Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Do We Deal With The Potential

There lately was a post, on the net, concerning the potential of the City of Lexington. The author commented that none of the places that he had lived before could match the offerings available here in Lexington, yet that is not quite enough for him(or other young professionals). Lexington, he claims, could be so much more, as could many other cities across the U.S. Lets take a look at the common failings of Lexington, as detailed by this author.

The criticism basically begins with the look of downtown and the overall appearance of things. On the positive side, there are “many wonderful old buildings “ and many are worth saving and repairing as long as it is someone else's money being spent to do it. Development decisions are not solely determined by the look of the final product. Need and financial viability are also necessary to even up the return on investment. Great looks are just icing on the cake.

There is also the subject of “far too many empty lots” and that is a valid comment, as long as we are not just staring at the CentrePointe block when we say that. There are plenty of others, with as much development potential near the center of town, that have struggled through adversity without success.

The numerous parcels along W. Short St., which provide parking spaces during the day for offices and for the entertainment district at night, are necessary because our young professionals cannot live downtown. They HAVE to commute.

Some lots on N. Mill St., between Short and Second, have been proposed for a multi-story residential building to be filled with condos – expensive condos. Nothing that the usual young professional with a small family could live in, these were to be million dollar plus type units. Does anybody continue to call this a failed project?

What about the lots/lots on the west side of DeWeese, across from the National City Building? How long have these formerly well designed structures been gone and nothing to replace them? Another failure?

Will we call the CVS venture a failure because of the reviled suburban design or the unwillingness to pay for the relocation of some underground utilities(something desired) plus the redesign of a corporate model? Could this whole block benefit from a good design and still make it without a parking garage?

I see two locations, one on either side of the Calvary Baptist Church, and both former sites of auto dealers which hold good potential for some sort of downtown development. They are currently being used for surface parking and thus wasted in terms of generating tax revenue. Further south, on Limestone, the University holds several parcels with high development potential.

All of the foregoing are within a few blocks of the Main/Vine couplet and immensely develop-able, but there are others just a little farther out. The former Popeye's Sign Co. block was proposed for a 7 story mix of condos and retail which is now down to 20 townhouses and a two-story restaurant. Quite a difference from something that was supposed to be of similar density to the Lex across the street. When are we going to hear the rising ground swell from the young professionals, to do something with these lots and the various others nearby?

I do remember when a small handful of young go-getters bought into some of the most rundown locations with the intentions of renovation and gentrification. They did not wait for it to get done, they went in and did it. They did not ask for someone to change ideas to suit them, they presented ideas that they could make work for them. Right now, we have someone working very hard on a building, which for all intents and purposes, is in direct line for the Scott St spur of the Newtown Pike Extension project.. The old Scott Hotel building is looking very nice and is a historic structure. It should take a minor adjustment to realign the spur road to avoid this labor of love.

When it comes to the assessment of the “ugly modern “hi-rises “, I think that we have to allow ALL styles and ages of architecture or we will have folks calling for the total removal of split-level ranches and the like. Even the formerly bland Lexington Center complex looks better than it did when built, so there is hope for some of them.

Will these problems, along with the ones of suburban sprawl, the crumbling shopping rows and the public transportation system be fixed easily? Not really. The price of oil and private transportation may take care of the sprawl question. They may fall into the same level of disrepair that we saw in the inner city when it becomes prohibitively expensive to live there and work in the city. The shopping centers may have to re-purpose themselves with mixes of uses which will serve their local constituents.

The public transportation element? It will only get better when we use it more. Consistently full buses or trolleys will bring more frequent runs and better timing. Requesting routes to more destinations, and then USING them will go far in bettering the system for all.

I guess, what I am saying is that we can't just whine and complain about what some won't do for us or how we don't like the way that they did something. We may just need to get on board and then begin to steer a bit by shifting the balance of the ship.


danny said...

I think you're overstating the number and power of these young professionals who desire to live downtown, particularly with respect to the locations you cite. Because of their location, these places are some of the most expensive in the city. The money is great, the cost to buy these places is great (or greater than the current market has borne). These require greater inputs of money, time, people, etc.

Investment in these is vastly different than the investment of the people you cite who bought along Louden, North Limestone, Johnson, etc., whose minimal money investments (initially probably under $100,000 per home to make them liveable, probably now around $200,000) allowed them to do things on their own with no help. It also allowed them to sell homes to the demographic you note (young professionals). They also were buying a lot of these during the tail end of the market binge, when loan assumptions were way looser than they are right now.

Streetsweeper said...

Yes, the number of these vocal activists is small and their power limited. That is what I want them to begin to understand. The solutions to their perceived problems will take much more than they anticipate but they can be done. It will take more than a loose association of people calling for action by others to pull off getting things done in downtown, much less in the rest of Lexington.

Also, I was speaking of the re-gentrification of Woodward Heights and South Hill et.al. back in the '70s and such.