New shopping center planned for Nicholasville Road at Man o' War

ssloan@herald-leader.comFebruary 8, 2013 

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The developers behind The Summit shopping center in Louisville plan to build one in Lexington on a long-undeveloped property at Nicholasville Road and Man o' War Boulevard.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Bayer Properties filed its first documents with the city late Monday about the project, which is expected to cost between $85 million and $100 million and open by fall 2015.

"I do believe the city and adjoining neighbors will be very pleased with the type of project we're proposing," said David Silverstein, principal of Bayer Properties. "It'll be very much in keeping with our other Summit projects.

"It'll have beautiful architecture, lovely landscaping, and our goal is to bring to Lexington retail that's not otherwise here."

The company has looked at building a shopping center in Lexington for several years, Silverstein said.

"But over the years, we just hadn't been able to find the right site," he said.

Retail space at The Summit Lexington is planned to be between 450,000 and 500,000 square feet. It also is planned to have 250,000 square feet of residential space, a first for a Summit project. It's possible that a hotel might be included.

In comparison, The Summit Louisville, which opened in 2001, is 367,500 square feet. The company's first Summit development in Birmingham, which was built 16 years ago, has been expanded and is now about 1 million square feet. The company's other Summit, near Reno, Nev., is more than 600,000 square feet.

Other Summit shopping centers have commercial office space, but that's not planned for Lexington, Silverstein said.

Other projects by Bayer Properties have been built in phases, Silverstein said, but The Summit Lexington will be built all at once.

The property will be down the road from Fayette Mall, Lexington's perennial retail powerhouse; it is almost always fully leased. The Summit plan comes as another Nicholasville Road shopping center, The Mall at Lexington Green, is reinventing itself as a fashion-focused retail center by luring Anthropologie and others.

"The Nicholasville corridor, we think, is the strongest retail venue in the market," Silverstein said. "Our research indicates there is still an opportunity to bring to Lexington retail that's not otherwise here.

"We certainly feel we can coexist with not only Fayette Mall but Lexington Green as well."

So what's the city missing? Silverstein emphasized that the company is not ready to announce any retailers that have signed onto the project; however, he did name retailers and restaurants that are in other Summit developments but not in Lexington. Among them are the Brooks Brothers and Vineyard Vines clothing chains, California Pizza Kitchen restaurant and Saks Fifth Avenue department store.

"There are a number of those that are not here that may well look at the Lexington market as an opportunity to expand," he said.

The shopping center would complete development on the interior of that section of Man o' War Boulevard. In fact, it would end a decades-long saga that saw the property owners, the Fritz family, ask that the agricultural property be zoned for development.

That hurdle was overcome in November 2009, when the planning commission cleared the way for the land to be developed. Farmer John R. Fritz, Sr., who died in 1998, began trying to get the land rezoned in the mid-1980s.

With neighboring landowners selling their farms to developers for large sums, the family wanted to sell their land for the best price possible and buy land elsewhere that was more suitable for farming. But the Fritz property was zoned for residential use, which the family thought meant it would not bring as high a price as property designated for commercial use. The family has contended that noise from traffic on Nicholasville Road and Man o' War Boulevard, one of Lexington's busiest intersections, made the property unsuitable for housing.

The sale of the roughly 50-acre property is contingent on the city approving the required zoning change. The proposed sales price has not been disclosed.

"It's kind of bittersweet," said John Fritz Jr., who lives on the property, which is owned by a family partnership. The family will continue to own about 10 acres on the other side of Man o' War Boulevard.

Over the years, the land being sold has been home to a mulch business and a garden center. Fritz said he has been unable to farm on a large scale because of the homes nearby.

"We've tried to do something where we could survive with the farm (and) not being able to farm it," he said. "Those bills keep coming in."

For the sale, "we wanted to pick someone who we knew was trustworthy and a good developer," he said. "We felt like these people were good people. We saw some of the things they'd done around the country."

Presuming the deal is finalized, it's likely to be another high-priced sale for the Nicholasville Road area.

The property is assessed at more than $5 million, according to county property records.

On the other side of Man o' War Boulevard, the Forty/57 apartment complex was recently sold for $52.5 million to a California-based company.

"It's more positive news regarding the confidence investors have in this market," said Property Valuation Administrator David O'Neill.

The proposed development has attracted the attention of the neighbors, though, who have circulated a petition opposing it.

Dawn Gonzales' home along Walhampton Drive backs up to the farm.

"The thing that attracted me to this neighborhood the most was having that open property behind me and the view that it gave me and the quietness of the neighborhood," she said. "With this development, that will destroy both of those things.

"I moved here from Los Angeles to get away from that kind of stuff. I don't want it in my backyard."

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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