A scar upon our city?

I have to admit I wasn’t engaged in the discussions surrounding “the Dame block” and the CentrePointe development in downtown Lexington last year.  I didn’t frequent the places on the block, and I didn’t follow the day-to-day developments as the debate raged about what to do with the block.  I don’t have a sentimental attachment to the issue.

But, today, two aspects of the CentrePointe project have struck me:

  1. The rapidity with which the the Webb Companies razed the buildings, leaving behind a crater of rubble.
  2. The complete lack of any visible activity since.

Only one thing is now missing from the CentrePointe development: Actual development

CentrePitThe Webbs promised Lexington that CentrePointe construction was to begin in December.  Now, a month later, activity is yet to begin.

The company asserts that it is waiting for various state approvals in order to begin construction.  Apparently, some of that includes permission to begin blasting an even-deeper pit for the complex’s parking garage.  (Blasting…  Sets a nice ambiance for downtown businesses like ours.)

This is an extremely poor economic and financial environment for initiating a major real estate development project.  One has to wonder: As the financial system has crumbled faster than the Dame block was demolished, do the Webbs really have the financial horsepower (or backing – they haven’t named their “private backers”) to pull off a project of this magnitude?

One also has to wonder…  Why did they proceed with razing the block if they were (and are) awaiting basic approvals to begin construction?  Prudence would dictate waiting until approvals were in hand.

Finally, one wonders…  Who is accountable for this scar upon our city if, perchance, the unnamed Webb financers do back out?  CentrePit, indeed.

Update, 1/24:  CentrePointe is supposed to house a J.W. Marriott hotel.  This morning, this bit of sunshine from NPR, including the following:

Still, it’s hard for many businesses and people who don’t have the very best credit ratings to get loans.

Arne Sorenson is the chief financial officer of the hotel corporation Marriott International.

“There are clear signs of improvement, I think,” he says, “not withstanding that there is an abhorrence of risk.”

Sorenson says it’s still almost impossible to get funding for new hotels, even for low-risk projects that he says make sense right now. He says banks just aren’t lending enough money. And that hurts the economy.

At Marriott alone, he said, “there are thousands of jobs that are not being created that normally would be created. And that’s entirely due to the lack of credit available to fund new hotel projects.”

[where: E Main St & N Limestone St, Lexington, KY 40507]

3 thoughts on “A scar upon our city?

  • February 11, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Rob – even though I moved out of KY I still try and keep up with local news. It is sad to see what used to be a hub of night life turned into a whole in the ground. What the Webb’s did is downright criminal and I don’t think the officials responsible should be spared either. I can already see some official hiring his favorite niece or nephew as a consultant to study why Lexington in unable to keep its young professionals. Ah KY politics – it is better than any daytime soap opera.

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