Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Recent CentrePointe Situation

I have been following my site statistics closely for the past few days and have noticed that many of the regular folks have been looking in just to see if I will post about CentrePointe. It is a deliberate choice not to, due to the free flowing mass of mis-information.

Many of the people who post comments to the Herald Leader articles have no clue as to the facts or even a basic knowledge of Economics 101. From the spelling and sentence structure, most do not appear to have more than a 7th grade education. They do not get their facts or statistics from the newspaper, for the articles are devoid of them. Wild claims of half empty buildings and totally failed projects attributed to a certain set of developers abound while the other buildings of similar style and age are ignored. Statements of the demise of a local insurance institution are blamed on these developers and not on the unsustainable business practices followed then and even now by so many of the major companies.

The paper itself is want to allow a former journalist to foment the same mis-information. It would seem that he forgot how to gather real facts, or even check some of those facts, when he became an editor and writing to fill space became an issue. Simple things like looking back through the H-L archives alludes him.

The hard core batch of bloggers, who cannot wait to jump on the latest rumor or hint of someone questioning the motives of the Council, the developers or the general set of decision makers of Lexington, have spread so manure about the site that it could grow grass without help. These are the same ones who decry the waste of taxpayers dollers on the one hand and wish for eminent domain to claim the property on the other. As yet, no taxpayer funds have been spent on this project, nor will they be. These blogggers continue to misrepresent the TIF as a tax incentive, as has been used bythe State for so many years to intice industries to come to a location, and not as a redirection of the tax revenue generated by a developer who has the location and a project already.

The bloggers and other "narcissistic bird-brains" who call themselves Twitterers, with their "tweets" and "hashings" and whatever else they have, continue to call for the instant response of their social network to any occurance and claim this to be the "transparency" needed in today's world. There are specific times allowed for public input and that is not always at the beginning of the process. Also, all input is to be acknowledged, but that does not mean that it HAS to be included as part of the solution. I have seen many of their complaints, of decisions that did not go their way, as basis their being ignored completely. They don't get that sometimes, wiser, more experienced minds and even larger social groups can prevail. That is the democratic way.

Then there are the politicos. Some of them are neophyte council members and have not been around the block even once yet. These are the ones who call for the ordinances to be followed and all the proper procedures complied with, yet know not what these ordinances or procedures are. One such member said "Unless we fix the systematic problems, we'll continue to fight one zone change at a time, one building at a time, one block at a time — not just downtown but in the neighborhoods.", yet there was no zone change necessary, nor will the public sit idly by and submit to massive re-zonings downtown or in the neighborhoods.

Finally, there is he who would be King. the Vice Mayor who wishes to show that he will not be left to the obscurity of mere Council Member. This is a dynamic giant of the development world, a leader of a multi-national company. Spouting technical jargon as though it made sense, he asks about something that a development principle partner would leave to another to answer, he skips to a secondary step in the process, yet leaves out that the plans have been in Building Inspection for about a month, and asks if the plans have been sent to the Planning Office, who would never see these plans as they are not required to. For someone in a planning related profession, he seems to lack the understanding of the local process and for someone in a leadership position, seems to lack the knowledge of the finer points of law. A lawyer may become a developerbut an engineering professional should not practice law. If he is so accomplished in downtown planning, then he should encourage the densification of this block and oppose the suburbanization of the Main and Vine intersection, to whit the CVS proposal, which is sailing by unnoticed.

As it is, maybe a few thousand of thse described people are active in this discussion while the rest of the 280 thousand residents of the city wonder what the fuss is about.


Alison said...

"From the spelling and sentence structure, most do not appear to have more than a 7th grade education."

Pot, kettle. Make sure you know your wants from your wonts, your alludes from your eludes, your intice from your entice, your principle from your principal, and your to whit from your to wit.

I'm letting your lack of hyphens go.

As for this: "...maybe a few thousand of thse [sic] described people are active in this discussion while the rest of the 280 thousand residents of the city wonder what the fuss is about."

So some people care? And that's a problem?

topazsfp said...

I fall into none of the groups you mentioned. I belong to no historical preservation groups, or art leagues. I just happen to live in downtown Lexington, and my friends and I are apparently part of the group that they always talk about 'revitalizing' the downtown for, since we actually bother to use it. That said, we actually used that block a lot before it became a hole in the ground. I was good friends with people employed there, and some of the business owners. I worked at the downtown farmer's market almost every Saturday.

Gray isn't just picking on the Webbs. They have a bad history in this town (and others). I've read some of the original articles from when they've built some of their other projects - Victorian Square nee Fresh Market cost the city a massive amount of money when the Webbs dropped that project. And there have been other problems, both here and at their office in Georgia. You make the argument that people aren't making the same fuss about other projects - well, that's true, and maybe we should. But that's a fallacious argument; it doesn't actually explain why we shouldn't attack the idea of CentrePointe.

As for the assertion that no citizen money has been spent on CentrePointe, and none will be - well, the city has had to bail out Webb projects here more than once. History actually doesn't back you up here.

You're just criticizing the people protesting the project and making snide comments about them, while not actually explaining why you approve of the project, and citing facts. How, exactly, does that make you any better?

Streetsweeper said...

Alison, I thank you for correcting me on my word usage. I was referring to the much more prevalent spelling and tense errors.

It is not a problem that people care, but that a small minority of the daytime downtown residents are trying to impose their desires on the rest of the area. The ratio if 1-3% of downtown residents, daytime downtown occupants, overall residents, and Urban County Council makeup appears to be consistent. America still believes in majority rule, does it not?

Streetsweeper said...

Topazsfp, I also used that block a lot, as well as many of the other blocks, before they became holes. And I have used them after they were redeveloped as I hope to do with the CentrePointe block.

The Vice Mayor is certainly attacking only Mr Webb and he has said nothing of the past incidents or the checkered history that is brought up by others. The assessed value of all the Webb developments has generated more tax revenue over the past 20 years than any other downtown developer. In 1995 the Webb Companies paid more in taxes than any other entity in Fayette County.

My argument cannot be fallacious and true at the same time and it is not intended to explain why you are attacking the CentrePointe idea, only that you are attacking the Webb's and not others made of the same bolt of cloth.

Something will get built on that block. History will show that when opposition to any development has risen, caused the legal effort to redouble, delayed the project(or even brought on a sale of the property) the subsequent return on investment has brought about a much less desirable end result. After all parties involved are done, you will need a larger development not a smaller one.

Kate said...

I'm a regular reader and enjoy your blog very much. I especially enjoyed your second to last post. The problem of Lexington Mall has been overlooked decades too long, the last thing we need of for the situation to be repeated at Turfland.

So, as a fan, I'm a little disappointed by your most recent post. Leaving aside the fact that it's a screed, it doesn't answer any of the challenges that it brings up.

An objective, rational argument for why Center Point might be economically viable (despite set backs) would be welcome. Like most of the bloggers you criticize, I've grown up in an era where Webb developments have succeeded by virtue of someone else's business savvy (thank God for JoB), by virtue of someone else's hard work (and even then, Victorian Square sat empty for years), or not at all (I think we can all agree that Festival Market is what should have been torn down last summer).

I'm not being snarky. I would, honestly, be interested in reasons that I should want this project to go forward, or, for that matter, (since at the end of the day there don't look to be too many options between Webb bankruptcy and a permanent extension to Phoenix Park) reasons it will go forward.

I think that if you could articulate any of those things, you would be doing a real public service. I know all the reasons that I don't want CP to happen, and all the reasons why I wish that the land was owned by a more savvy and talented (and, yes, honest) developer than Dudley Webb. What I need to know are the reasons that I might be wrong.

If we're going to have a dialogue about this, it seems like we should actually have a dialogue, not just complain about random bloggers etiquette.


PS: Here's the screed part. I'm sorry, I just couldn't let it go.

You are allowed to use people's names. Please stop using euphemisms, ("former journalist", "batch of bloggers" "neophyte council members"). You are writing a community blog, not a gossip column.

Do you honestly think Tom Eblen is going to sue you? Do you think B&P will stop linking to you?

And (this is a somewhat different issue,)dis a political neophyte? Even compared to most of the halfwits on the UCC? I mean, damn.

Ahavah Gayle said...

What I would like to see on the centrepoint block is a European style design of buildings with shops/business/dining on the first floor and townhouses above for the owners/operators to live. This model has worked literally since the dawn of time in Europe and there's no reason it could not work here. The inner area of the block would be a garden/lawn/playground for the families living above their businesses, not accessible to outsiders.

But this will never happen, due to the idiotically inflated price and valuation of the land. Four or five million for that block which actually isn't very big is hyperinflated, even for "prime" downtown real estate. You can't build anything except a gigantic skyscraper and get a decent return. After all, a 40ft wide storefront with a two or two and a half story townhouse above is only 3 or 4 floors - you couldn't sell them for anything a family business could afford at the current valuation.

This type of phenomena is what has ruined downdown in Lexington. I would have to agree with those who say there is simply no need for another big hotel, and the condos they are designing are not suitable for multi-generational families which will be the norm during the next 20 or 30 years at least due to the inherent economics of the retiring baby boomer generation and their declining health, not to mention the overall wider economy.

This, too, is normal in Europe - the flats above the shops have 3, 4 and even 5 and more bedrooms to accommodate aging elderly relatives plus young adult children, because that is sustainable. America's paradigm is not, as we are fast finding out the hard way. But developers like the Webbs are stuck in some "creative class" fairyland where no one has elderly parents or jobless college kids to take care of. Their condos are useless for the reality most people will face in the next 10 years, and will just sit there unsold, I predict. Yes, people want an urban life - but it has to be a realistic life, too. What they're building will meet nobody's needs, and is not sustainable.