Tuesday, April 10, 2012

21c And The Road Ahead

It was about a month ago that I wrote about our possibility of getting a boutique hotel along the lines of a 21c in- of all places – the old First National Building.

This morning, the main headline of the Herald-Leader was the announcement of just such thing. The 21c corporation has signed on the dotted line to purchase the 3 parcels and put in motion a request of the Urban County Council for tax incentives and federal grants for this $38 million project. They may even request a TIF district of the state, though it is unclear what properties it may include or what public infrastructure needs be built.

My friend over at Kaintuckeen quoted Mayor Gray as calling it the “worst kept secret in Lexington” but this is the latest of such proposals made for this building and the only one to actually make it into the media.

You see, this building has a number of issues which may hold any redevelopment at bay. The First National Building is on the National Register as a site and as part of the Downtown Commercial District. For as much good as any such listing has afforded some other properties, after the CentrePointe controversy, our local folks would put a major fuss should undue alterations be proposed.

Any conversion of this century old building will necessitate new fire rating and sprinklers and an alternate method of egress, a fire escape. The previous proposals included various ways of accomplishing this, but I am told, either our local Historic Preservation or the lending institutions have balked and the plans wafted away like smoke. Like the Melodean Hall situation across the intersection, good new uses proposed for fine old buildings run up against safety and preservation issues which can really complicate matters.

Mayor Gray appears to have worked very hard on convincing folks that a 21c hotel needs to be in Lexington and whether his company is called upon to provide construction assistance or not, his 40 years of business and 6 years of political experience may be put to the test.

Concerning the TIF for 21c, I cannot figure out just how big on an area or just what amount of public improvements can be done in the area. I know that for CentrePointe, the district covers the primary block but also includes the old Court House and Cheapside Park, and the parking lot across W. Short St. The Cheapside work is about ¾ths done but the Lexington History Museum has major work planned. Perhaps the sidewalks and other street improvements could be made to aide the movement along Upper and Short St.

Like the journey of CentrePointe from announcement to completion, this boutique hotel may have more than a few setbacks.

On a lighter note, the people in the restaurant being finished on the corner of Short and Limestone which has a tentative name of Southern Table, tells me that they will open for lunch in the next week or two and for dinner about a week after that. The décor is starkly white on white and the menu is to be California fusion I believe, maybe not new for Lexington but not your usual fare.

With all the new openings on Short St, can it be long before someone calls for some real street work to be done on that section.

I have been trumpeting all of the new places downtown but there have been some closings also. While we were wondering about The Taste of Thai and Sam's Hotdogs since the Webbs bought that property, Giacomo's, with their bright yellow delivery scooter, has been sold and closed without explanation. I will also miss the Good Foods Chapter 2 in the lobby of the library. I don't know the whole story on that either.

I am always open to conversation so lets talk.


Peter Brackney said...

Can't believe all the closures recently. I just finished a 40 day fast of lunches out... so many of these escaped my knowledge. Too bad -- we'll see what replaces them?!

Fire code issues balanced with CADRB will certainly be an issue. Perhaps the solution would be a pedway connecting the First National Building to the old courthouse? I kid.

Certainly we can come to some common sense solution that allows for this development while meeting necessary safety codes, etc.


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