If developer Dudley Webb can’t finish his long-stalled CentrePointe project, how would you fill the massive hole in the heart of Lexington?
That was my challenge in Wednesday’s column, and did you ever respond, on Twitter, Facebook and email. I quit counting suggestions after a couple hundred. But I read them all, and here are some of the best, most creative and most bizarre.
This game was prompted by city officials’ demand that Webb fill the hole with rock and dirt, since he had made little visible progress for nearly a year in filling it with the underground garage and mixed-use development that he has promised for seven years. City pressure seemed to prompt news Friday that Webb is talking with another, unidentified developer about partnering on the project. City officials have met with that developer and say they are optimistic.
But if things don’t work out, Lexingtonians have plenty of other ideas for this limestone pit, 35 feet deep and a full city block square.
The most popular suggestion by far is to finish the underground garage and put a park on top of it. So many people liked CentrePointe as a grassy meadow, which it was from 2009 to 2013 while Webb searched for financing.
Readers thought retired racehorses could graze there, and it would make a great place for pony rides. Or it could be Lexington’s version of New York’s Central Park, Chicago’s Millennium Park or San Francisco’s Union Square.
Commercial real estate folks say this block is too valuable for a park, and that what Lexington needs is a tax-generating complex of offices, apartments, restaurants and shops.
Several readers wanted to see a development with outstanding architecture, such as the CentrePointe design that Jeanne Gang, the Chicago architect and MacArthur Foundation “genius” award winner, created in 2011 but that was later discarded.
Others who wanted the parking garage completed had other ideas for the top: a huge grocery store, a public market, a new city hall, a symphony hall, a glass-domed aviary or butterfly house, a museum complex, an Imax theater or hanging gardens.
“And Christmas lights,” wrote Christian Thalacker. “Lots of Christmas lights.”
A retired University of Kentucky professor suggested turning the site over to UK administrators, who could quickly fill it with dormitories, since Webb had already torn down all of the block’s historic buildings for them.
Others wanted to make better use of the hole than as a place to park cars. It could become an amphitheater, sunken gardens or a sports arena.
Others suggested a below-ground horse-racing track, basketball and racquetball courts, a zoo, a giant sandbox, a skateboard park, a roller derby rink, a go-kart track, a giant Ferris wheel, the world’s largest burgoo pot or a fire pit for community marshmallow roasts.
More adventurous readers wanted to create the world’s largest plastic ball pit. Others wanted the hole filled with foam or blue Jell-O or Vaseline and glitter. Several suggested installing the world’s largest trampoline.
“Are the food trucks still looking for permanent spots?” Lara Bissett asked via Twitter. “#FillCentrePit with food smells and watch people fall in like lemmings.”
Noting that Webb had once proposed creating a “Lake Lexington” water feature, many readers wanted to see the pit filled with water.
CentrePointe could become a wave pool, fishing pond or swimming pool, complete with a resort-like water bar on the end near McCarthy’s Irish Bar. The idle construction cranes could stay on as diving platforms.
Melody Hughes Ryan suggested other local-themed water park features, including The Great Compromiser No Wave Pool, honoring Henry Clay, and the Belle Brezing Hot and Steamy Tub.
Some suggested a water slide coming off the roof of the Lexington Public Library or a zip line down from the top of Lexington Financial Center or a bungee slingshot from High Street.
“Fill it with North Lime donuts and West Sixth beer and let us swim in the deliciousness,” Matt Gordon tweeted.
Others wanted paddle boats, a Noah’s Ark replica or a riverboat casino on the lake.
Some suggested the pit as a place to put Webb, Congress, various other politicians, liberals, Republicans, Duke basketball fans and impudent newspaper columnists. Among readers with this line of thinking, Webb was the overwhelming choice.
“Fill it with all of Dudley’s broken promises,” tweeted Rob Morris, a blogger and car-repair shop owner who has been a longtime critic of CentrePointe. “Wait. We’ll need a much bigger hole.”