The former Peoples Bank building, with its zig-zag roof and walls of glazed turquoise tile,seems to have captured people’s imaginations.
Fans of the Mid-Century Modern structure are within $75,000 of the $850,000 in cash and in-kind services they need by July 30 to save it from demolition by moving it off the South Broadway site where it was built in 1962.
“We’re in the home stretch,” said Laurel Catto, board chair of the Warwick Foundation, which plans to renovate the building into the People’s Portal, a public space for promoting cross-cultural understanding.
The building is owned by Langley Properties, which has agreed to donate it to the foundation if it can be relocated. Otherwise, Peoples Bank is slated for demolition to make way for a 12-screen movie theater.
One piece of the puzzle could fall into place July 17, when the Lexington Center board votes on whether to allow the building to be moved to the corner of West High and Patterson streets at the far front end of the Rupp Arena parking lot. The board also will consider putting $150,000 toward site preparation.
Plans call for much of that surface parking lot to be redeveloped eventually, and the Peoples Bank building would make a nice transition in scale from large, new structures to the historic Woodward Heights neighborhood to the west.
The Warwick Foundation, created from the estate of the Lexington-born architectural historian Clay Lancaster, has pledged $300,000 toward the Peoples Bank relocation and renovation.
Most of that came from a $250,000 grant the foundation must raise money to match. So far, it has raised all but $75,000 of the match. The most recent major donation, $30,000, came from the Josephine Ardery Foundation in Paris, which promotes historic preservation.
The Urban County Council has appropriated $150,000 for the project. The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation also has been active. More than $11,000 has been raised in small donations, Catto said. To give, go to: Warwickfoundation.org.
To help with fundraising, Langley Properties will allow the foundation to give tours of the building from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 18, the first time it has been open to the public in years. Tours cost $20 each, with all proceeds going toward the building fund. More information: Facebook.com @People for the Peoples.
The planned new use for the building is something Lexington needs and Lancaster, who died in 2000 at age 83, would have loved, Catto said.
“Everybody knows Clay Lancaster as an architectural historian and preservation pioneer, and he was,” Catto said. “But he did an enormous amount of work in cross-cultural and inter-religious study. And he considered that his most important work. So it has always been baked into the Warwick mission.”
Plans call for the People’s Portal to be a public space for lectures, art exhibits, films and other events centered around promoting community values of respect, compassion, understanding and inclusion.
“You can’t pick up a newspaper today or hear the news without understanding the importance of that message,” she said.
The foundation has formed a high-profile advisory board for the People’s Portal, co-chaired by former Kentucky first lady Libby Jones and architect Tom Cheek.
Among the initiatives Catto would like to see the People’s Portal involved with is helping Lexington become a signatory to the Charter for Compassion, which has been signed by 62 cities worldwide, including Louisville and Cincinnati, and is in process with more than 200 others.
Also, she said, the People’s Portal could become an outpost for the Festival of Faiths, a 20-year-old event held in Louisville each May.
Catto thinks this building, designed by Lexington architect Charles Bayless for the People’s Federal Savings and Loan Association, is a perfect structure for this use. Modernist design has become especially popular among young adults.
“Young people have really engaged with preservation in a big way over this building,” she said. “It resonates with them, much like the Hunt-Morgan House and other Antebellum buildings did with adults in the 1950s.”