Rendering shows Webbs’ impact on Lexington

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.

The Webb Companies‘ motto is “Developing Tomorrow’s Landmarks.” And the company is headquartered in perhaps its most distinctive local project, Lexington Financial Center, better known as the “Big Blue Building.” At 410 feet, it is Lexington’s tallest building.

Webb sent me an interesting artist’s rendering that groups the many buildings he and his brother have built in Lexington since they moved here from the Hot Spot community of Letcher County several decades ago. The buildings are grouped into a single village set in a rolling bluegrass landscape.

“As they used to say back in Hot Spot, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and this one best tells this story,” Webb wrote in an email.

Speaking of CentrePointe, Webb and representatives of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation and the citizens group Preserve Lexington met Thursday afternoon.

“This was the first of what we hope will be several meetings to discuss possibilities for compromise related to the proposed development,” Preserve Lexington said in a statement. No other details were released.

On March 4, Webb announced plans to build CentrePointe as a 40-story hotel, condo and retail development that would cover a block in the center of Lexington bounded by Main, Vine, Upper and Limestone streets. He later scaled back the tower to 35 stories.

Critics say CentrePointe would be too tall, too massive, would not promote street-level activity and would look out of place amid the buildings that surround it. Many people also are upset that Webb proposes to demolish 14 structures on the block that date as far back as 1826 and house several popular night spots and The Dame music hall. (Click on the rendering to enlarge it.)

An update: Dudley Webb on Friday clarified that this rendering was done in 1986. Since then, all of these projects were completed, except for Lake Lexington. The company has done a few others since then, too.

webblex

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to “Rendering shows Webbs’ impact on Lexington”

  1.   Phil Says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I suppose. Creative license I suppose to hide the big concrete structures :) The park space I found very interesting. Where is this park space and water pool that figures so prominently in the Webb picture???

  2.   Peter B Says:

    Phil,

    That is the “famous” Lake Lexington that was proposed for the Rupp Arena parking lot. It would be accomplished by damming up the Town Branch with the Newtown Pike ext.( the pillars you see at the left side are the supports of the Jefferson St. bridge) and creating a water amenity. The fact that it would be a pool of the urban runoff and other urban pollution and that it would be over the old railyard mean that it almost qualifies as a Superfund site.

    Ithe lake was not built , but it did have an effect on Lexington.

  3.   Peter B Says:

    Phil,

    That is the “famous” Lake Lexington that was proposed for the Rupp Arena parking lot. It would be accomplished by damming up the Town Branch with the Newtown Pike ext.( the pillars you see at the left side are the supports of the Jefferson St. bridge) and creating a water amenity. The fact that it would be a pool of the urban runoff and other urban pollution and that it would be over the old railyard mean that it almost qualifies as a Superfund site.

    the lake was not built , but it did have an effect on Lexington.

  4.   Kelly Says:

    I think the Webb company is trying to suck up as much of of downtown lexington as they can. Haven’t we seen enough of their dirty hands with the last disaster they had with the long lawsuit that they just managed to weasel out of. Lexington does not need to be involved with such crooked people like that.

  5.   Dan Says:

    I think the motto “Developing Tomorrow’s Landmarks” captures the essence of the problem. Massive buildings striving to dominate their surroundings to be landmarks is just not very appealing. The motto looks ahead to tomorrow without any nod to Lexington’s rich history. What’s wrong with building something that fits in nicely with the surroundings. Let’s preserve at least some of our past when moving toward the future. Why must every building seek to be a landmark?

  6.   becca Says:

    yup. they’re all still ugly.

  7.   Alice Says:

    I’m not sure what Mr. Webb is trying to accomplish by publishing this drawing. It reminds the viewer of not only the “Lake Lexington” debacle, but also the Webb Company’s history of mowing down our beautiful city and planting unexceptional, run-of-the mill structures. (You can even see exact duplicates of Festival Market in other cities.)

    I would rather see something from the Webb Co. showing us how they are CHANGING their style to match what they’ve learned from past missteps to look toward a better future. That would be a move in the right direction.

  8.   Sherman Cahal Says:

    “Developing tomorrow’s eyesores” is more like it.

    Have you noticed the lack of pedestrian activity on Vine, sans the Farmers Market? Or the lack of style, gracefulness, and coordination in the buildings? I guess we can say that they were built on the CHEAP. I thought it was humorous (this is not a Webb project) that when they constructed the U.S. Attorney’s building at Mill and Vine, that contained the prefabricated “stone” panels, the construction company hung a banner that proclaimed, “NOW HIRING ARCHITECTS.”

    Perhaps the same should be lowered from the sides of the Lexington Financial Center.

    Did you know that the Lexington Financial Center still has rooms where no sheetrock has been installed? Or never occupied?

  9.   Knox van Nagell-The Fayette Alliance Says:

    My name is Knox van Nagell and I am the executive director of the Fayette Alliance. The Fayette Alliance is a coalition of agricultural, neighborhood, and development interests whose aim is to promote urban and rural vitality in Lexington-Fayette County.

    Farmland preservation, and innovative infill redevelopment are essential pillars of the Fayette Alliance’s mission- and more importantly, the future prosperity of Lexington-Fayette County.

    The Webb development marks an important opportunity to revitalize a key block of downtown Lexington. To achieve the project’s full potential, the Alliance asks the Webb Companies to work with community leaders to incorporate the following proposals into the final development plan:

    • In furtherance of the Downtown Master Plan, the building’s scale and function should be oriented toward Main Street to promote downtown’s most viable pedestrian corridor;
    • First floor retail spaces should interact with the street for optimal pedestrian energy and accessibility;
    • If feasible, the development should integrate the block’s historic structures into its design. If the structures cannot be saved, the Webb Companies and/or LFUCG should assist in the relocation of any displaced entertainment venues to protect the budding downtown arts scene;
    • Before construction begins, an infrastructure analysis should be completed to ensure that the city’s antiquated sanitary sewer and stormwater systems can adequately service the development.

    Provided the Webb Companies meaningfully respond to the community’s concerns, the Fayette Alliance, in principle, supports the proposed project. This landmark venture uses infill redevelopment to revitalize Lexington’s urban core while accommodating our community’s future growth needs. This strategy advances the recommendations of the 2007 Comprehensive Plan by protecting our renowned rural landscape and its $3 billion signature industries, while improving our city’s quality of life for knowledge-based professionals and citizens alike.

    The Fayette Alliance appreciates the Webb Companies’ investment in the heart of our city, and we look forward to an innovative development-that if done right-will be a win-win for the entire community.

    To learn more about the Fayette Alliance, please visit http://www.fayettealliance.com.

  10.   Amanda Says:

    Wow – a picture really is worth a thousand words. Seeing this rendering really highlights how boring all these buildings really are, not to mention how pathetic it is that we’ve allowed one company to leave such an indelible mark on what was once such a charming downtown. Though I agree in principle with Ms. van Nagell’s point that infill redevelopment is the key to preserving our farmland, I don’t think this development is the type of infill development we should be promoting. All infill development is not necessarily good infill development. Consider: we have pushed out a block of successful local businesses for a chain hotel surrounded by chain retail. Don’t we have enough of that already? Hamburg, anyone? If we really want to alleviate the stress on our farmland, we need infill that incorporates high-density affordable housing, not just a handful of yet more overpriced condos.

  11.   Bill Says:

    The conditions outlined by the Fayette Alliance make sense, except for one item. Who determines what is “feasible” regarding the existing buildings. That really needs to be determined by a neutral engineers, architects, and construction personnel that are familiar with preserving historic buildings.

  12.   bfrn Says:

    I am not certain why the developer is irritated by the anonymous posts. I’m certain many people feel uncomfortable giving their names considering the family has extensive business interests in Lexington. When we are in the public eye, we must expect criticism, no matter how hurtful.

    I would add that of the existing buildings developed by the family, the blue bank building and the Woodlands are attractive buildings, but once again, I think we need to incorporate existing, historically significant structures, into the CentrePoint development. Likewise, I’d love to see the developer make a commitment to some affordable housing in the downtown area.

    I enjoy the discussions here and enjoy reading both sides of the issue. I hope people will continue to speak up! As a famous man once said. “Let a thousand flowers bloom….”

  13.   lolliloo Says:

    It’s funny to me that discussions of infill rarely include talk of the empty storefronts, malls, condos and offices that continue to pop up all over our city. When does filling those spaces before we make new ones become part of the equation?

  14.   DD Says:

    God if it was only possible to cluster these projects as depicted in the drawing above. Now that would be a block of downtown I could see demolishing.

  15.   Dennis Webb Says:

    Webb is now an old man with old ideas,based on the easy money from the subprime mortgage days. That era is officially over. Doesn’t he realize that every one is basically out of money? Federal, state and local governments are all basically broke. But he still expects a tax handout from us. Where does he get this presumptious attitiude? He needs to read more about the actual financial state of the planet and based on that information, abandon his egotistical , grandiose schemes. If he wants to really do something for the community how about an olympic size swimming pool, open year round, heated, based on the one at Santo Monica College in Santa Monica California. This would help address our fitness and community needs as the population ages and could be incorporated with an outdoor ice rink similar to Rockefellar Center’s in New York City. Now that would get people downtown at night even in the winter. If he remembers it, Festival Market was nicknamed “Festering Markup”, as it began its inevitable decline. We should have a contest to rename Centre Pointe, as it begins its inevitable decline before its ever started. I think “Whate’s the Pointe” would be a better name for the debacle that we are soon to witness. My prediction is that the whole block will get leveled and it will become Lexington’s biggest downtown parking lot. It will remain as such for the next 25 years, which is the period of time estmated by many to be the time required to recover from our current finacial distress. Don’t all the principals involved with this scheme have enough money to live comfortably for the next 200-300years?

  16.   clay Says:

    Easily seen that if the Webbs, no friends of mine, proposed a levitating Taj Mahal the reaction would have been the same. Something else must be going on, some desire for community voice and consensus, and this is a handy lightning rod. Preservation is a sad afterthought, since the only building worth saving, and by far the hardest to tear down, was the Woolworth’s building, all steel and concrete. It was the only building in the block that actually spoke of a particular architectural period, blond ceramic post WWII, and it would have served Lexington’s public for five hundred years given only a roof. What’s left are dilapidated commercial hulks with laid stone basements sprouting rusty utilities long abandoned, home to generations of rodents and other vermin. Move the entertainment somewhere else and get on with improving this rotten part of the apple.

  17.   Bill Mc Says:

    I think as long as the ground floor retail spaces of this project do “interact with the street for optimal pedestrian energy and accessibility” like it says in Knox’s list, then this should be built as is. That block has 14 UGLY buildings, with the exception of the Dame building. I can’t believe how people are crying about saving these architecturally worthless buildings that are in the middle of our city when the Webbs have proposed a beautiful (in my opinion) building.

    People are complaining that their past developments in downtown are ugly as an argument against this one (and I agree that a couple are). But does that argument make any more sense than wanting to preserve or somehow include the 14 crappy buildings (somehow??) into a beautiful building like this. Can you imagine how horrible that development would look if those buildings were incorporated into that project.

    Come on poeple, there aren’t too many times that our downtown will have an opportunity for a development like this…Has anyone noticed that Mayor Newberry hasn’t made one comment about this project since its announcement, that’s because he was excited and fully behind this project- if you watched the announcement on TV you could tell. But now he is keeping his mouth shut because of the outcry for preserving the old buildings- he’s going to let this play out and not get on anyone’s bad side.

  18.   Dennis Webb Says:

    I still think the issue of 30 years of tax breaks for this project is yet to be resolved. I’m a taxpayer and a property owner in this town. My property taxes recently increased to pay for better schools. I’m also going to see a sewer usage fee increase. As a taxpayer, I believe that I have every right to question the use of tax credits to move this forward. This project should be held to a cost-benefit standard that will prove its value, in the long run to the taxpayers of Fayette County. The first place to start would be, since its a $250,000,000 dollar building, what would be the yearly property tax payment to the city of Lexington, if no tax credits were allowed. Then you do an estimate of the amount of payroll taxes the city will get from the construction workers on the project. Next you determine the approximate number of employees in the building and how much payroll taxes they will contribute over the life of this project. Any UK PHD in business/economics should be able to provide these figures for this project. If this building will not generate revenue that exceeds the yearly property tax avoidance, then its value to Lexington should be questioned. Cost-benefit analysis is a routine yardstick for assesing the economic return on a project, and I’m very surprised that neither Newberry nor Jim Gray have made any mention of the cost-bebefit to Lexington. Actually I’m disappointed in both of them for not addressing this issue. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Any taxes avoided by the developers of this project, will show up somehow on my tax bill in the future.

  19.   Tim Says:

    Dennis,
    Based upon the analysis you provided, I’m sure if you send in a resume, Dudley Webb will hire you in a second to be the project manager and liaison to the City and State. In fact, I think the House, Senate and Governor should snatch you up to work out the budget problems in this State. Everyone can appreciate your keen mind then. Don’t stop there, though. The world needs you. I’m sure right now Dudley, the Mayor and the council are crying out: “If only I only would have done a cost benefit analysis!” Are you freaking serious? Get back to your MySpace page.

  20.   M Says:

    I believe it is state taxes that is forfeited- not city. there is very little if any risk or detriment to the city of Lexington with TIF financing.