CentrePointe financing “imminent,” says Dudley Webb

April 20, 2012

A new design, a new sign and now a new promise of imminent financing!

WEKU reports 8 construction firms are about to bid on the Webb’s CentrePointe project, according to Dudley, who also had this to say:

“Well I think the deal is more financeable than it’s ever been..the contractors  are obviously gonna give us the prices and they’ll go into the final mortgage package that the lenders will review…and they’ll issue a commitment based on those prices,” said Webb.

Webb says the current economic situation is improved and believes ‘financing is imminent.’

Maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe this time…

21c Round-Up

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April 17, 2012

Beverly Fortune takes a long and fascinating look at Lexington’s first skyscraper, which would be home to the new 21c Hotel, which is chock-full of good stuff like this:

McKim, Mead & White designed at least one other Lexington project — Union Station, which was on East Main Street from 1907 to 1960 in the area where police headquarters is now.

Stanford White, one of McKim, Mead & White’s principals, was shot to death in 1906 in Madison Square Garden by Harry Kendall Thaw, the jealous millionaire husband of chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit, with whom White had had an affair that started in 1901 when he was 47 and she was 16.

The murder led to two of the most sensational trials of the early 20th century. The jury deadlocked at the first trial. Thaw pleaded temporary insanity and was acquitted at the second.

Tom Eblen looks at the economic impact, or potential of it, of the development:

This $38 million project confirms the wisdom of infrastructure investments by city government and civic-minded foundations and companies, as well as the judgment of developers, entrepreneurs and artists whose creativity and risk have made downtown hop again.

It validates the work of preservationists, who understood the value of Lexington’s built heritage. And it raises the bar for downtown architecture. The 15-story First National Bank building, Lexington’s first skyscraper, was designed by McKim, Mead and White, one of America’s best architectural firms a century ago. The renovation will be directed by Deborah Berke, one of today’s star architects.

More than anything, though, 21c Museum Hotels’ plan affirms those who see great economic development potential in making Lexington a city where the 21st century’s best and brightest people will want to live, work and play — an urban landscape that is as special as the countryside surrounding it.

Louis Bickett, prominent local artist, professes himself unqualified to discuss the economic possibilities of the new hotel, but points out that the hotel itself is possibly the least important part:

Though it has many things going for it (a wonderful restaurant and bar, flawless service, a great architectural design, etc.) it is the contemporary art displayed throughout the hotel and restaurant and the curated art shows in the museum that define 21c Museum Hotel Louisville as not just another well designed and operated hotel.

It is a museum with a hotel in it. If I had to pick one example of their exhibition excellence it would be Wilson’s and Brown’s early collecting and unwavering support of the now international art sensation Anthony Goicolea.

His work is both provocative and moving. 21c’s support of Goicolea from a time when he was just emerging onto the New York art scene until years later when he is well established internationally shows not only a devotion on the part of Wilson and Brown but proof that they know what they are doing when it comes to contemporary art issues.

Rich Copley checks in on the Lexington Art League’s reaction (they love it) and the progress they are making toward their own new arts venue right across the street above two of the finest bars in Lexington:

[LAL Executive Director Stephanie Harris says she quickly fell in love with the circa 1846 McAdams and ­Morford ­building for its iron facade, large windows and ­artistic past as a theater. For ­decades, the building was home to the McAdams and Morford drugstore. The building’s first floor now houses the bars Hugo’s and Harvey’s.

“I loved the thought of breathing new life into an old creative space, and it just has a lot of the structure needed to open everything up and have a big, fluid arts space hovering above downtown Lexington,” Harris says.

Architectural designs have been drawn for the space, and Harris says $75,000 is the ­threshold at which work can begin.

If you’re looking to chip in for the LAL contemporary art space, go here, or next Friday head down to the pARTy:

April 20, 5p – 10p, Fifth Third Bank Pavilion at Cheapside Park

Join LAL during Gallery Hop for pARTy hosted in partnership with LFUCG Parks and Recreation. Live music mixed by DJ Dr. Gram, beverages, interactive art installations, live performances with Dance Blue and March Madness Marching Band, video bombing, free tattoos & giveaways.

Non-Invisible Building Will Become Downtown Lexington’s Newest Hotel

April 10, 2012

Late last week, the Webb’s erected new plywood signs for their CentrePointe project, replacing the “Coming Soon” signs that have occupied the empty lot for the past three years.

This week brings more exciting news:

Louisville philanthropists and art collectors Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown will announce plans Tuesday to buy the old First National Building in downtown Lexington and convert it to a 21c Museum Hotel — a combination boutique hotel and contemporary art museum.

They opened Louisville’s acclaimed 21c hotel in 2006, and Lexington’s will be the fourth in the 21c group of hotels.

“We’re excited about the possibility of opening a hotel in Lexington,” Wilson told the Herald-Leader on Monday.

The First National Building was Lexington’s first skyscraper, opened in 1914. It was designed by the same firm that did the White House’s West Wing. [Read more history of the building at the Kaintuckeean.]

It’s the little-big beige one at the corner of Upper and Main, overlooking the grassy field.

Of no less historic relevance, it was also home to the offices of B&P last year. Definitely needs a bit of plumbing work done. But it’s a beautiful building with great views, of solid construction and, you know… it already exists. Which makes it a cool place to put a hotel.

The address has been a rumored destination for a boutique hotel for a couple years, and there was some serious interest from at least one West Coast backer, but it’s good to see that not only is the First National going to get a makeover, that makeover is coming from in-state forces… and folks who’ve got a track record of creating remarkable hotels.

Last Summer when the Webbs, under duress, brought Jeanne Gang in to their flailing CenterPointe process, they considered a boutique hotel of their own but hilariously abandoned the idea after asking just one partner (the very same, 21C) if they were interested.

Some Webb apologists will invariably suggest that the boutique interest in the First National Building scuttled their own boutique idea. But that seems a bit unlikely as even in the Gang CentrePointe boutique, there would have been much more space and more rooms.

The First National 21C will have 80 rooms, a ballroom, restaurant and bar — in the existing 15 story building. By today’s standards, it is not a “big” building in either height or width.

The Gang CentrePointe design, on the other hand, would have been 388 ft. tall, just shorter than the Big Blue Building. In its earliest stages (and it’s unclear if it ever went back to the drawing board with any helpful Webb input) it had thirty stories with 10 set aside for a hotel but in a larger footprint.

That’s much closer in design to the most-current CentrePointe design which puts hotel room on floors 5 to 17, with ballrooms and such below and apartments and those mystical million dollar condos up above.

But let’s not waste too much time contemplating the Webb’s Field of Dreams. What about the building that actually exists?

The new owners made their move to purchase the address in January. They hope to start construction by the end of the year and open in 2014. As with the Webb’s CentrePointe fantasy, the 21C folks are looking for public assistance:

Much of the financing will be private, but city and state help will be needed for the project, said Craig Greenberg, president of 21c Museum Hotels.

The 21c will ask the city to help arrange a $6 million federal loan through a program that supports projects creating jobs for low-income and moderate-income workers. Greenberg said the project will create construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs.

The hotel company also will ask for $2 million that the city already has received under another federal program.

It’s unclear how much that all adds up to, but again, it seems unlikely they’ll get anywhere near the $50 Million the Webbs were trying to bilk for their earlier go round.

[And again, the Webb's CentrePointe project was initially approved for a TIF several years ago when the project was supposed to cost up to $100 Million more and the TIF deal and paybacks were structured around a larger space with more potential -- however bizarre or unlikely -- for return than the most current version, which suggests the Webb's use of the $50 Million TIF to lure investors with loose change to the project may be a ruse in itself... that TIF should have expired and a new application should need to be made.]

B.Fortune has much, much more — including Mayor Gray calling 21C a “great hotel brand” — so read it all.

I would love to send you, as well, to the reaction from the Webbs but, like their building, it doesn’t exist.

Webbs’ Pedway Dream Collapses; CentrePointe financing really close

March 16, 2012

The Webbs are abandoning their CentrePointe pedway:

In a letter to the Courthouse Area Design Review Board, CentrePointe attorney Kimberly Bryant said the developers, the Webb Companies, are withdrawing the pedway from the design to be considered later this month “in order to minimize the pedway issue as a possible distraction from the construction and financing of the project.”

Bryant said the developer “recognizes that some in the community have questioned the need or appropriateness of the pedway.”

The letter goes on to state the developer “reserves the right to file an application to amend any permit or authorization that may be granted for the project to include a pedway element.”

So hopefully this is just a pedway bait-and-switch ahead of the 2:00PM, March 28th Courthouse Area Design Review Board meeting at which the Webbs will again present their plans, this team seeking Board approval for their fantastical project.

If you wanna see some pretty pictures of the CentrePointe design — floor plans, more design etchings — you can check out all of the drawrings in the full Webb application… a 48MB PDF.

Related, Dudley Webb opened up in an expansive sit-downer with Business Lexington.

One highlight:

What is the status of the project financing?

RDW: At this time, two major banks and two separate investment groups have indicated their interest in providing the financing and the equity needed for the construction of the project. As I previously explained, for this to happen we must now complete the plans and gain the approvals of the regulatory authorities before we can proceed with applying for and formalizing our financing arrangements.

And another:

Does this project require the city to construct a parking garage?  

RDW: This project will require some 450 public parking spaces on site to meet the internal needs of this development once it is completed. We are proposing that these spaces will be situated on two levels under this project and will be paid for with TIF bonds that would be debt serviced and sustained by the economic lift and parking income generated by the project. In addition, our consultants tell us that another 350 public parking spaces will also be needed nearby to meet the needs of the new visitors and customers to this project. We are likewise proposing that these 350 additional spaces be provided for in another new garage that would be situated nearby and possibly be paid for with TIF bonds that would be debt serviced and sustained by the economic lift that would be created by this project and the fees that would be generated from the rental of those 350 new spaces.

There’s a lot more to the interview, including The Dud’s feelings on how he screwed up the early announcement of the project, how much stronger the project is now thanks to Jim Gray’s pushing him to pursue a more open and creative process rather than the Newberry laissez disaster era, and so forth. Read on.

But yes, very exciting news that the project is almost funded again and that we still get to look forward to paying for their garage.

Which, again, raises the question of when that TIF expires, whether it is transferable from the old project to the new one, seeing as the TIF was based on a consultant’s report (which had questionable outcomes) based on a now-long expired project model.

Anyway. There’s time for all this.

Oh, and here’s some key stats. The cost has gone down.

CentrePointe “Galleria” Rendering

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March 8, 2012

The Webbs posted images of their project to Facebook this morning, including one image which I’m not sure either EOP or the Herald has posted yet.

It was included in the slide show of the public meeting, and it shows the interior shopping corridor which would cut from Main to Vine through the center of the blocke. It would house boutiques, running beneath/tween the Main Street residential and exiting out by the Urban Active/Hotel Entrance.

The Webbs write:

We are excited to present the latest architectural renderings of the Centrepointe (sic) project in downtown Lexington. More to come soon but the next step in the process is to present these plans to the CADRB on March 28 at 2 pm.

Pedway Dreams Shattered?

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March 7, 2012

Tom Eblen has a couple CentrePointe columns out today. One looks at the Main Street designs of the most recent CentrePointe plan, the other at the pedway.

Tom’s got pictures of each of the buildings from each of the local architects — and they’re better than the blurry cameraphone pix I gave you the other day — so go ‘n’ check ‘em out:

While putting these images in front of more people is good for the project, Eblen’s other column — a broadside attack on pedways — does Lexington a grave disservice.

We have long argued the only good thing about the CentrePointe project are the pedways. In fact, we have sometimes entertained the idea that the hotel itself could, instead of being a traditional “tower”, be a series of interconnected pedways with sleeping quarters and above-sidewalk cafes.

At this point in the project there are easily a few other good sides to the project [like 1) it's finally being designed by people with investment in the community; 2) it no longer plunges Main Street into a shadow-filled canyon; 3) it's not ass-ugly anymore], but the pedway has remained a constant.

From the earliest designs to these most recent ones, the pedway has been there for us, for all of us, for all of Lexington, to keep our women safe and keep the homeless at a great distance.

Well… Tom Eblen’s trying to ruin that one single holdover from the original 2008 plan. He thinks the Courthouse Area Design Review Board is going to strike down the pedway. And he writes:

When Webb and his brother, Donald, were remaking Lexington’s skyline with tall towers in the 1980s, they connected them with pedways, enclosed walkways through the sky that keep pedestrians out of the weather and off the street. The pedways provide access to Lexington Center, which includes Rupp Arena and convention facilities, from the Lexington Financial Center, Victorian Square, the Radisson, Triangle Center and the Central Bank building.

About two dozen North American cities built pedway and tunnel systems from the 1950s to the 1980s for people who didn’t want to venture outside on their trips from attached suburban garages to downtown offices and stores. Pedways were seen as safe havens against urban crime and decay, as well as amenities to help downtown retailers compete with suburban malls.

Like most urban planning ideas from the auto-centric second half of the 20th century, about the best thing you can say now about pedways is that they seemed like a good idea at the time.

Bollocks! There’s plenty of good to say about pedways. The Webbs are pedway visionaries. All of this senseless negativity toward the Webbs and their pedways is not only unwarranted, its unfair.

[Read the rest of Eblen's column here.]

In future times, every one will walk suspended in air. And where will Tom Eblen be then? Where will these pedway critics be? On the pedways, that’s where. Because pedways are futuristic and neat. And they’re just good, solid urban design.

Anyway. The CHDRB meets on the 28th of March. The Webbs will present their final designs. Let’s hope they don’t bow to public pressure and remove that pedway. In fact, if you want to, you can contact the Webbs and tell them there’s still time to put in more pedways.

Why not go back to the Design Review Board with a pedway stretching across Main into the Taste of Thai building? And another across Limestone into the library parking garage, and another across Vine into the empty parking lot and another diagonal into the Court House and another winding down Vine Street all the way to the Central Bank.

More Pedways! Only Pedways!

Never give up, Dudley. Never give in.

Investors Beware? The latest CentrePointe design images aren’t terrible but what are they?

March 2, 2012

[For more on CentrePointe, read Tom Eblen's review.]

The latest CentrePointe meeting was well-attended but briefer than the Gang meetings. Taking a cue from the Rupp Area public meetings, it was a quick slideshow covering the basics and then opened up to a general milling about with teams of architects available to field questions and explore specifics.

First things first, the design team is open to feedback. You can send thoughts to: centrepointe@eopa.com.

The latest version of CentrePointe (or “The Dud” or whatever they want to call it now) owes much to Jeanne Gang’s work. Rather than the entire block being eaten up by one gargantuan building with its back to Main Street, the EOP et al. plan follows Gang’s, planting the hotel tower on one corner, filling in two other corners with “signature” buildings and placing retail, restaurants and residential (designed to scale with the city) along Main Street.

During the Gang-era, Dudley Webb (and Woodford) said the project could be done in installments. That doesn’t appear to be the case here. Essentially this is one giant block wide building that is built together but with different elements to differentiate it’s feel. This is a welcome change to the original CentrePointe design(s).

I asked one of the architects why they were going for full growth rather than splitting it into plots. One reason may be an effort to not endanger the TIF (is that even still applicable four years later? do they need to reapply?) but the architect had a perfectly good reason which is that then there is no replication of work. If adjoining walls are built together, along with plumbing, electricity, gas lines, etc, it decreases the overall work to design everything in one “shape.”

It’s kinda like the Meijer brand facade we all know and love:

Look! We’re in a small village!

But in the case of CentrePointe, it is fancier.

Speaking with the architects, that does come across. These are local firms with an investment in the community. They are working together, and with certain parameters (both from the developer and from the Court House Area Design Review Board), but they each seem genuinely passionate about their individual designs. They aren’t phoning it in and they’re not trying to build a Meijer brand prefabrication that could be plopped down any old where.

As far as timeline goes — since that’s the biggest question — one person close to the project told me the plans are close to being ready to go and that they are being told to work on an accelerated timeline. It is possible, they said, that ground will be broken by the end of the year if all goes as well as expected.

I’ve asked my old friend Woodford for an official Webb unit but have not yet heard back. Still, “by the end of the year” sounds genuinely Webb-like and assuming the project ever gets funding, at some point it will be true if it keeps being said. With the project as laid out, all things considered, this plan at least offers the city around it something to behold so funding enthusiasm is bullish. (The TIF however…)

Let’s do some images (You can click on them to make ‘em bigger):

They did solar studies of the new block. That’s the Winter Solstice. That’s the Gang influence again. The tower casts a long shadow (it’s 28 stories tall) but it’s not the freakish beast of yesteryear dreamed up by the Webb-mind.

The condos on the upper levels are sizeableish and all come equpped with a grand piano!

The Main Street first floor has three retail spots and a restaurant. The Restaurant is large. There is currently no tenant (Saul and Jack Ruby are on Vine and are “committed”). There was a local interest in the space but that may have passed. There is a Louisville restaurant interested in filling the space, even to the point of wanting to possibly include not just the large bottom floor of the Pohl building (aka, Buster’s and the Dame) but also the Dick Levine/CSC building next to it. That’s a large restaurant. Hopefully by Louisville we’re not talking about a KFC.

Here’s the mighty pedway!

It’s coming out of a fire stairwell/hallway between the Pohl building on the corner of Main and Upper. That fiery hell you see behind it is the hotel ballroom. Below that are the loading docks. The Design Review Board didn’t like how the design was so closed off to Upper. You are looking at the closed off section. On the corner there would be windows along the first floor looking into/out of the restaurant (you know, like Buster’s had) and down the block after the loading docks you get hotel entrances in glass and on the corner a street level cafe (an un-Webb version of what they tried at the Radisson). So it’s not terribly blocked off, and the biggest losers here would be McCarthy’s, as that’s their view.

But wait… the pedway!

I asked Graham Pohl how he got stuck with the pedway coming out of his building. He was good natured, and a real trooper. He didn’t have anything bad to say about the pedway and stuck to the facts. He got the pedway on his building because it’s coming out of a hallway. That hallway runs behind the residences in his designed building and connects both to the Hotel and to the “galleria” shops (we’ll get to that). So Pohl got to design a pedway. He allowed 1) that the pedway was not totally thought out at this point, and 2) that the Design Review Board had really disliked it so there was a good chance it wouldn’t happen.

This is a shame. The people demand pedways. Our women are not safe. The Pedway Capital of the World is nothing if it does not have pedways.

[The Streetsweeper suggested to me that the pedway has another purpose. It stretches across Upper over the Harvey's swoon deck and into the Big Blue Building's dark parking structure. The Streetsweeper tweeted at me that the pedway "abuts the old Melodean Hall building which needs another access besides the interior stairway." He said, "I believe that one of the Lexington arts groups wants to use the western two thirds and will need access for public." Ponder away.]

Go-Kart race track.

Let’s see. What can top that?

Let’s look at Main Street:

Small, Different.

And one by one…




Pohl Rosa Pohl

Each one has its distinct feel, just as Jeanne Gang prescribed. Each one, thus, meshes with the Main Street buildings.

Are any of them The Dame or Busters? No. Are they “bougie”? Sure. Fine. Is that bad?

There is nothing there. The buildings are gone. Something must be there, as nice as that field of blue is. What restaurants and retail will go in there? High class, probably. Does downtown Lexington need more Bellini’s? More Metropols? More Deauvilles? More Dudleys?

That’s actually not a bad question, as rhetorical as it may feel.

On the one hand, more fancy restaurants downtown threaten the established ones. On the other hand, they threaten the Malones, Harry’s, Drake’s franchise that exists in the Old Country.

In reality, bringing more people inside the circle and making them understand that what is great about Lexington isn’t defined by the soulless expanse of hub road exurbia achieves an end. If it works, it gets more people closer to an awareness that there is value in Sidebar, that there is something special at Al’s, that Stella’s and the Green Lantern have life to offer them, that Suggins is just a place and no offense to it because Romany is as nice as Chevy or Southland, but a city is defined as much by its neighborhoods in which people live as it is by the place that holds its center. It gets people to realize that there are great stores along Limestone, along Maxwell, at the Woodland Triangle, on Euclid between Ashland and Tates Creek, on Lime from Short up to Third and Loudon and out past to the Circle.

Lexington’s best neighborhoods — the ones that have the actual feel of place — are few. Meadowthorpe, Chevy Chase, Southland, the burgeoning arts corridor of North Lime. Each one is within the circle and each one is made stronger by a growing awareness that there is something at that center.

Does that mean anyone is going to live in these Main Street addresses? No.

Does it mean that anyone is going to frequent the bars, restaurants and retail — or, as they are now popularly called as if it might increase business, “boutiques” — of this Webb development? No.

But it might.

It might. And that’s the grey area between realistic cynicism and business-minded optimism.

Downtown needs many things. One of them is real jobs. Another is people. There are already plenty of places to live. If you drive around the downtown core, be it Kenwick or Ashland, Chevy, Lime down through Loudon, the Western Suburb or out Leestown, there are great homes to buy.

This isn’t an argument in favor of CentrePointe. It’s not like a (still) massive luxury hotel in a town that can’t fill the two fancy hotels it already houses at already (and cheaper than CentrePointe) egregious cost is going to be the thing that transforms Lexington into some fantastical version of Austin (that ignores the livability issues of Austin) or Portland (that ignores the employability issues of Portland) or Madison (which ignores the cultural differences of Madison).

But it would be wrong to, out of a justified distrust of the Webbs’ instincts, simply discount this idea.

On the one hand, one could view this latest version of CentrePointe as transitive, like, yes, it will fail and what’s next?

On the other, one could view it as a “Festival Market” writ large, a “Victorian Square” of more failed business, a “Radisson” of a concrete block, a new slate of condos and “urban residential” in a sea of unused, unwanted, unwarrented and economically out-of-whack “homes.”

But you could also look at it a different way. Not that you have to. And not that it makes more sense or is somehow worth more. Like: these residences along Main St. make more sense than the failed ones which surround them.

The condos at Main and Rose seem reasonably filled (give or take). The ones along Limestone seem saddish. The ones along MLK between Maxwell and Upper are deteriorating in embarrassing fashion. The ones next to Victorian Square have aged worse than that failed complex.

That man at “The Lex” has been trying to walk away from that lease for about three years and, sadly, he’s locked in.

Do people want a downtown address at egregious cost?

Apparently not.

Is that an argument against the multi-story residences along Main Street?

I’m not sure it is. In sum it’s an argument against building sh*t condos at low cost and selling them for high cost to people who would rather live in Hamburg with no backyard and no windows on the sides of their homes in houses made out of plywood and plastic.

These “condos” along Main Street… they might be different. They are designed in ones and twos and threes. They aren’t mass created and they are designed with architectural vision.

Talking with these individual firms, you get the sense that they want to make a statement in a project that never wanted to. They want to represent Lexington, they are honored to try, even if the entire idea of the project, its genesis, never wanted any such thing.

These Main Street homes are, even if mandatorily part of some giant construction project, conceived with an idea of individuality. That’s something lacking at The Lex, at Main + Rose, at the “500s” and at most of the other “condos” and “lofts” that have mistakenly gone up around town.

That’s not an endorsement. It’s just a recognition that these addresses make more sense than the others and it’s worth taking the time to separate them.

That said…

Master Bedroom < Hers

Let’s go back and look at those condos.

As mentioned before and as seen above, each one comes with a grand piano.

How quaint.

The upper floors (see below) of “The Dud” are occupied by condos.

Selling these condos has a) advantages over the more grounded ones along Main, b) advantages over the soulless ones ringing the central downtown core.

In comparison to the Main Street residences, these have height. That’s about all you can say for them. They lack the personality of the limited Main Street ones. There are many more of them.

Regarding the second — Why would I spend a million on this rather than several hundred thousand on that? – the advantage again is height.

Height makes sense in a big city.

In a big city you can look out your window and see a sea of sparkling lights.

In Lexington, if you go up high enough, you look out over some dim lights and a sea of darkness. The city really is pretty and green and if you look at it from some heighth all you see, mostly, is trees and at night that just means you don’t see anything.

Is Lexington ready to clearly handle the number of upper level condos the Webbs are selling?

Looking around at the, let’s call them, more grounded condos, clearly not.

Perhaps, using Webb logic, those other ones didn’t sell because they didn’t cost enough.

Or, perhaps, the people who live in and love Lexington appreciate the hospitableness of Lexington.

High rise living has it’s place, but, you know, largely it happens in places with a paucity of land. In Lexington, we have plenty of that and plenty of homes with yards and neighborhoods and other more earthly amenities.

Not that people don’t want to move on up.

But people understand the value of a dollar. And getting back to that floor plan above… that ain’t worth a million dollars.

If you look at it, you’ll see the living room is the largest room (with grand piano) and then there’s a “master” bedroom which is also adorned with a “His” bathroom and a “Hers” bathroom which, taken together with what appears to be a walk-in closet, makes up the second biggest room in the house.

Let’s look at it again, but bigger this time:

I don’t doubt there are some people who want to spend a million dollars on that lay out.

But are there enough of them? In Lexington?

I get it, sure. The Webbs are convinced that really rich women have to have that much space. And really rich men only need a little tiny place.

Putting aside the heteronormative layout my college degree demands that I acknowledge, the question begging like a resident of Phoenix Park asks is, How many Imelda Marcoses live in Lexington, Kentucky?

The condos at CentrePointe never made sense and they still don’t.

To any potential investor: Beware.

While much can be said for this version of the CentrePointe project, I will personally bet one bottle of Woodford Reserve that Woodford and The Dud can’t fill these all these spots within a year of construction.

It’s like their pedway dream. I’m all in favor of them building another pedway. The last time I took a pedway through the Big Blue Building, it took me down a hallway past a room that was literally filled with Herbie Curbies.

That’s what the Webbs want to sell Lexington as. That is their architectural vision. Prime office space filled to the brim with trash cans.

Granted, that was in 2007 before the economy collapsed so maybe they’ve since filled that prime office space just as they’ll fill these prime condos with their grand pianos and grand layouts in which the “His” is miniscule and the “Hers” is the second biggest room in the house.

Shirley that will make up for that grand view of a midnight town full of beautiful old trees and houses with backyards waiting to be bought for a third, fourth, or fifth of the price.

Let’s look at the breakdown:

Oh la la!

Half of the building is condos and penthouses. There’s a layer of pied-a-terres — which literally means “foot on ground” and, pardon my french, that ain’t a g-ddamn pedway.

The bottom third is comprised of hotel rooms.

And that, friends, is another opportunity to congratulate the Webbs on their new-found realism.

The J.W. Marriott chain demands an occupancy rate above what Lexington currently achieves at a significantly higher price than what Lexington currently bears.

Limiting the number of hotel rooms at exponential cost reduces the ratio of room to occupant and thus increases the rate, making it more realistic that one might achieve the J.W. Marriott goal.

Does that make the investment more sound?

Or does that mean the building could be about a third shorter?

I’d let Imelda Marcos decide but she’s indisposed and, sadly, there’s only one of her and not 100 and the 100 not-hers don’t live in the Bluegrass so… does the Webb financial plan for this new CentrePointe, as good as it is by comparison to the previous, actually hold?

Is this a sound investment or just a CentreBubble?

But let’s remember…

A person close to the project said that if all goes well, the project will be funded soon and ground will be broken before the end of the year.

Let’s not lose ourselves in disbelief. Let us have faith and let us trust. Let’s look at some more pictures.

Two Pools? Too Cool!

The J.W. Marriott (which won’t return my emails about their commitment to make Lexington the smallest of their small handful of American markets for the latest extension of their brand) has certain demands about how a hotel must be constructed.

One of those, apparently, is that the hotel must have its own fitness club even if a giant Urban Active is situated next door. Another may be that they need an indoor pool and, as you see here, an outdoor one as well. But that’s not just any outdoor pool, it’s an “infinity pool” whose border disappears into the horizon across Vine Street into an empty parking lot.

Still, roof top pools are always nice so that is, to more aptly borrow a phrase from the French, an accoutrement.

But why waste an entire floor of a hotel structure that’s being abused to sell very possibly unwanted condos for a “fitness center” when there’s a giant and nationally recognized chain moving in next door?

Jack Ruby was Saul Good.

That’s the first floor. There’s a “galleria.” It cuts through the middle, allows pedestrian transport from Main to Vine with internal retail browsing like a tiny mall or Festival Market and Victorian Square. There is a Jeff Ruby’s restaurant right next to a Saul Good’s and a series of retail ringing the heart of our downtown. If you count ‘em, that’s four new restaurant bars in one block, each of ‘em livin’ large.

Getting back to that rooftop “infinity pool” we find ourselves back in one of the strengths of the Webbs’ current version of the project.

That pool on the roof you see there isn’t as “open” as it looks. It belongs to the hotel and will be more cordoned off than it appears in the pictures.

Still.. there’s more to behold.

There’s a rooftop bar/cafe in the lower right, above the Jack Ruby’s. And then there are the trees and open space behind it.

During the official presentation, this was described as “a tree house concept” and “a vertical park” (which seemed a sly wink to the “vertical Lexington Mall” of earlier versions).

It’s an open space for office workers, condo-billionaires, hotel-stayers and, yes, the general public.

Will there be hours of availability? I asked one of the architect team and he seemed unsure but he did assure me that the idea was that it was open to the public. This isn’t supposed to be an exclusive hideaway.

If you’ve been to New York in the past couple years and ventured to the High Line, it could be like that — beautiful, an oasis, public but monitored, closed after dark — if it wants to be.

And that’s a good thing.

Let’s end on that high note.

There is plenty to distrust in this latest version (Fool me once, the former President reminds us), and there is plenty to dislike (Grand pianos and pedways for everyone!).

But there’s also a lot of good here, all things considered.

The best scenario for the block might be that the individual parcels are sold off one by one but, right now, that seems unlikely. Comparing the current plan to ones from the past, this one isn’t terrible.

Is that a good thing? That it’s not terrible?

It’s an improvement.

Will it be built the way it is currently being sold? Certainly not. Architectural designs for large public (whether you like it or not, this is public and not just because of the questionable TIF) projects are sold in one image and almost always turn into another.

This one has strengths. The office space. The restaurants. The retail.

It has weaknesses. The condos. The condos. The condos. The hotel. The number of restaurants. The “galleria.” The culture of Lexington.

The last is a big one.

Lexington isn’t Greenville. It’s not Charleston. It’s not Austin or Portland or Madison. It’s not Indianapolis or Columbus.

It’s Lexington.

Building a luxury hotel, allowing a giant casino, building a “campus-style” convention center — none of those things will define our city.

That’s up to us. We define our city. Currently it’s defined by a downtown core, a series of wonderful neighborhoods, and sprawl of population who could live anywhere.

Getting them downtown, getting them involved in the city, is important. Parts of CentrePointe will do that. Parts of it serve other purposes. Parts of it seem pure pipe dream.

But groundbreaking will begin by the end of the year, for the forth year in a row, so it may be something to consider.

CentrePointe 6.0 Public Meeting… maybe this time…

March 1, 2012

As noted last week, the latest team to take on the Webbs’ CentrePointe project will hold a public meeting today at 5PM at ArtsPlace on Mill Street.

They’ll tell you about the new plan, show off the new building and the three architects who are working on the Main Street side will also be there.

All you probably care about is the pedway — because that’s the only thing in this project we actually need — and hopefully the Webbs will not bow to pointyheaded pressure and will keep their pedway vision in tact.

As the Fabulous Ms. Fortune reports in the paper:

“We’re setting up a comment station where people can handwrite their comments, or they can e-mail or post them to our Facebook page,” said the firm’s spokesman Mark Arnold. “We definitely want to hear from people.”

You can find the good people of EOP on facebook at this link.

The project isn’t Jeanne Gang-strong, but it’s not where the Webbs started either so that’s an improvement.

1st Attempt (Cock n Balls version):

2nd Attempt (“Coming Soon”):

3rd Attempt (with “Pointe” chopped off):

4th Attempt (aka, “TombeStone”)

5th Attempt (the “CentreTubes” genius edition)

Current Attempt (the “CentreFatigue” version)

Now… will the Webbs be able to find hundreds of millions of dollars to build this before Joe Rosenberg decides to sell his parcels of land from under them? All we have is time.

CentrePointe Public Meeting — Thursday, 3.1 @ 4:30PM

one comment
February 23, 2012

What: CentrePointe Public Meeting

When: March 1st, 4:30 to 6:30PM.

Who: EOP Architects and the Family Webb.

Where: ArtsPlace, 161 Mill Street (Link).

Why: It’s been too long.

How: $250 Million and a gambling amendment.

Hide your wife, hide your kids, because nobody’s safe outside the pedways

no comments
February 20, 2012

Last week the Webbs’ released their new CentrePointe design. Or, not really new but refashioned — it’s a Studio Gang design stripped of some of its power but better than what the Webbs kept coming up with on their own.

One part of Beverly Fortune’s really fantastic article we didn’t get around to mentioning on Thursday — because it deserves more than passing mention — was Dudley Webb’s pedway vision:

Several members took issue with a pedway shown connecting the hotel to the Financial Center parking garage. It would be possible for people to walk from the CentrePointe hotel all the way to the Lexington Center via pedways.

Board member Kevin Atkins asked whether that worked against the current push to get more people walking downtown. Last summer the city completed a multi-million-dollar, three-year project to build new sidewalks on Main Street, Vine Street and South Limestone.

Dudley Webb said that when women had to walk from the Lexington Center to the CentrePointe hotel at night, they would feel safer walking in pedways.

There are two points to discuss here.

The first is Dudley’s idea that pedways are good design.

The second is his hilarious (or, if you want to be angry — craaazy) views on safety.

Let’s start with the design element.

We here at B&P have long advocated for MORE PEDWAYS. Like the cowbell is to music, so too is the pedway to our urban-county fabric. Time and again, we have called for pedways in our time, even going so far as to google bomb Lexington, effectively turning us into the Pedway Capital of the World (regardless of the fact Louisville is now looking to build a significantly longer track — a classic example of that sad city’s Lexington-envy). As written in these pages in 2010, the Webbs are building a pedway to heaven:

Sure, “CentrePointe” does not yet exist and its current business plan – a hotel twice as expensive as the competition achieving occupancy rates well above the city’s current average – makes absolutely no sense. And the fifty million dollar condos aren’t exactly a hot commodity.

But Jim Newberry and the Family Webb know something the rest of us do not. They have a secret weapon.

It is the power of the Pedway.

As we have detailed over and over, the CentrePointe project as a whole is laughable: high on ego, short on funding, mindless in design, lacking in brains, etc.

But its Pedway system… oh, the CentrePointe Pedway system is genius. We hope this thing gets built some magical day in the future just because of the heavenly Pedways it offers the well-healed citizens of this fair city.

You see, even if the CentrePointe monstrosity sits essentially empty and serves no purpose for the vast majority of Lexington’s citizens – it will still have the Pedways!

Like Festival Market, Victorian Square, the Big Blue Building, the “World Trade Center” and the “Radisson” hotel before it, if there is one thing the Webb Company knows how to do… it’s build Pedways.

Images courtesy of Clarke.

So we are not opposed to the pedways. Webbs idea to build a pedway from his latest CentrePointe project to his parking garage is fine with us — it’s brilliant. We personally advocated this to Woodford Webb last summer when the Webbs brought in Jeanne Gang and listened to her bizarre pedwayless plans. In fact, we want the Webbs to go even further. To build another pedway from the parking garage at Park Plaza and the Public Library above Phoenix Park and across Limestone into the CentrePointe blocke. This would allow one to walk on air from the center of downtown all the way to its western end. This is genius.

Now, some would say that Jeanne Gang is a “genius.” But she said pedways were bad design. So did the Rupp Area master planner. And so did the Court House Area Design Review Board.

But what do they know?

Dudley Webb knows pedways.

And he knows that not only are they good design, they are a public safety imperative.

There is a lot of violence on Lexington’s downtown streets with people being attacked at all hours of the day by murky forces of evil.

Our streets are not safe. Our women are not safe.

Dudley Webb said that when women had to walk from the Lexington Center to the CentrePointe hotel at night, they would feel safer walking in pedways.

This is true.

It is true even though every single woman I have spoken with finds it offensive. And it is true even if every single person I have spoken with thinks it’s stupid or totally disconnected from reality.

The thing about the downtown Lexington pedway track is that much of what it connects are well-designed Webb family structures.

Should Webb’s latest pedway stand (and it should!) it would stretch above McCarthy’s, into the Big Blue Building parking lot, through the building, across Mill into the World Trade Center to the Radisson (or whatever) across to Festival Market and over Broadway to Victorian Square then all the way down to the empty condos and across to the Lexington Center at which point it circles back through to Kentucky Central (or whatever) and back into the Radisson.

This is about the safest route any woman would want to take late at night.

Put another way: Any woman who wouldn’t take this route is taking her fate into her own hands. Or feet.

The streets are dangerous. Anyone who has ever walked from one place to another in downtown Lexington and gotten there quickly, directly and without incident understands this.

The pedways hold many advantages.

1) The pedways are isolated. People don’t use them, they are generally deserted. Assuming that no criminal elements are there, you are unlikely to come across any witnesses or anyone who might hear you scream.

2) The places the pedways connect are isolated. There is very little foot traffic in the parking garages late at night. It’s a good place for someone to hide in a car, or between them, and there’s few passersby to contend with. The long empty hallways inside the empty buildings the pedways connect are winding and contain many blind corners. There is safety in not knowing what is hiding around the bend. You cannot find this safety on the open street level where, for the most part, you can see both in front and around you.

3) No one will hear you scream. On the street, people make noise and they holler at each other and cars drive by and people wave and laugh and sometimes some jackass vomits or two meat heads hit each other while large groups of people remain in total safety in the places around them. Inside the pedways, none of this awfulness can happen. That means you — man or lady, it doesn’t matter — can get good and sauced and wander all throughout the Lexington pedway system singing your brains out. You can scream songs at the top of your lungs crossing over Main or Broadway, and no one will hear you. You can chant and drum and, because there is no one around, no one will stop you or come to your harmonic aid.

Let us sing.

There’s a Dudley who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And he’s buying a Pedway to heaven

When he gets there he knows
If the hotels are all closed
With a word he can get what he paid for

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
And he’s buying a Pedway to heaven…




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