Thursday, February 16, 2012

Can We Stop The Quibbling?

While I was crafting last night's entry, the Herald-Leader was breaking the news about the latest CentrePointe designs and opening the door to all the loony comments which they know always ensue. From the wanna-be Frank Lloyd Wright's to the “anything built in the '80s is bad” crowd, they all showed up and it was off to the races.

Some folks think that Dudley is just trying to ruin the city's reputation, others that the Webbs are truly criminal for stealing the wonderful vibrancy of the block's former self. Four years (and one deep recession) into the project, some believe that if they bring enough criticism that they can delay the outcome until they can influence a change of design. Others still long for the memories of a once popular music venue and little else on a downtown block which was mainly vibrant after dark and basically stagnant during the day.

There is also the segment who call for project to be “taken away” from the Webbs and developed by “someone who can see what we need”. This is absolutely fiscally impossible as well as contrary to Kentucky eminent domain law.

When it comes to design the opinions are again all over the charts. Should it be one structure or a series of varied ones? Should it be a boutique hotel or a convention sized one? It even comes down to whether or not an elevated pedway should connect to other buildings. Why does everybody bash the idea of pedways? They are just another way to get around and between buildings.

Nobody forces people to walk via pedway versus the street level, just like nobody forces folks to ride the bus versus driving a car. Pedways have failed in other localities but I would wager that the failure was due to what they connected and not how the connected.

The one sure way to get more street level foot traffic is to put more interesting and attractive storefronts at street level. People need a reason to be doing/going where they do and how they do. Give them that reason and the traffic will increase.

Retail businesses need those same reasons to be where they are, give them the option to be either on a pedway or on the street. One severe critic, Michael Speaks is only giving an opinion when he lashes out at the concept of pedways. If he wants to argue against pedways, then he should introduce some facts into the conversation. Likewise Dudley should show some supporting information for supporting them. The University of Kentucky must realize that they are useful, they keep building them.

The Webbs are usually cited as developers of “failed projects” but only a few are mentioned. I wonder if the Woodlands is considered a failure when it is fully sold out of the condos (and they aren't cheap). The architecture of the building is not the downtown beige that everyone decries and one story that I heard many years back involved a returning alumni for UK's homecoming weekend—He commented to his young family what a great job they had done restoring the structure. It was less than a year old at the time.

Do most of the folks in town think that Regency Center on Nicholasville Rd is a “failure”? Aren't all the shops leased out and active? Will the Kroger store be damaged by the new Trader Joe's when it opens later this year? Is this center relatively close to enough residential for it to be considered a walkable retail location?

I feel that with all the other design questions of neighborhood safety and interconnectedness, of increased dependency on automobiles for mobility and shrinking government revenues with which to remedy these situations and the possibility that we just aren't prepared for a probable economic collapse, we have better topics to endlessly vent about.

Most of the residents of Lexington have three main concerns:
  • Don't try to force me out of the subdivisions,
  • Don't try to force me out of my car, and
  • Don't spend my tax money on things that I will never use.

CentrePointe comes up a “meh” on all of those points.

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