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.

No comments: