The looks of a proposed seven-story apartment building along Main Street at Upper was the focus of contention at the Court House Design Review Board Meeting.
Lexington, KY – The latest design of the long-discussed CentrePointe project in the center of downtown Lexington was granted lukewarm approval Wednesday afternoon by the Courthouse Area Design Review Board as the specter of the project falling through hung over the panel.
Developer Dudley Webb and his legal council Darby Turner told the design review board that failure to receive approval on the project as a whole would lead to the loss of a major tenant in the planned 10-story office building. The unnamed group’s need to go into new office space and a desire not to be surrounded by construction mandated action no later than today.
“It’s a deal breaker,” Webb said.
A short recess in the proceedings gave Webb and Turner an opportunity to confer on the phone with the potential tenant, which Turner said would sign a lease if everything but the cosmetics of the proposed apartment building on the CentrePointe block were set and ready to go.
“We have to walk out of here today with your approval,” said Rick Ekhoff, design principal for EOP Architects, the firm designing the four buildings that would eventually make up CentrePointe. “That doesn’t mean the design process stops; that doesn’t mean we put down our pencils and go right into the construction documents. It means we continue to tweak, we continue to talk, we continue to improve where improvement’s needed.”
After nearly three hours, the five-person board granted approval of the project’s design, with the exception of materials to be used on the seven-story apartment building and other design tweaks on the building, by a vote of 2-1.
Architect Graham Pohl, the board’s design professional, abstained from voting. Michael Meuser, the preservation professional representative on the board and the board’s chair, did not vote, as is common for the chair.
Kevin Atkins, Lexington’s chief development officer, the head of economic development for Mayor Jim Gray, was the dissenting vote.
Atkins expressed concern about the design of both the hotel and the apartments, at one point stating the apartments “quite honestly look like they were moved down two or three blocks from another development.”
Much of the meeting centered around concerns over the look of the apartment building, which will house around 60 one-bedroom and 40 two-bedroom apartments.
The final vote allowed for the footprint of the apartment building to stay in place, as well as the interior layout including balconies, but required Webb and Ekhoff to return with plans to make the building’s exterior look more like the neighborhood it is in. Webb said the layout of the building had to be set now so a three-story, 700-space underground parking garage could be designed and constructed with the knowledge of where to place infrastructure for the apartment building, including elevator shafts and plumbing.
“I explained from the start of the meeting my concerns about the design, and while there was concession on the apartments, there was not concession on the hotel,” Atkins said in explaining his "no" vote in an interview. “While I want the jobs that came with it, I think this is a long-term decision for Lexington, and I had problems with the design.”
During the meeting, Ekhoff called the hotel design a “placeholder” done to be submitted in time for Wednesday’s meeting. There will still be issues such as the color of the glass that need to be addressed, Ekhoff said, but what was submitted to the board was done to allow the group to present at the meeting.
It was also disclosed at the meeting by Ekhoff and Webb that the hotel would be part of the Marriott brand.
“We had to submit something. We were given two weeks. It's a placeholder, but we have to get approval on the placeholder,” Ekhoff said. “The design of the hotel is going to change, and we will be back here when we’ve had the time to do our job. But based on the realities of the project and (the board's) rules and regulations, it all has to be approved today."
Atkins said being an economic development professional informed his vote rather than serving as a conflict in potentially turning away jobs.
“Economic development is related to quality of life, design and the environment of your community. Without those items, you don’t have quality economic development. So really it’s not a hard place to be put in, because it is a total package when you’re marketing your community.”
After the meeting, Webb said he wasn’t concerned the no vote from one of the mayor’s top advisors meant the mayor’s office would be a block for the project.
“I think they have legitimate concerns and we appreciate those. We intended to come back with refinements,” Webb said.
“We’ll be looking at the new design in the next couple months,” Webb said. “The sooner the better -- we need to put all these issues behind us.”
The majority of the block is expected to be ready for tenants by June of 2015, while the hotel is expected to be completed in December of that year.
To see more of the design approved at the meeting click here.