Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lexington Developments--Feb 2009

For those of you who follow my postings on Skyscraper City this may be nothing new, but I hope to give a little background for this weeks developments.
First off, there is the progress around the Medical Center ,and this time it's private money. The property between the Shell station and the new parking garage will soon break ground for a seven story hotel. I've been told that it will be Hampton Inn and the latest plan shows awnings or canopies protruding over the sidewalk, like they want to do a sidewalk style dining area.

This development is much different from that proposed many years ago. The first proposal for this site was dated Jan. 12, 1967. At that time they called it White Towers because the proposal was for two apartment towers of 9 floors each, above a parking structure which would cover the entire block. The engineering firm of Proctor, Davis & Ray owned and occupied the light colored building to the right of the photo above, had options to purchase the rest of the block and prepared the plans.

P,D & R's primary field was water and sewer projects with some aviation work and the project languished. They applied for and received their R-5 zoning, but I guess the options expired and others started acquiring the small residential lots. The Medical School students needed inexpensive apartments close to the hospital and between the Walton brothers and Henry Cravens that need was met.

When the University began accumulating property in the area, a revised plan for more of a mixed use project was brought forward. It is theorized that, with an approved plan in place, the owners could maximize their asking price in case of a condemnation by UK. Simultaneously, the need has grown for lodging of families of non-local patients under long term care. This latest plan will now apparently fill a portion of that need. Oddly enough, there was a small motel on the block now occupied by the Kentucky Clinic and Nursing School back in '67.

The other new announcement today was about the Downtown enhancements for the Farmers market and the Streetscape proposals. The images above show just the type of structure I would like to see and is what I had in mind when I posted about a possible entertainment district along Short St between Mill and Cheapside. A light, airy covering of late 1800's style and although this covers Cheapside and not Short, it will fulfill the idea. The possibility of using it for many other functions and events is really a plus. The rendering also seems to show that the Breckenridge statue will be moved toward Main St. and some more public artwork added(also topics of earlier blog posts). The addition of an "art style" bus stop would complete the trifecta.

Some comments on the Herald-Leader web site have called this a waste of money and suggest that it be better suited for the Lexington Mall location. Are these the same folk that raked former Mayor Issac about her foray into a condemnation of said mall and now chastise the current Mayor for not doing the same? Are they the same folk who complain the downtown is not vibrant and will not spend any effort to make it so? Some downtown decisions of the past have been shown to be less than useful and some just plain mistakes. Please, let us learn from those mistakes and move forward but not so rapidly as to make even larger mistakes.

With all the effort looking toward the streetscapes, I would hope that they don't forget the new emphasis on railed transit by the current Federal administration and at least contemplate a possible future rail tram in the downtown area.

Hopefully this next year will find downtown a mess with new building projects galore.

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