CentrePointe

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Artist Rendering of CentrePointe Tower


CentrePointe Development is a proposed development in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, that would be built on the existing historic "Woolworth" block located between South Limestone, Main Street, Upper Street, and Vine Street. The proposed development would feature a 35 plus story high rise hotel, 26,000 square feet of retail space, 77 condominiums, and a 10,000 square foot restaurant. The proposed design would require the demolition of 14 structures. [1]

CentrePointe is being developed by The Webb Companies. Construction is being planned for mid-August 2008 and is planned on being completed in time for the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010. The project has a projected cost of $250 million dollars.


CentrePointe has been controversial because of its use of public financing, lack of public support, and the dramatic changes it will bring to the Lexington skyline and nightlife. Most of the opposition to CentrePointe has come from grassroots activists and historic preservation organizations with little concern or support being voiced from the Lexington city council. There has also been opposition due to the project not following the Downtown Master Plan, which was developed in an extensive public process at a cost of about $400,000[2].

Recently, the main financial backer for the project died, pushing the project completion date back. Originally, The Webb Companies was to begin construction in December of 2008. The project will be delayed until the $250 million in funding is released by a probate court.[2]


Funding

In order to fulfill the $250 million cost of the project, CentrePointe, LLC (a company established by Dudley Webb for the purpose of developing CentrePointe) is seeking a $70 million contribution from the city of Lexington. [3] The Webb Companies insists that an investment by the city is crucial to the success of the project. The $70 million subsidy would utilize Tax Increment Financing (TIF). TIF was introduced by the Kentucky General Assembly in House Bill 549 in 2007 and empowers local governments to seek public funding for local development areas. [4] [5] CentrePointe would be the first project in downtown Lexington to make use of this legislation. In late-June 2008, Dudley Webb stated that the Webb Companies could proceed with the project without public financing if that was necessary. The TIF law specifies that any money used from public financing involved in a development must be used for public amenities e.g. sidewalks, galleries, parking, etc... Webb stated that if the public financing did happen for the development, there would be less input considered from the community and fewer additions for the public benefit.

RevisedCentrePointeDec2008.jpg

Proponents

Supporting Arguments

It is the developer's hope that CentrePointe will be much more inviting to the public than the current buildings on the block that contain an "an air of deterioration" and possess a "compromised architectural character". [6] The developers anticipate creating 900 jobs for Lexington with the CentrePointe project. Proponents of the project view this as the last chance to renovate an entire block in Lexington and serve as a catalyst for future renovations in the core of downtown Lexington. [7] A feasibility study for the development was completed by C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc. in February 2008. The study determined the project to be feasible in the Lexington market as CentrePointe would fullfill the need for a luxury quality hotel, supply Class A office space, bring jobs to the greater Lexington area, and make significant contributions to the Commonwealth both fiscally and economically. [8]

Developers have also planned for CentrePointe to be LEED-certified and will recycle materials from the razed buildings in order to avoid having these resources taken to a landfill. [9]

Opponents

Opposing Arguments

TIF Money

A major concern about the CentrePointe development expressed by then vice-mayor Jim Gray, is whether Lexington will reap the benefits of subsidizing CentrePointe with taxpayer money. The proposed plan features very little input from the community that would be funding the project. Preserve Lexington, a local non-profit organization, advocates the inclusion of ideas from the public and has hosted forums at the Kentucky Theater as well as funraisers such as "Save Our Block" to generate community discussion for the project. Preserve Lexington advocates including some of the existing 14 historic structures in the development of the block.

Originally Tax Increment Financing was intended soley to restore blighted areas in a community. [10]. The Woolworth block in downtown Lexington is far from blighted and the majority of the infrastructure improvements made are for sidewalks and parking and are not related to the restoration of a blight.


Other Concerns

Another concern is the preservation of the downtown Lexington aesthetic. If built, CentrePointe will be at least 35 stories tall thus putting it out of scale with the existing Lexington skyline. The base of the structure would remain at 4 stories tall in order to be to scale with the immediately surrounding buildings.

You can read The Fayette Alliance letter to the Lexington Council here.

Design Contest

In response to concerns about the design of the structure, vice-mayor Gray proposed an international design competition in order to solicit creative ideas for the project and to better involve the community. Gray offered to provide half of the prize money that would be awarded to the winning entry however the idea for the competition was soundly denied by the developers and their partners. One of the objections was the the hotel chain expected to be in the development would not agree to any design that was produced from a competition.

Entertainment Industry

It is also debated that the demolition of the 14 buildings on the proposed Main Street block will result in adverse effects on the downtown entertainment industry. Local bars, restaurants, and music venues such as The Dame, Mia's, and Buster's comprise a fair portion of nightlife venues in downtown Lexington. Dudley Webb amended the plans for CentrePointe to include a music venue however he stated that none of the existing venues would be featured in the CentrePointe development.

Status

June 2008

On June 25, 2008 the Courthouse Area Review Design Board affirmed the Webb Companies plan for the Woolworth block and granted demolition permits for the buildings on the block. The decision was a unanimous vote in their favor. On June 30, 2008, Preserve Lexington filed an appeal on the board's decision. The area planning commission must hold a hearing for the appeal within 90 days.

July 2008

In late July, 2008 several alternative design submissions were made by members of the University of Kentucky, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. The designs were unveiled in front of a small audience which included Lexington vice-mayor Jim Gray. Developer Dudley Webb did not take part in the unveiling of the suggested design alternatives claiming he was traveling.

August 2008

Late summer of 2008 saw the demolition of all the structures on the block. The facades of many of the buildings were preserved so that they could be incorporated into the structure of CentrePointe.

September 2008

Discussion on the use of Tax Increment Financing went before the city council on Tuesday, September 9, 2008. Potential uses for the TIF money discussed were underground parking structures, parks, a permanent home for the Farmer's Market, sanitary sewers, and improved sidewalks for the surrounding areas. [11] In late September, the entire block was demolished with the facades of many of the historic buildings being preserved.

November 2008

The month of November brought some broad sweeping changes to the design of the CentrePointe tower. The design changes were submitted to the Courthouse Area Design Review Board and were accepted. The most obvious physical change was a 63-foot spire fixed to the top of the building. The changes made to the plan are considered a "contemporary interpretation of historic architecture". Other amendments to the plan include:[12]

  • Reducing the size of the base of the structure
  • Reducing the amount of office space and expanding the space allocated for condos.
  • The addition of 12 penthouses to the top of the structure.

April 2009

Due to funding for the project coming into question, the site of CentrePointe has taken on a new use:Kickball |

May 2009

In response to the site's construction not getting underway, as the developer's had assured city leaders, Vice Mayor Jim Gray publically stated that the Webb Companies should fill the sunken block with dirt, cover it with grass, and open the surrounding sidewalks. Gray also gave rose to speculation that the project may fall through when he said "something else is very likely to occur on this site."[13]

Vice-mayor Jim Gray and developer Dudley Webb took part in a lively debate at a city council meeting in May 2009. The video below is of news coverage with highlights from the meeting.


Revised drawing, June 2010

June 2009

In Late June 2009, while financing is still being settled, the Webb Companies filled the site with dirt, where they plan to plant Kentucky Bluegrass, which will be there by fall of 2009. Here is a link to a video.

June 2010

Developer Dudley Webb submitted a revised plan to the Courthouse Area Design Review Board that was a significantly scaled down version of the original plan. The estimated cost rests at or above $200 million dollars. The new design retains the office, hotel, and condo arrangements of the previous design while eliminating the spire and overall height.[14] At a June 30, 2010 meeting, the Courthouse Area Design Review Board approved the new design. [15]

Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2010/07/01/1331020/revised-centrepointe-proposal.html#ixzz0sR4IDlzZ


Businesses Impacted

  • The Dame
  • Busters
  • Mia's
  • Rite Aid
  • Sam's Hot Dogs
  • Z-1 Lounge
  • Triple Crown Lounge

Comparable Developments in Other Cities

Frost Bank Tower, Austin, TX

Frost Bank Tower

In 2003, Austin, Texas experienced a similar development situation. A proposed 33 story skyscraper was vehemently opposed by the city's creative class. The concern with the skyscraper, Frost Bank Tower, was that the four walls of the massive structure would not engage the city through providing accessible retail and restaurants at the street level. When completed however, the building featured several retail and dining options that all but hid the view of the large skyscraper from the street level. Despite the concern raised over the building, The Frost Bank Tower was voted best new building in Austin for five consecutive years. [16]
Museum Plaza, Louisville Kentucky



Museum Plaza

A nearly identical development took place in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2006, plans were made for a massive three tower, 63 story skyscrapper to be built on the river in downtown Louisville called Museum Plaza. The structure would house an art gallery, a hotel, the University of Louisville's fine arts program, a park, luxury condominiums, and a parking facility. Estimated costs for the project grew to nearly $465 million. House Bill 549 enabled the project to secure one-fourth of its funding publicly however due to continued financial complications, the project was halted in 2008 and has yet to continue. [17]


References

  1. CentrePointeLex.com
  2. [1]
  3. What Will City Get For CentrePointe Subsidy?accessed June 18, 2008
  4. Kentucky General Assembly and Legislative Update accessed June 18, 2008
  5. House Bill 549/GA accessed June 25, 2008
  6. Webbs Tweak CentrePointe Designaccessed June 18, 2008
  7. Developers Address CentrePointe Projects Architectural Changes accessed June 18, 2008
  8. CentrePointe Feasibility Study accessed June 19, 2008
  9. cptlex.com accessed June, 19, 2008
  10. Giving Away the Store to Get a Store: Tax increment financing is no bargain for taxpayers Reason Magazine retrieved November 18, 2008
  11. CentrePointe viability debated by task force Beverly Fortune accessed September 11, 2008
  12. Board OK's more "classic" CentrePointe retrieved December 5, 2008
  13. Herald Leader article-accessed May 4, 2009
  14. Dudley Webb submits scaled-down version of CentrePointe Kentucky.com June 9, 2010
  15. Revised CentrePointe proposal wins approval of design review board
  16. An Austin Perspective On CentrePointe
  17. Wikipedia's Museum Plaza article

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