Developer has big plans for Angliana Avenue

bfortune@herald-leader.comJune 24, 2009 

A California developer announced Tuesday a development for Angliana Avenue in Lexington that would include a multi-screen cinema, a bowling alley, restaurants, retail outlets, a grocery store and 150 apartments.

George Krikorian told the Urban County Council that he has built more than 20 multi-screen theaters, most of them in urban settings in California, frequently combining new construction with renovated old buildings.

He estimated that the mixed-use project in Lexington would cost more than $70 million.

Krikorian was attracted to the site because Angliana is being transformed. The street was once lined with tobacco warehouses, but now a large student housing project is nearing completion there. An upscale hotel and spa for dogs, Uptown Hounds, is across from Krikorian's proposed project.

The site is within walking distance of the South Hill neighborhood, Main Street, Lexington Center and the University of Kentucky, said Harold Tate, president of the Downtown Development Authority.

Krikorian expects to apply for tax increment financing from the city and state to pay for infrastructure improvements, including moving a major transmission line that goes down Angliana and building a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks.

Krikorian discovered Lexington through his passion for thoroughbreds. Two years ago, he bought a farm in Woodford County, where he breeds and trains racehorses.

"I came to Lexington a few times. I got to looking around downtown. There was no sign of a multiplex theater," he said.

The 15-acre development includes the Kentucky Eagle Beer distributorship building at 475 Angliana Avenue, a tobacco warehouse and part of the adjoining railroad property on South Broadway.

The tobacco warehouse will be converted to a new use, said Chris Westover, a local attorney representing Krikorian.

Plans also call for a 60- to 80-foot "iconic tower" to be built on a grassy knoll near South Broadway, with a restaurant on the top.

The pedestrian bridge will tie into the Newtown Pike extension and give the multiplex access from the UK campus.

"We need TIF money because building a bridge and moving a transmission line will be very expensive," Westover said.

A development plan will be filed with the Planning Commission while council is on summer break. "As a courtesy, we wanted to let you know this was coming and not have you read about it first in the newspaper," Westover said.

The property is zoned adaptive re-use and does not require a zone change, so it does not need council approval, but the council will see it again as a TIF project.

"This is exactly the kind of thing TIF projects are made for," Councilman Doug Martin said.

The city's former economic development director, Councilman Julian Beard, said, "My mouth waters when I see something like this."

Council Jay McChord said that in the midst of the worst recession in decades, "We still have people like you who are looking to Lexington to invest in. We should do everything to help you that we can."

Krikorian said his business is up 20 percent over last year.

In other action:

The council voted to adopt the Downtown Master Plan as a "conceptual" document. The vote did not include 16 recommendations that will be considered and voted on separately.

A consulting firm finalized the plan, and the Planning Commission adopted it in 2007.

The plan goes to council on Thursday for a first reading. At next week's work session, council will get a briefing on an overview of the plan.

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