming, maintenance and management will be funded through revenue from space rental, concessions, and sponsorships—a model that other cities have successfully adopted. “Every great American city has a great park,” Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE (the New York form in charge of the project) said in a press release. “We are very excited for this park to put Lexington in a competitive environment and further enhance the quality of life.”
In recent years, downtown has experienced a renaissance. Jefferson, Short and Limestone streets, National Avenue and the Distillery District are popular destinations. By adding Town Branch Park to this dynamic mix, the entire Lexington community will benefit, and our new green spaces will be a valuable asset for generations to come.
The Historic Courthouse
Renovating a Piece of Lexington’s History
Last year, it was announced that the old Fayette County Courthouse will be the subject of an adaptive reuse project, which will restore and repurpose the historic building for new and exciting things. And if you’ve driven downtown since then, you’ve seen that construction has been underway for some time. The courthouse, first erected in 1900, was closed in 2012 due to lead paint contamination.
With an updated completion date of spring 2018 and an estimated cost of $38.3 million, the project will include improvements to both the inside and outside of the building, including a rebuild of the building’s rotunda space, one of the most visually interesting aspects of this historic structure. Locals can expect the outside to be just as beautiful as the inside. Stephen Hillenmeyer Landscape Services donated the landscaping as a special project for their 175th anniversary. By next spring, the renovation should make the building a picturesque landmark and a hub of activity once again.
The ground floor will host the building’s major tenant—celebrated Lexington Chef Ouita Michel, founder and owner of six Lexington restaurants. The restaurant will be a second Windy Corner (the original is at the corner of Muir Station and Bryan Station, off of Paris Pike). Like its sister eatery, Michel’s casual café will focus on locally produced food and beverages like po’ boys, salads, and bakery items. The building’s outdoor terraces will serve as additional dining space, and the restaurant will feature a bourbon bar as well. The courthouse will also be home to the VisitLex visitor’s center with a tour bus stop set to pick up sightseers on Upper Street. The second level will house the Breeders’ Cup Headquarters.
All the projects complement one another, and they add up to something pretty impressive.
For the Legends?
While downtown has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, there are still plenty of spaces that beg the question, “Why isn’t anything there?” One such space is the 17-acre parking lot across the street from Rupp Arena.
Recently, a number of proposals have been submitted to the Lexington Center to develop the lot. One of those proposals came from a company called Grand Slam Development. Master developer and principal partner Phil Holoubek said that his plan would include moving the Lexington Legends stadium from its current location on North Broadway to downtown.
The $200 million project would also include a hotel, three parking garages and mixed-use developments with retail stores on the first floors and residential units on the upper floors. Some of the mixed-use buildings would be able to view directly into the baseball stadium. Lunchtime at the ballpark, anyone? “Literally since the first week that I’ve moved here, I’ve had people say ‘Oh man, I wish [the ballpark] was downtown’ or ‘I can’t believe it’s not downtown’,” Shea told WKYT. He believes the project would create up to $25-30 million of added economic growth to the city.
“The vibrancy that it would create and allow and enhance in downtown would just be absolutely fascinating,” he continued. “I mean, when you pair that with Thursday Night Live, when you pair that with the Convention Center, when you pair that with all of the bars, restaurants, Emporium—everything that’s downtown—it would just add so much to what’s going on.”
Field & Main:
Offices, Condos and Recreation
Yet another mixed-use development is in the works for downtown, this time at 367-375 Main Street, where the former A1A Sandbar & Grill complex was. Scheduled to open by the end of this year, the five-story Field & Main building is a $7.5 million project spearheaded by developer Jeff Morgan. It will house Field & Main Bank offices, along with 24 two-bedroom condos with a rooftop garden and recreation area. The project will be the first residential development on East Main Street since Phil Holoubek’s Main & Rose Lofts opened over a decade ago.
The architect, Todd Ott of CMW, also designed the former Coba Cocina building and the former JDI Grille & Tavern building on South Broadway (also developed by Morgan). According to him, the style will be “New York or Chicago vintage, not a loft.” He plans to have masonry touches that give a nod to Lexington’s historic Main Street. On the other side of Main Street, Morgan is starting another condominium project: The Townhomes at Jefferson Street. Located in the former Jefferson Wellness Center building, the $8.5 million project will feature 16 condominiums and two restaurant spots in the popular Jefferson Street dining corridor.
Jeff Fugate, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Lexington Downtown Development Authority, said he was pleased to see so much activity on the east end of Main Street, with planned development along Midland Avenue and at Main and Vine streets. “Clearly it’s difficult to develop downtown, and we applaud anybody who takes on the challenge,” Fugate said. “All the projects complement one another, and they add up to something pretty impressive.”
Eyes on the Future
Even before the near decade of delays, Centre Pointe has been a controversial subject. The project has had more than its share of legal, financial, and physical setbacks, and keeping up with the latest news is no small feat. Last year, Dudley Webb and Webb Companies’ CEO Ronald Tritschler spoke with TOPS about the past, present, and future of the project. This year, they were not available for comment, but the group was able to provide updated renderings for publication.
The renderings offer a better idea about how the four buildings are to be connected. They show that the Marriott hotel and the Marriott Residence Inn will share some common spaces. Webb also said in an interview that there will be “interconnectivity from Main to Vine streets.” In late 2016, the Courthouse Area Design Review Board, which approves designs of buildings in greater downtown Lexington, gave the green light for some minor changes to the design of the proposed project. Those changes include allowing apartments or condominiums on top of the proposed office tower instead of the two hotels.
In June, the Herald-Leader reported that according to project coordinator Ralph Coldiron, the 700-space garage is scheduled to be finished by the beginning of September. And around one month later, depending on the status of financing, construction will begin either on the Mariott hotel or office building planned above it. Plans now call for CentrePointe to be finished by the end of 2018. As was confirmed last year, major tenants include the aforementioned Marriott hotel, a Residence Inn, a Jeff Ruby Steakhouse and a 12-story structure that will have nine levels of offices and three levels of luxury condominiums.
From student housing to new classrooms, medical facilities and administrative offices, it seems like Big Blue Nation is growing more quickly than ever. In fact, in June the Herald-Leader reported that since 2011, UK has spent more than $2.2 billion—or more than $1 million a day—on 126 campus projects. Last fall, two large projects were completed—the $100 million Jacobs Science Building and a $65 million privately funded renovation and expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics. The $74 million University Flats student housing development and the $37.1 million Lewis Honors College will open this month.
Perhaps, most noticeably, a renovation and expansion of the Student Center and Alumni Gym is underway. The $200 million-plus project includes renovation of the 1938 portion of the old Student Center. The new facility is expected to be 370,000 square feet including an atrium, recreation area, lounges, conference facilities, entertainment venues, retail space, food service, bookstore, student organization space and administrative offices. The adjacent 1924 Alumni Gym has been incorporated into the complex, and its classical façade is being restored. Scheduled for completion in 2018 are a new $265 million research building and a $49 million baseball stadium.
In April, Shriner’s Hospital for Children moved from Richmond Road to a new five-story medical office building on South Limestone across from Chandler Hospital. And Nutter Football Training Facility is being renovated for the track, gymnastics, and golf programs, and a lab is being developed for the Sports Science Research Institute.
Community Ventures Corp.’s
Mixed Use Development
This spring, Community Ventures Corp. began construction on a new mixed-use development in Lexington’s East End at the corner of Midland Avenue and Third Street. The project includes a three-story, 90,000-square-foot building that will connect to the existing Community Ventures facility on the opposite corner. The building, designed by EOP Architects, will include 25,000 square feet of street-level retail and 10,000 square feet of office space, along with 125 parking spaces and an open plaza facing Midland Avenue. The upper floors will include 43 one-bedroom residential apartments, as well as dedicated event space, including a large rooftop terrace extending over the existing CVC building, with capacity to accommodate up to 350 people.
A second building, designed by integrity/Architecture, is in this works as well. It will be built across Third Street between Withrow Way and Nelson Avenue and will include an additional 5,000 square feet of retail along with 16 residential units and parking spots. “A lot of the time in development, you come up with a development and then you look to see if it meets the plan,” developer Phil Holoubek said in a recent interview. “We did the opposite—we looked at the plan and created the development specifically to match those objectives.”
A long time in the making, this project is a big step forward in terms of reinvigorating a large portion of the Third Street commercial corridor. But beyond the goal of creating a vibrant mixed-use development, CVC’s mission is to provide Lexington’s East End community with renewed energy and investment in a way that benefits its residents, while celebrating its culture, its character and its historical contributions to the city. •