Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Welcome to Webbville

Tom Eblen reports that the Webbs are a tad peeved about some of the comments on his blog.

Developer Dudley Webb has been irritated by some of the anonymous comments readers have left on my blog about his CentrePointe development. What really set him off were the ones criticizing the previous buildings he and his brother, Donald, have added to Lexington’s skyline.

Especially the ones about 'Festival Market' being a bust, because they're true?

I remember when it went up (showing my age here). Everyone went down to visit it once, then stopped. Traffic was lousy, you had to pay for parking (as opposed to other malls), and the businesses inside were all high-priced and largely not of interest to the people coming to the facility (downtown employees and hotel guests). For years, the city tried to increase traffic to it, just as they tried to increase downtown commerce. The Lexington Financial Center still has empty rooms without sheetrock.

Snark aside, Dudley Webb's response included sharing their vision of downtown with Eblen... circa 1986. He wanted the Herald-Leader blogger to see what their original vision was for downtown. All but "Lake Lexington" have been completed, although the final combination of elements is somewhat different.

Click here to enlarge

The green space they've created around downtown sets it off nicely, but even in 1986 they would have had to tear down a great number of homes and apartment buildings to achieve that much green space. As for Lake Lexington, it would have taken up the Salvation Army and the area now used for Rupp Arena parking. The newest addition, Centrepointe, would "create the most dangerous possible conditions for the hapless pedestrian", according to a retired professor of architecture.

These, plus the Webb's motto of "Developing Tomorrow’s Landmarks" highlight an important point: the structures are important. Not the people using them, or their needs. In this case, the 'landmarks' are all Webb landmarks. They don't seem to want to share, either: the city tried to find ways to encourage businesses to come downtown and inhabit Festival Market, but when another group - the arts community - began having some success, the Webbs did not want the city to offer them similar considerations.

In spite of the guidelines already set up by the city designers for downtown, or proposed alternate plans, or concerns about lack of sewer infrastructure, this block must come down so their hotel can go up. No, another location won't do. No, the blueprints have been 18 months in the works and they can't be changed now to accomodate historical buildings. The Centrepointe project has simply been foisted upon us full-grown, like a Bizarro World version of Athena springing from Zeus' head.

Instead of practical, the idea is impractical. Instead of being useful to people, it is clear that the hotel would be a great inconvenience. Some call it a 'landmark', but I call it... egotism. What else do you call the desire to create downtown in your image?

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Blogger Gwen Mayo said...

The Webbs seem to think their vision of Lexington is the only one that matters. I don't object to progress or new construction downtown. I did not join in the fight to save the buildings occupying the land used by our new and much needed courthouse. The building did not place excessive additional demands on our overburdened sewage system; it did not exceed the height limits of city buildings.

There must be compromise sometimes, and this time it is the Webbs who should rethink their plans. Allowing this building would be as bad for our sewage problem as the city's previous decision to let Southland Christian Church pipe in their sewage from across the county line. It would force the city to invest in new fire equipment to protect one building that is too tall for our current fire trucks to reach.

The Webbs would displace the farmer's market and pave over Phoenix Park, to vital meeting places for public activities. While they may consider the Dame a dive, it is an important performance venue for local artist, which adds to the culture flavor of downtown.

Lexington's downtown is more alive and vibrant than it has been in years. Lets all fight to keep it that way.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Noticed a new site just went up:

Doesn't appear to be for or against the project, just a general collection of CentrePointe information. Should be helpful to those just now learning about this project.

5:57 PM  

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