Crowd shares memories of Rosenberg Block, searches for solutions

By Ashley Bowman

Hundreds of people had already filled the seats of the Kentucky Theater on Saturday, but more kept piling in to the sound of bluegrass music from a banjo played center stage to protest the demolition of the Rosenberg Block downtown to make way for a new hotel development.

The organizers of “Wake Up Lexington: An Event to Save Our Block,” said the cost of producing CentrePointe involved more than money and could damage Lexington’s downtown personality.

Architects, city council members and developers from other projects in Lexington and Louisville made presentations on historic preservation. They discussed ways to bring in new developments without tearing down existing buildings and how to apply those strategies to the block bounded by Main, Vine, South Limestone and South Upper streets.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray said the project is “not a done deal.” Through petitions, e-mails and letters, the issues are getting attention, he said.

The Dame, Buster’s and Mia’s are all popular venues that students and other Lexington residents could lose if the development plans proceed for the skyscraper hotel.

When about 10 minutes of film clips were presented to the audience from the documentary “I Heart Downtown: Stories from the Block,” the tension among audience members dissolved into laughter. The film is following the process of the development, and Travis Jones, the editor for the documentary, said he had been working since Wednesday to make the presentation a tribute to the community, something personal for the audience to relate to and enjoy.

Jones said the panel of professionals and experts were there to discuss the seriousness and the issues surrounding the redevelopment of downtown, and the film made it personal.

Laughter is “universal and can be translated,” Jones said. He used that approach when choosing clips, a way to get everyone in the theater engaged and interested in the history of Lexington.

The segment was really for and about the people, he said, a way for them to share their stories with all of Lexington before they lose the chance. Sharing the city’s history is the way to help preserve it, Jones said.

Among the audience members at the event were CentrePointe developer Dudley Webb, state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington, and representatives from Preserve Lexington and Heritage Kentucky.

Tate White, geography and international studies junior, has an internship at the government center and said she enjoys going to the Dame with friends for shows.

Taylor Shelton said he is not of legal drinking age but that he does not want to see downtown lose Rosenberg block before he has the chance to really explore it.

“I find downtown intriguing,” said Shelton, a geography junior.