Shortly after the Lexington and Fayette County governments merged in 1974, a discussion began about creating more office space for local government.
A 2001 story summarized the outcome: "1982: After much squabbling and many unfulfilled plans, the city moves offices into the former Lafayette Hotel."
Not precisely one for the urban planning hall of fame. Sso it's no surprise that, 30 years on, the 1920 building and its use are still not well suited to each other.
Early in his term, Mayor Jim Newberry looked at the costs of heating, cooling and maintaining the building — about twice what is typical — and suggested building a new home for local government, a plan sidelined by the financial crisis.
Now, Mayor Jim Gray's administration has revisited the problem.
Under both Newberry and Gray, the Lexington Downtown Development Authority has tried unsuccessfully to find a private partner to develop the air space over the Transit Center garage that sits between Vine and High streets.
Now, Gray's administration has come up with an imaginative plan to address both these problems. Essentially, the idea is to work with one private developer who would build a government center to lease to the city atop the Transit Center garage and redevelop commercially several city properties in the area, including the old hotel.
If this can work — and we grant that might be a big "if" — it holds the potential for restoring a critical portion of Main Street to lively, profitable commercial use while solving the city's decades-old office problem.
In addition to the hotel, the proposed project would include the adjacent garage, now closed because it's condemned, and the Switow building that front on Main in addition to the Phoenix building that sits behind city hall on Vine Street.
The city is inviting developers interested in the project to submit their credentials and track records as a first step toward trying to develop a partnership.
This is an ambitious proposal to leverage private capital and know-how for the public good. Lexington deserves no less.