Push under way to list LexTran's Greyhound Line building on national register

kward1@herald-leader.comSeptember 9, 2013 

A push is underway to have the Southeast Greyhound Line building on Loudon Avenue listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The city's Historic Preservation Commission voted Monday to forward a nomination form to the state Historic Preservation Review Board, which is scheduled to consider the topic at its Sept. 25 meeting.

After it is considered at the state level, the form would then be sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which would make the final decision, said Bettie Kerr, the city's historic preservation officer.

The building is owned by Lextran, which originally planned to demolish it and rebuild a new facility there to house all of its operations. That plan was eventually abandoned, though, after it was determined that the property was historically significant and eligible for listing on the National Register, which would have made demolition more difficult because federal transportation funds were to be used.

In June, Lextran's board of directors voted to enter an agreement to buy the former site of the General Electric glass plant at 200 West Loudon Avenue. Lextran now plans to consolidate its operations in a new facility to be built there.

Although it has been a few years since it was determined that the old Greyhound building was eligible for listing on the National Register, the process to have it listed was never completed.

Lextran officials did not attend the preservation commission meeting, but spokeswoman Jill Barnett said the agency does not oppose the move to have the building added to the register.

"We were anticipating it," she said. "I don't think it impacts your ability to sell the building or dispose of it in any way."

Barnett said Lextran has not listed the property for sale but does expect to sell it "at some point."

The building is being used for parts storage now, she said.

Residents of the neighborhood are leading the push to have the registry listing formalized.

Griffin VanMeter, vice president of the North Limestone Neighborhood Association, told members of the preservation commission that the property is "a core anchor" of the neighborhood.

"We want to make sure that this building is preserved when the next developer does come in," he said.

When asked in an interview whether he is interested in purchasing the property, VanMeter said he "would love to if I could" but he doesn't think he could afford it.

VanMeter is co-owner of the marketing firm Bullhorn, which is located across the street from the Greyhound building.

He said his motivation is "as an advocate for the neighborhood, not as a developer."

"I'm excited about the opportunities for what could be," he said.

VanMeter said the old Rainbo Bread building at West Sixth and Jefferson streets, which now houses West Sixth Brewing Co. and other tenants, is a good example of how such a property can be reused.

While he said he didn't have any definite plans for what he would do if he could buy the property, he would like to see it used for something the public could enjoy, as well as something that could serve as "an economic catalyst."

Stacie Williams, a consultant who prepared the forms requesting that the building be added to the National Register, told the preservation commission that the building, constructed by Consolidated Coach Corp., is "historically significant in terms of Lexington's economic climate" and its role in the history of mass transit.

The facility became the headquarters for Southeastern Greyhound Lines, the city's largest private employer in the 1940s. Transportation policies were developed and technological advances were made there.

And the site was a hub for travelers.

"People were able to go as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Florida," she said. "It was the midpoint between north and south."

The building was on the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation's 2013 list of endangered historic properties.

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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