New high-rise hotel creates eyesore for downtown Lexington

Column by Robert Kahne

Welcome back to Lexington. For those of you who left last May and returned this August, you will notice there is a brand new hole right smack dab in the middle of downtown. Previously, this spot had held businesses like The Dame and Buster’s.

In my honest opinion, this spot was the heart of the city — a spot where both people from UK and people from Lexington at large got together to listen to good music, hang out with good people and to have fun.

All that is gone now, in favor of a large dirt pit which may in the future hold an opulent, 35-story hotel called CentrePointe.

As of this moment, the financing of the hotel is up in the air. The supporters of CentrePointe have put together a proposal for Tax Increment Financing, which would allow tax revenues from areas improved by redevelopment to be used to pay for the redevelopment.

In this instance, the area being redeveloped was not previously blighted, and indeed the city enjoyed a large amount of tax revenue from this previously vibrant block. The Herald-Leader reported on Aug. 24 that Tom Rousakis of Goldman-Sachs “gave a grim response when asked by the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee in Frankfort, if credit-rating agencies are wary of Kentucky TIF projects.”

Dudley Webb, the man most responsible for the large dirt pit downtown, has said that he has the financing to build CenterPointe, according to a Herald-Leader story on Aug. 24. However, he has a history of failing with development projects in Lexington.

The greatest examples of Dudley Webb’s adventures in downtown Lexington include Festival Market, an empty development full of failed businesses, and the boring Victorian Square. Both of these developments ended up being subsidized by the city and never reached their envisioned level.

There are a lot of folks who are getting a raw deal in this plan. Creative class people are not happy because the architecture and design of this project is about 20 years behind the times.

Many city leaders are not happy because of the prospect of having to finish building a halfway built 35-story tower in the middle of downtown.

The homeless and their advocates are upset because of Webb’s history with the homeless, including trying to get the Salvation Army to move from downtown to keep homeless people from walking by their buildings to the only place they may be able to find a bed, which the Herald-Leader reported on Sept. 24, 1986.

Now, Webb will own a massive structure right across from Phoenix Park, the spot many homeless folks call home.

However, as usual, the biggest shaft is saved for the young people of Lexington. One of our favorite spots in the city has been sacrificed in order to build a huge and unnecessary structure which has a near certain chance of failure.

Honestly, a four-star hotel is a great asset for a city which draws in a lot of upper class tourists, but I doubt that after the FEI Equestrian Games end that folks in town to see their teams get thrashed by the Cats will enjoy staying in a hotel charging several hundreds of dollars a night.

Regardless, the students at UK are the economic engine that drives the city of Lexington. Without UK’s students, Lexington would be the size of Elizabethtown or Danville, yet the leaders of this city treat us like a problem.

I urge everybody who hasn’t already done so to register to vote in Lexington (even if you are from another place, while you are a student at UK you are able to vote in Lexington). Also, when the time comes, vote for the city council candidate and mayoral candidate who place the students at UK in the center of their plans.

So, to all returning students, welcome back, and to all new students — welcome to Lexington. Sorry to say it’s a little lamer than it used to be.

Robert Kahne is political science and economics senior. E-mail [email protected]