Monday, May 20, 2013

Does Jeff Ruby Think That He Is Being Left Behind?

Last week there was a Twitter report by Jeff Ruby, the steakhouse guy from Cincinnati, right out of the blue (?) which announced that he would open his Lexington location, in CentrePointe, in 2015. That was picked up and reported by the local press, much to the amusement to the myriad of people who have scoffed and derided the numerous stories of the long delayed project.

Many were the people worked to save the decaying, but popular, The Dame nightclub and the lesser used pool hall next door. Preservationist, more than a few of them amateurs, climbed on board aiming to save one of the oldest commercial structures downtown. And once it became clear that the building would not be saved, the jumped at anything that looked like it could delay the plan going forward. Finally, it was the global economy that did what so many locals could not – bring things to a standstill.

Although the “Great Recession” could delay an announced 40 story building, it could not delay the grass roots refurbishment of major parts of West Short St, Jefferson St or stretches of N. Limestone.  The failure to build a $250 million project with private money did not dampen the desire to use more than twice as much in public funds just a few blocks away.

Throw into this mix, the reluctance to allow food trucks and to revert to two-way streets and there you have Lexington's perception of the future.

I, on the other hand, do believe that the Ruby Steak House tweet is for real.

Several years ago an engineer friend showed me a Plat of Consolidation for the CentrePointe block. There are currently approximately 20 separate parcels under various ownership names which will have to be combined in order to allow the project to proceed. True, it may have been when the project was a large, single unit structure but it would not have been allowed to be built across lot lines.

He and I were hopeful that the filing and recording process could be accomplished quickly. After several design changes occurred (some at the hands of noted architects) the design reached the point that there are now multiple buildings, each needing a separate lot - such a plat has not been filed....yet.

Last Wednesday, the CHDRB meeting re-approved the permit for CentrePointe and the Taste of Thai building across the street and unless they revise the TIF boundary and purpose (which they may) there are fewer obstacles in their way.

The Ruby tweet came on Friday – two days after the re-authorization vote. Published comments from Dudley Webb seem to indicate that those TIF changes are forthcoming.

Are my hope up - again, maybe but I have long been hopeful about downtown, in spite of the recent economic climate.

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