Board votes 3-2 to approve revamped design of CentrePointe

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comOctober 9, 2013 

The Courthouse Area Design Review Board on Wednesday gave approval yet again to a revamped design of the CentrePointe development.

Developer Dudley Webb said after Wednesday's meeting that he hopes to start construction of the 700-space garage in early November — more than five years after the project was announced.

The board voted 3-2 to approve the design changes. Board members who voted in favor were Kevin Atkins, Billie J. Dollins and acting chairman Luther Andal. Those voting against were Graham Pohl and Martin Summers. Andal, as acting chairman, typically does not vote but had to cast the tie-breaking vote.

In August, the Courthouse Area Design Review Board voted 2-1 to approve the $393.2 million downtown CentrePointe development that includes office space, an apartment building, a Marriott hotel, retailers and restaurants.

Making alterations to the exterior of the apartment building was part of the conditional approval of the CentrePointe design. Since the original buildings on the block were demolished, the block has been a fenced-in grassy lot.

Designs reviewed Wednesday showed changes to the apartment building, including space added for signs for first-floor retail space. Some of the exterior is now recessed. The top of the building also has a distinctive "cap," which courthouse design board members said they wanted during the August meeting.

The 10-story office building now has a flat glass surface rather than picture-type frames on the side of the building. The hotel complex also has slight design changes, the renderings show.

Pohl, an architect, said he was "disappointed" by the tweaks to the design, saying they were a "step down" from the previous designs approved in August.

Although Pohl had criticized the design of the apartment building for not having a cap or architectural border at the top, he said he did not like the way the architects did the redesign.

Summers said that many of the subtle details of the August designs were now gone — making the buildings much more generic.

The criticism prompted Webb, who has been before the Courthouse Area Design Review Board nine times with designs for CentrePointe, to become impatient.

The developers have tried to comply with all of the suggestions that the board has set out for them, Webb said. No matter how many changes they make, they can't seem to satisfy everyone, he said.

"This is a private development. It's on private property," Webb said. "I just don't know how we win."

Webb said the process can make it difficult for people to develop property. He said he has a major tenant whose name he cannot disclose who wants to move into the 10-story office building. But constant delays of the project would jeopardize the signing of that tenant, Webb said.

"Quite frankly, there's a reason why there hasn't been any major development in Lexington in 30 years," Webb said.

Attorney Richard Getty told the board that he was another tenant of the office building. Webb said after the meeting that he has interest from tenants in five of the 10 floors of the office building. There is also interest in the apartment building, he said. Marriott has already said it will be a tenant for the hotel.

Atkins, the city's chief development officer, reminded Webb that he knew the block was located in an area where it would need approval from the board before Webb began the project.

Although the design could be better, Atkins said Wednesday that he was going to vote for the project because it was important for economic development. CentrePointe was the "opportunity for more jobs and the opportunity for more people to live downtown," Atkins said.

Atkins voted against the design in the August meeting.

Webb said he has financing for all aspects of the project and that each aspect — apartments, hotel and office building — has a different lender. Webb said his engineers will work on getting permits for the building of the garage starting Thursday. The project will need to go through building inspection permitting and traffic engineering. The developer also will need to address water quality and sanitary sewer issues and provide a plan for dealing with the stream flowing beneath the site.

A ceremonial groundbreaking may be held in late October with construction on the underground parking garage to begin the next month, Webb said.

"Everybody believed strongly in what they said," Webb said after the meeting. "It's been a frustrating exercise but it's been a good one. The project is better."

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

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