There is a lot of posturing being done on the Internet and in the local media concerning the current status of the CentrePointe development. Much of the dialogue centers on the apparent reversal of direction in which the Webb Co. wishes to take and whether it constitutes progress or not. It all began late last month with Beverly Fortune’s Herald-Leader article, which I think that many have misconstrued.
The article leads off with the assertion that our “world famous” guest architect from Chicago has been released from the development. Yet an opening quote, which I assume is correct, says that "She completed her work. She sent her final invoice and it has been paid,". I see that as saying that her contract is done. She was not “fired”. She has completed the work for which she was contractually obligated.
I am sure that the Studio Gang firm is not desperate for work, either here or abroad, and while they may be disappointed, along with several local firms and the other activists, their life will go on. Those here in Lexington seem to be doubly disappointed since their expectations were raised to such a level without knowing the details of the contract under which Studio Gang was hired. Now the locals see no hope of getting what they want or were led to expect.
I have always been told that nothing occurs in a vacuum and certainly other events were taking place during this time, which directly affect downtown and this development. The Arena Arts and Entertainment Task Force has, during this time, been studying the Lexington Center Corp. property and the possible redevelopment or enhancement of it. Similarly the Lexington Visitor and Convention Bureau was analyzing the possible need for expanded convention facilities. Both of these processes have been done outside the intense scrutiny of us mere mortals.
A number of recommendations from the preliminary report the AA&E task force include many unfunded, pie in the sky, facilities which are largely aimed at satisfying a local need. The data from the LVCB report, presented in August 2011, focused on the desires and needs of those who may wish to come here for conventions and such. Both reports have been prepared by well known and respected folks and surprisingly arrived at some identical, basic changes in the existing physical arrangements of Lexington Center/Rupp Arena.
One item that did come to light, and something that many of us here think little about, is the apparently very real desire of larger conventions to assemble in Central Kentucky. We saw a brief glimpse of it during the WEG and the eventual glowing stories in the international press. People liked what they saw when they visited and many will look for good reasons to come back, especially if it can be written off as a business expense. Conventions will give that reason. Now we have to accommodate them and hotel space/meeting space looks to be our limiting factor.
If we do need the increased convention space, then the idea floated by the original CentrePointe plan and not the boutique hotel concept pushed by the Mayor (and picked up by the Herald-Leader) may be the prudent path to take. The LVCB report suggests that maybe a second such hotel could be needed. If the AA&E group is serious about extending the downtown axis on the western side of Rupp and adding facilities, then we may have a location for our second convention hotel.
Dudley Webb has told several others, as revealed by TV news reports, that there is a newer contract with Studio Gang which has not been fully negotiated for further work here in Lexington. We may still get our “starchitect” building and it may be a boutique hotel, but I don’t believe it will be in the center of town.