Demolition of vacant East Third Street building is an improvement, neighbors say

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJuly 7, 2013 

Neighbors say they are pleased with the recent demolition of a vacant building at 433 East Third Street in Lexington that had been the subject of complaints.

The Lexington Housing Authority owned the white concrete block building that faced East Third and was across Race Street from Pak'N'Save grocery store.

Last year, the William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association complained to the Louisville office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about the "unsafe and unkempt" conditions of the building and others owned by the authority. Paint was peeling from the building, and a tree grew out of one wall.

The building became the target for vandals after windows were removed some weeks ago, said Billie Mallory, president of the neighborhood association.

"Police were called several times because people were in there doing damage," Mallory said.

The structure was built in 1951 and had a taxable value of $38,600, according to the Fayette County property valuation administrator's website.

There are no plans to redevelop or use the corner lot, said Austin Simms, executive director of the Lexington Housing Authority.

"We like to refer to it as 'property in the bank,'" Simms said. He was referring to "land-banking," in which authority-owned property is held for future use. "At this point, there are no plans for it."

The lot is zoned for neighborhood business. The building had been used in recent years as a liquor store, Mallory said.

"We're definitely glad it's gone if they're not going to do anything productive with it," Mallory said. "It's probably easier to sell a vacant lot than it is to sell a lot with a raggedy building on it."

Tanya Torp, secretary of the neighborhood association, wrote in an email that she was "thrilled something has been done" about the building.

On the other hand, Torp wrote, "I would like to work with property owners throughout our community to be open to discussing other options where demolition is not necessary. ... I love when property owners take positive measures to correct the blight they are causing in our neighborhood, but we can work together to save buildings and put them to good use where appropriate."

Meanwhile, Pak'N'Save plans to remodel its store with a new produce cooler, new flooring and new exterior paint, said Anita Courtney of the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition. A mural is to be painted on the Race Street side of the grocery store.

"We did a call for artists, and that will start being painted on July 23," Courtney said. "Twenty-six artists applied, and we've narrowed it down to three. They're each receiving a stipend to come up with a proposal for what the mural would look like and how they would engage the community in creating it. We will select the artist with a lot of community input."

The mural is to be finished by Aug. 23.

The work is part of a Good Neighbor Store project, which helps small stores in underserved neighborhoods stock healthier foods.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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