Here we go again.
Today's news brings us the report that Jeanne Gang has completed her work for the Webbs. She has been paid and the euphoria, that swept through Lexington back in July, has given way to the gray clouds of the approaching Winter season. Many will obviously blame the stuffy, old conservatives of our city for rejecting the "bold" and "innovative" thinking of a Chicago architect, but others will again sigh a brief breath that maybe common sense is returning to downtown development. I wonder if we will get what downtown Lexington needs or what a number of folks (without a financial stake in it) feel would be good for our urban area.
I remember the royal flap that went on over the "boiler plate" economic study draft that was presented which appeared to be a cut and paste job applicable to many mid-sized cities, yet we still hear of a desire for a boutique hotel and enhanced art and entertainment offerings which could keep us on par with Louisville or Cincinnati. I guess that the Gratz Park Inn does not count on the one hand and the literal explosion of downtown activity which has transpired since the demise of The Dame on the other.
There are people who follow the trends of the convention business and I guess that they see a need for more space in Lexington, even if you or I do not. Mrs. Sweeper has even told me that we don't have that many conventions here, but I think that she is missing the weekly notices that the Herald-Leader lists each Monday. She may also be considering a group of 300-400 to be less than a "convention". I keep seeing good sized groups of folks leaving the Lexington Center wearing name badges and carrying he obligatory satchel or backpack full of goodies, so we do have a fairly steady flow of conventioneers coming to town. Do we need more room for larger conventions, I have no idea.
I took a good long look at the sign which has stood on the block for well over a year and noticed that the J.W. Marriott name is still proudly displayed there. They seem to think that it was an excellent idea back then and I doubt that they have changed their minds for the long haul, though there may be some blips in the short term. I also do not see Dudley coercing them into something just so another bland building can rise from the rich limestone soil. (I think that the limestone richness was wrested from that location nearly 200 hundred years ago.)
The sad part of all of this is the fate of the four other architecture firms who were chosen to participate in the lesser structures. They were going to bring some fresh, new ideas to the streetscape. We will be left with just one firm who, no doubt, will continue to spread their "signature" style across the urban landscape. The EOP style is distinctive and readily recognizable, whether it be an artistic bus stop, a downtown condo block or a satellite facility of a mega church. Much like the often used (some say overused) model of the elementary schools of the '70s from Johnson/Romanowitz, we may find that their style will appear dated sometime in the near future.
So, here we are, back at nearly the same spot which we found ourselves just about a year ago. Still waiting for an acceptable design and financing (I still think that it is a sure thing) and excavation to begin. The Gang gang is gone and the Mayor is embroiled in some serious situations at City Hall. We hear that the economy is improving, but I cannot prove that from my bank account. Downtown is looking better but there is still much to do.
Maybe, in a few weeks, we will have another wave of euphoria to get us through the winter.