Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Art Style Bus Stop Progress

Back in January I wrote about some ideas for the seemingly growing, interest in bus stops done up in a designer style, so called art stops. In that post I gave some examples of places and possible design themes, and although nobody gave any responses, I know that they were read and discussed somewhere. Again at the first of this month, I posted about the coming art stop at Third and Elm Tree Lane.

Now I hear that there is dissension in the ranks of those behind the art stops, Art in Motion, and those artists who could be the future designers of the art stops.

In my mind there is a sufficient amount of work for the number of artists and designers in Lexington. This should be looked at as an on-going civic program. One that adds a number of art stops a year, maybe not more than ten or so, based on available funding. There could be some kind of competition with categories for veteran and novice artists. Points could be awarded for designs that fit best with its location, or for enhancing or emboldening the location. These are elements that will come in time as the program grows beyond its baby steps.

As I see it we have a pretty good first step and some likely slippery ground to cover before we can run with this thing. What we don't need is a lot of mud slinging and raining on everybody's parades.

Friday, May 22, 2009

There is Still No Road

What a week this has been. There have been some beautiful days and plenty of time to get out and see all the new developments in Lexington.

There have also been more of the same questions about some of the old projects that appear to be stalled. Glaciers move faster than one of these projects that I have heard about for years. I first heard about this one from my father who, when he was a young lad of 17 ,moved to Lexington from Owen Co. He took a job in a local grocery which stood at the end of Euclid Ave where Center Court now lies. The owners of this grocery were very successful and made plans to expand by double, resulting with a building that was centered on the block face of Upper St.

The applied for a building permit ans were told that the City had plans for a continuation of Euclid that would run all the way to West Main St. This was in the mid to late '30s and there was no right of way, no blueprints and most of all no money for construction. As a compromise, they agreed to sign a contract to demolish the enlarged store, when and if, the road project became a top priority and then rebuild, with the new road as its frontage.

Those owners retired in 1959 and closed the store. They then leased the building to a series of merchants before finally selling to the University, which held it until recently. There is still no road.

In the '60s, the State created a new entry to downtown by bringing Newtown Pike, as a four lane road to W. Main St from its intersection with Fourth St. And they also widened Euclid from Rose to E High St, along with declaring them to be Secondary Federal Highways to be connected by this long planned(30 years) roadway previously spoken of. The Avenue of Champions presented itself as a problem, with two sports venues on either side, but the engineers could deal with that.

Plans were drawn, railroad tracks were abandoned and removed, protests were lodged and compromises were made, and money earmarked. Private investment and development has occurred along the path(this time without any agreements) and the plans revised. There is still no road.

After my father retired from the grocery business in the early '70s, he would tell me that I probably would never see the "Newtown Pike Extension" as they had renamed it. Dad pass away in '88 and still there is no road.

This story does have some characteristics that are similar with the current CentrePointe controversy.
The plans were hatched without involving the local people who would be affected.
The project, when first identified, had dubious benefits as reasons for existence.
The project area was a historical area that had fallen on hard times and continues to see "demolition by neglect" from absentee landlords.
There was, at least one significant, historic structure in the primary area.
Surveys and area plans were produced and recommendations made, but then ignored.
Financing was coming from an unknown source (and still supposed to be available from a dying entity, the Highway Trust Fund).
A great swath of land has had some demolition, earth moving and some site preparation work done and then left in a dusty (or muddy) state.
There is a perception that it has lingered too long and the project is dead, so lets move on to other projects.
CentrePointe has passed the 14 month mark since its announcement and is nearing the 11th month mark for the demolition initiation and there is no building, but the Newtown Pike Extension is around the 75 year mark and there is still no road.

There is some good news to pass along. I have heard that the first contract, for the section from Main St to Versailles Rd., will be let in the latter part of June (the 24th I think). These guys are definitely not on the fast track on this project.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reply to Carson Morris

This is being cross posted on the Ace blog and Lowell's Under the Hood

Thank you for making your thoughts known to the rest of us.

I, as one of the senior residents of Lexington, hope that you do NOT get homesick for our fair city. I am a life-long resident the these parts and have grown to live everything about Lexington. I would find it hard to leave for good.

When I graduated from high school, I, unlike so many others did not know to what profession I would apply myself. I drifted from part-time to part-time employment and even tried my hand at college. I eventually took up the artistic skill of cartography. I took to it well enough, it was just that there were very few places that called for such skills. After a short dry spell I finally found a position that applied mapmaking, Lexington history, graphic arts and the workings of government and embarked on a career of serving the citizens of this city.

I was not always listened to and sometimes told that my proposed solution would not work. I followed what were sometimes difficult procedures to get to a solution and also kept a version of my attempts at different methods. After some trial and error, I refined my way of recording information and offered it as an alternate and when more people returned for my version my superiors dropped the original way. This does not happen all the time and others have had better ideas than me, but a number of my solution have made it easier to automate the processes for future solutions.

I tell you this because it does no good to demand that you be listened to if you cannot show how your ideas and solutions can yield better results, especially in a side-by-side comparison. Your father is an excellent mechanic yet it would do him no good to tell everyone if he did not prove it every time out in the shop. It is through this proof that he is listened to and engaged for future encounters. The skills that he brings to the job (or situation) is what gives him value in his work and in his community. These are values that I am sure that your father will impart to you as you grow older.

I believe that everyone in Lexington wants to respect you and your positions, but I also know that that respect is earned when you can demonstrate a better way and resist demanding unproven solutions. This is a situation that was familiar to the unions in the ‘30s, the beatniks in the ‘50s, the hippies in the ‘60s and so many others through out history. We really do realize that you are out there AND we want to engage you in the workings of leadership but changing the direction of the ship(or car) comes from farther back in the vehicle. Often those in the middle of the pack have more influence on steering than the lead dog.

We want you to succeed and ask you to join us to make your future what you want it to be.

The Lexington Streetsweeper

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Do We Really Have A Brain Drain?

The Wall Street Journal ran an article on Saturday regarding the so called "youth magnet" cities like Portland, Austin and Denver. While it is true that these cities continue to draw numbers of young people, due to reputation mostly, the prospects of finding employment in their chosen fields has diminished along with the economy.

I keep hearing about the youth of this city leaving for greener pastures and the talent then being gone for good. This has been going on since I was in high school. A lot of my friends left for schools and careers in other states but by and large they mostly came back.

My own brother left for a career in the military and after retiring as a Major, took a military-related consulting position. After more than 40 years away from Lexington, he returned to stay where he has family and friends. Two of my nieces have graduated from college, left town for a short stint, then came home to marry and settle down.

On the other hand, the majority of the folks that I work with, have partied with or have conducted business with, are from somewhere else. Mrs. Sweeper says that she knows precious few native Lexingtonians. I dare say that if you were to take a poll of any gathering of people, anywhere in town, the local talent would be in the minority. Most of those in a leadership position for Lexington are from outside the Fayette County line.

I would like to ask all of you, my loyal readers, if you will drop me a note letting me know if you are a native or not, if not then from where you hail and how long that you have been in town. For those of you in other states, are you native and how long have you been gone? I will keep your information private if you wish.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some Things That I Cannot Let Pass

The following letter is an entry on the Ace blog for Tue. May 12. I have tried to comment on these type of posts before and had them moderated into oblivion. I will respond to it here for all to see.

The post was written by a fellow named Andrew Wyllie. I have no idea who he is or what his qualifications are, but it is clear that he knows nearly nothing about this city’s legal or development workings. My son has a better grasp on the way the real world works than Andrew.

The red text is the original posting and my response is in blue

Everyday the CenterPointe lot sits vacant the city loses close to ten thousand dollars in tax revenue.

This could not be further from the truth. The city derives only a fraction of the revenue necessary from property taxes. Those revenues go to the State and the schools for the most part.

According to the LFUCG property valuations website, the CentrePointe lot is currently worth about $20 million.

This may be true, I have not checked lately but this is up considerably from the $4.5 million valuation of the block with the buildings intact. The Property Valuation duties are a requirement of the State and are influenced in no way by the LFUCG

Assuming a tax rate of 0.36% the Webbs will pay about $70,000 in taxes per year on the empty lot.

If the initial sentence of the paragraph is true then this is for a total of 70 days(at $10,000 a day)

According to the Webbs' consultants C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc., once built, the property will bring in about $4.24 million a year. That's a substantial amount of money compared to its current tax value and this is why the line of questioning from Vice Mayor Gray is so important.

Yes it is a substantial amount, which is why the Council initiated the TIF district but it has very little to do with why Mr. Gray has a burr under his saddle. Anything built there will bring in more money(except for a public park/open space).

The lot has sat empty for almost a year with no noticeable progress. So why is it that some city council members feel it's okay that Webbs have not got their financing in order yet, even though they claimed to have it in order over a year ago.

For those of who can read a calendar, the demolition started at the end of June and concluded around November, therefore the block has sat empty for roughly 6 months or half of a year. Also, the Webb’s have repeatedly said that the financing is in order and secured with internationally binding legal documents. Just because one member of the partnership has expired does not mean that the whole deal has fallen apart.

Why is it okay that they apparently have not hired structural engineers yet when everyone who lives in Lexington knows full well that building on a karst topography (limestone with caves) can be difficult and time consuming.

No one has said that they have not hired a structural engineer. Mr. Gray’s question was “have they sent the plans to a structural engineer yet?” to which the answer was an “I don’t know”. The question makes Mr. Gray sound like he is up on the situation but only leaves doubt in the minds of those who don’t know any better. Certainly the plans are in the hands of qualified engineers and are being checked against the core drillings taken during the demolitions.

Why is it okay that the Webbs have not applied for their building permits yet which will take another six months to process.

The building permits are estimated to run approximately $120,000 and are good for a limited time. Would you pay for a parking spot now, when you know that your car will not be delivered to the dealer for six months? Or would you wait until your car is in hand?

The City Council is the equivalent to the board of directors for a company and among other things it's their responsibility to make sure the city remains economically solvent. For a city council member to take sides with this developer is a disservice to the city at a price of about 3.5 million dollars a year.

Absolutely, the Council is the “board of directors” and in any good company, they would set the course and the policies of the company. They would not involve themselves in the day to day running of the company. That they would leave to the company president, or in this case, the Mayor. The Mayor does not run the Council. He presides over the official meeting, recommends actions and policies and only votes when there is a tie vote of council members.

Webb's complaint that his project is not being treated fairly compared to other stalled projects in the city is just not valid. Indeed the city council should be dragging all of these property owners in to figure out what their future plans are. Lexington Mall is just as much a blighted area as the pit in the center of the city.

Andrew is again incorrect about the legal process of holding developers accountable. That is the job of the Law Department and the courts. The Council should have no legal right to demand that any one person or group appear before them. No “board of directors” would ever call a supplier or customer to give account of themselves to the board.

The problem with Webb's argument is that his project is in an absolute critical block of the city. It's the most expensive real estate in downtown and cannot remain in its blighted condition.

Now Andrew has trouble with the concept of blight. The blighted conditions have been eliminated with the demolitions and now we have a clean slate with which to work and the intention is to fill it with a work of art. You may not care for the art but it is art just the same.

Council member Lane's comment that "even though it's just a raw site I think our downtown looks better" should be enough to remove him from the council.

The Charter of Lexington’s Merged Government has clear reason for removal from office and I doubt that comments like this will qualify. Also, Mr. Lane was elected by a largely rural and suburban constituency and I don’t think that we have heard from them as yet.

It's a big hole and it's an embarrassment to the city that's currently sting the city a lot of money. Whether the development on the parking garage is completed is not a major issue. The parking garage is not blight, it's not an embarrassment to the city and it's not as big a project as the grand, multi use, hotel/condo project promised by the Webbs.

This rambling is quite confusing as the parking garage is a part of the total package and would not be built without the rest. Andrew is dead wrong about the vacant block costing the city money as no tax payers funds have been spent on this project except for the normal and customary reviews of the plans

Yes, it is a privately owned project and being privately financed. This DOES NOT mean that the owners can do whatever they please. There are city zoning restrictions as well as public health, safety and welfare issues associated with owning any property.

There you have it, Andrew has admitted that the private financing is in place when he says that it is “being privately financed”. He is, however, wrong if he believes that any zoning, public safety, health or welfare violations have occurred. So far everything has been done according to the regulations on the books.

The community has “police power” which gives the community the right to regulate the activities of private land owners.

Having broken no regulations the community’s “police power” has no reason to be brought to bear.

In fact, the city can take this currently blighted property and transfer it to another developer (a developer with all of the financing in place) The eminent domain laws in Kentucky do not allow for this kind of behavior which may be enough of a threat to encourage the Webbs to s(p)end the estimated $300K (their estimate – I should also mention that you could also buy a very thin sheet of gold that would cover the entire property for about $300K) to fix the sidewalks and put in some grass until they are ready to move forward on their project.

If the Webbs don't move forward, I'm sure there are some other developers that would be more than happy to get a chance to pull the rug out from under the Webbs with a project that is a bit more in line with what the people in Lexington would like to see in the downtown area.

Andrew must have flunked Economics 101. There are no other developers who can “pull the rug “ from under the Webb’s, build a smaller project and get their ROI(return on investment). Any subsequent project to this proposal would have to be of a grander scale for it to be worth anybody’s time.

Finally, I put the blame for the failure of this project squarely on the Mayor and the Council. Allowing Lexington's most expensive real estate to remain blighted for a over a year and then apologizing to the owner/developer when some members of the council start demanding a progress report should be grounds for dismissal. Council members Beard, Myers and Lane should remember that it's the people that elected them to the council who are bearing the cost of this delay both in pride for their city and tax dollars. Mayor Newberry should also take notice that no company, creative class or other, will want to relocate to a city with this kind of incompetence at the city government level.

Andrew, at this point I think that you should give it up. Mr. Gray is a construction professional and not a lawyer, therefore he made himself look foolish to all except those who also know nothing of the laws and rules of development in America. Mr. Webb is a lawyer and a developer, well versed in the needs of construction in the downtown Lexington area. I doubt that anyone else has built more on the karst limestone of this downtown.

While you did not mention it, there have been statements regarding the need for a hotel. I will say that the time to plan for a new facility, be it a hotel, transit system, farmers market, hospital, etc…is before you NEED them not after. The planning for this block anticipates needs of Lexington in 15 or more years not 1 or 2.

I also find it appalling that the Ace magazine would allow this to be printed without anyone understanding the real fact of the matter.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Library's Parking Problem

This is something that I should have known.

Or something I heard/read and it just didn't register, but the parking garage under the Park Plaza Apartments is owned by the Lexington Public Library.

I know that it was built by the State and that the apartments built above are in Lexington's second platted "air lot". I watched the structure being built from an office window. Four years ago the Library bought the garage.

There is a sign above the entrance on Main St, right beside the Library building, and nothing identifying it from the Water St side. From there it appears to be the parking reserved for the apartments. I and Mrs Sweeper have both been under the impression that the majority of the spaces in the garage were taken on a regular basis.

I have seen times when the Government Center Annex was so full that people have circled until they leave and go to find another garage or a space on the street. Many would be surprised to know that they could park in the Library's garage just down the street. Parking has been thought to be at a premium in the downtown and spaces in this garage are going unfilled. Now would be a good time to advertise that this PUBLIC parking.

I of course, as all of you should know by now, think that the need for parking garages should be lessened by the inclusion of a good streetcar system and regional rail. This would also decrease the need for parking in the CentrePointe development and enhance downtown.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Another Project from the Mayors Stimulus Package

This past week I stopped by the Woodland Park and took this shot of the former Realtor's Plaza.

This, of course, was an item on the Mayor's wish list for stimulus money and something that I commented on when the list first became public. At the time I did not know what the plans were for the site and I hoped for some type of shelter to welcome the visitors to the park. I would be disappointed when I found out the plans.

I was hoping for something of a nice, simple facade like the building that used to occupy that spot. I also know that the City builds thing on the cheap, but what I wanted was way more than $150k.

I remember the old auditorium vividly. I should, I passed by every school day for 7 years . Coming and going, morning and afternoon and yes, I used to go home for lunch in those days. Then there were the summer days playing in the park, being in or near the office and elsewhere. For a youngster, it was an imposing place and the park directors told the kids to stay out of the balcony, for safety reasons and "the bats".

I never saw any of the shows that were presented there, it had already fallen out of use. My father told me of boxing and wrestling matches and I even found a photo of one on the KDL website. From what I've found on the Library's Local History Index, there were a lot of shows around the early 1910s. The streetcar line used to run by there and at one time they had to install a streetcar siding to allow many more cars to held there for after the performances.

The building was taken down in the early '70s and there followed much discussion about a new Community/Senior Center on the location. A mass of opposition killed that idea so that it sat vacant and ugly, until the Board of Realtors volunteered to fund a beautification project., in the 1980s They only spent $25,000 and boy did it show. Cheap material and labor and a crappy design. We would have been better off with the seniors.

Well, what are we getting for $150,000? A parking lot. A parking lot to replace a parking lot.

It is not what I expected and not what I wanted, but it is better than the ugly Realtor's Plaza

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reasons That I Like CentrePointe

Kate has brought up a good point, that is "Why should we want CentrePointe to continue?"

An extremely large percentage of the comments and blogs in opposition to CentrePointe make the claims that the Webb's have failed to build a successful project in Lexington. They go on to claim that the buildings sit half or mostly empty and cost the city money. This is simply not true.

The first projects the they built in downtown are office buildings and those are mostly leased out with possibly, some vacant space. This is standard with just about every other office building in the state. As the projects got bigger, like the Vine Center and Financial tower(5/3), the amount of vacant space grew larger but the percentage of the total remained about the same. Their residential project, The Woodlands, was built as condominiums and has not only sold out, but continues to retain their values.

The two most visible projects which have struggled, and which are pointed to as failures, are the Victorian Square and the Festival Market. Victorian Square is a project that used Federal funds to renovate a block of truly historic structures, they actually are on the National Register, into a revived commercial space. Here is where the Webb's learned first hand, the fragility and expense of working with historic buildings as, on two occasions, portions of the exterior walls collapsed and had to be rebuilt to much higher standards than before.

I feel that most of Mr. Webb's detractors are under the impression that he hand selected the tenants for these projects. That is just not how it is done. No developer pre-determines the tenants, just the tenant mix. Very similar to residential subdivisions, the developer creates the spaces and the buyers set the size and style and look of the houses, within certain guidelines.

Both Victorian Square and Festival Market attempted to follow a, then current trend, called festival marketplaces.
A festival marketplace is a concept of James W. Rouse and the Rouse Company in the United States to revitalize downtown areas in major cities in the late 20th century. Festival marketplaces were a leading downtown revitalization strategy in American cities during the 1970s and 1980s. Wikipedia
There is a long list of these marketplaces elsewhere, that failed for much the same reasons as ours. My opinion is that they were built as destinations of shopping and not as an auxiliary space for a current destination, as the successful ones were. It is clear that they were built to capitalize on the downtown executives and the event traffic of the Lexington Center/Rupp Arena and the merchants that were successful ended up having restaurants or bars. That is except for Festival Market, in this case the food court was placed on the third floor, which forced the patrons to pass the boutique shops both coming and going. This became a tiresome chore just to get lunch and the people quit doing it. Victorian Square's second floor "mall concept" has also been a source of leasing trouble. And lastly, the lack of permanent downtown residents has plagued both projects.

The Webb's did try to help remedy the resident situation when they built 40 condominiums atop the Raddison Hotel(soon to be a Hilton). These were quickly snatched up by horse farm owners and corporations as guest accommodations and entertainment spaces centering around Rupp Arena events. Quite an expense to go to in my opinion, for the corporations.

Today, Festival Market is fully leased although they are mostly offices and the food is on the first floor. One of Kentucky's largest public relation firms and a major software company employ several hundred high salary workers and bring in millions to the local economy. Victorian Square still has vacant spaces, but is slowly evolving into an entertainment center. Each of these projects have increased the tax base and are not a drain on the economy. In total, the Webb projects have added nearly a billion dollars to the assessed value of downtown, so I cannot agree that either should be demolished.

Now for Kate's request for a reason to want the CentrePointe project. If you can set aside your opinions on the Webb's and focus on the idea of something on this block, I will try to give you some reasons.

First, the now demolished buildings, though old, had not been determined to be "historic". During an application for National Register nomination several blocks of downtown property were reviewed and only the north side of the street was deemed appropriate for inclusion. This side of the street was left out on purpose. Several of the buildings were considered for renovation and found to be to costly to continue. They were demolished.

Secondly, of the businesses on the block in the year prior to the announcement, all occupied just the first floor of what we know were three and four story structures. These businesses could not have employed more than a hundred people, if that, and operated mostly in the evening and nighttime hours, leaving the mid-day hours a ghost land. Only Rosenberg's and the architectural graphics firm would have paid in excess of the minimum wage. The majority of this block, for its center of the city location, was basically, vastly underutilized.

Thirdly, this block was not going to be developed by the Rosenberg's, much less maintained in any reasonable fashion. If not the Webb's, it would be someone, possibly a national firm, that would come in and attempt to develop the block. I, for one, am glad that we are not proceeding along the path similar to Louisville and their association with the Cordish Group. Louisville took property by eminent domain and gave it to the developer, who has continually delayed their progress. In our case the developer has initiated the project and asked the city to bless and assist.

Fourth, my posts here and elsewhere have stated over and over, that the TIF will be a benefit to the city and not a "tax incentive" benefit for the developer. Quite the contrary, the developer will be the one paying the taxes, a portion of which will be diverted to the City for infrastructure improvements. This is a huge win situation for the downtown area.

Lastly, the situation that I don't want is for the block to become a public park/open space. Such an open space would require that the city purchase the block, either by contract or eminent domain, using funds that we don't have. In doing so we would remove the property from the tax roll and lose any revenue , thereby subtracting funds from the money that we don't have. Then the City would have to build the park/open space, once again using money that we don't have, and continue to maintain it on an annual basis, using(dare I say it again) money that we don't have. This option would put a tremendous burden on the City and deprive the downtown of the needed infrastructure repair and renovation. Currently the City owns the Cheapside/Courthouse and Phoenix Park properties, the State owns the new Courthouse Plaza and the Lexington Center owns the Triangle Park(if the PVA website can be believed, that is valued at $60 million, though they pay no taxes).

So Kate , there you have it. My reasons for wanting this to improve downtown. Like the Webb's or not, like the project or not, this in my opinion is the best for Lexington. As for my posting style, I may have the freedom of speech rights that you have but some of those in authority above me have shown a propensity for petty reprisals in the past. I will continue in this way until I think otherwise.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Recent CentrePointe Situation

I have been following my site statistics closely for the past few days and have noticed that many of the regular folks have been looking in just to see if I will post about CentrePointe. It is a deliberate choice not to, due to the free flowing mass of mis-information.

Many of the people who post comments to the Herald Leader articles have no clue as to the facts or even a basic knowledge of Economics 101. From the spelling and sentence structure, most do not appear to have more than a 7th grade education. They do not get their facts or statistics from the newspaper, for the articles are devoid of them. Wild claims of half empty buildings and totally failed projects attributed to a certain set of developers abound while the other buildings of similar style and age are ignored. Statements of the demise of a local insurance institution are blamed on these developers and not on the unsustainable business practices followed then and even now by so many of the major companies.

The paper itself is want to allow a former journalist to foment the same mis-information. It would seem that he forgot how to gather real facts, or even check some of those facts, when he became an editor and writing to fill space became an issue. Simple things like looking back through the H-L archives alludes him.

The hard core batch of bloggers, who cannot wait to jump on the latest rumor or hint of someone questioning the motives of the Council, the developers or the general set of decision makers of Lexington, have spread so manure about the site that it could grow grass without help. These are the same ones who decry the waste of taxpayers dollers on the one hand and wish for eminent domain to claim the property on the other. As yet, no taxpayer funds have been spent on this project, nor will they be. These blogggers continue to misrepresent the TIF as a tax incentive, as has been used bythe State for so many years to intice industries to come to a location, and not as a redirection of the tax revenue generated by a developer who has the location and a project already.

The bloggers and other "narcissistic bird-brains" who call themselves Twitterers, with their "tweets" and "hashings" and whatever else they have, continue to call for the instant response of their social network to any occurance and claim this to be the "transparency" needed in today's world. There are specific times allowed for public input and that is not always at the beginning of the process. Also, all input is to be acknowledged, but that does not mean that it HAS to be included as part of the solution. I have seen many of their complaints, of decisions that did not go their way, as basis their being ignored completely. They don't get that sometimes, wiser, more experienced minds and even larger social groups can prevail. That is the democratic way.

Then there are the politicos. Some of them are neophyte council members and have not been around the block even once yet. These are the ones who call for the ordinances to be followed and all the proper procedures complied with, yet know not what these ordinances or procedures are. One such member said "Unless we fix the systematic problems, we'll continue to fight one zone change at a time, one building at a time, one block at a time — not just downtown but in the neighborhoods.", yet there was no zone change necessary, nor will the public sit idly by and submit to massive re-zonings downtown or in the neighborhoods.

Finally, there is he who would be King. the Vice Mayor who wishes to show that he will not be left to the obscurity of mere Council Member. This is a dynamic giant of the development world, a leader of a multi-national company. Spouting technical jargon as though it made sense, he asks about something that a development principle partner would leave to another to answer, he skips to a secondary step in the process, yet leaves out that the plans have been in Building Inspection for about a month, and asks if the plans have been sent to the Planning Office, who would never see these plans as they are not required to. For someone in a planning related profession, he seems to lack the understanding of the local process and for someone in a leadership position, seems to lack the knowledge of the finer points of law. A lawyer may become a developerbut an engineering professional should not practice law. If he is so accomplished in downtown planning, then he should encourage the densification of this block and oppose the suburbanization of the Main and Vine intersection, to whit the CVS proposal, which is sailing by unnoticed.

As it is, maybe a few thousand of thse described people are active in this discussion while the rest of the 280 thousand residents of the city wonder what the fuss is about.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Anothers Weeks Lack of Progress

Well, it has been another week and there has been no progress at all. It is still ugly and hard to look at. The construction fence is still up and there are no signs of anybody preparing to work anytime soon. Thousands of people pass by on these road every day and look over to see ugly sights. What do our visitors think about Lexington's future when they see this lack of progress?

One could think that I am speaking of CentrePointe and its ongoing debate. They would be WRONG.

I wish that someone would call the owners of Lexington Mall, the partially demolished Continental Inn, the apartments formerly known and built as Todds Trace, the Turfland Mall shell and a few others to account for their lack of movement on redeveloping their properties.

How much money have these people taken out of Lexington's economy in the last several years by their inaction? The employment taxes of the jobs lost would offset the deficit in the Public Safety budget for this year. The business and sales taxes would help both the State and the City, yet nobody is crying about these travesties.

Why hasn't the Urban Council complained about these eyesores as well as their well published rants and grandstanding of CentrePointe. A former Mayor, in her re-election bid, had some suggestions for the Lexington Mall site but was shot down, and here it is over two years later and still nothing. The neighbors complained about the former Continental Inn site and yet nothing has been done about it. Several of the buildings of the apartment complex have been burned and nothing is being done. The Turfland Mall interior has been closed since late last year and nobody seem to have a problem with that.

There are other, smaller locations that have much the same issues that need to be dealt with but these are the major sites that the Council and the administration should demand that something be done.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Art on E. Third St

Last week I attended the kick off party for the Issac Murphy Memorial Art Garden. This garden will be located at the intersection of E Third St and Midland Ave. This garden is dedicated to the memory of probably the finest jockeys of his, of maybe even all time. Murphy's skills on the race track are legendary.

The Art Garden is situated between the iconic Thoroughbred Park and the site of the old Kentucky Association race track, in an area that would now be known as "the backside", an area that jockeys know well. There will be space for both passive and performing art to be displayed and an interactive wall of art and information.

It is also the starting point for the Legacy Bike trail, to be built as a legacy project for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. This trail will wind through town, out Newtown Pike, past the Coldstream Research Park and on to the Kentucky Horse Park. Along the way the trail will pass the Lyric Theater on the corner of Third and Elm Tree Lane, and another long awaited addition to the cultural scene of downtown and the East End. Funding for the construction is in place but operational support is being raised.

So much for the "big ticket "items. Also on the horizon is the latest "art style" bus shelter, or art stop. Diagonally across from the Lyric, on a sliver of property between Elm Tree and the Episcopal Cemetery, will soon rise Lexington's newest art stop.

Art in Motion, as I understand it, has received funding and has a preliminary design(the same guys that did the Newtown Pike shelter) and needs to have a substantial portion of the work completed by the end of June. From the sketch that I've seen, with a few tweaks here and there, it is going to be a great artistic addition to E Third St.

On the other side of the block from this location, at the Living Arts and Science Center, they have started receiving the next batch of Horse Mania statues for the summer of 2010. I wonder if they have thought about placing some of these along the Legacy Bike trail.

This should be only the start for art on E Third St.