Linda Carroll: City cannot afford to continue to neglect old courthouse

September 1, 2014 

  • At issue: Aug. 19 Herald-Leader article, "Report finds structural problems in old Lexington courthouse; Balconies coming away from building, beams rotting"

The tragic courthouse situation described by reporter Beth Musgrave in the Aug. 19 article leaves me with mixed feelings.

While I am saddened that we have let our greatest civic building fall into great disrepair, I have to believe that this is a call to action for this community.

The team of EOP Architects, Preservation Design Partners and BFMJ Structural Engineers identified several faults with the old courthouse.

The prestigious team identified a dangerous sidewalk over the basement on Short Street and balconies that are separating from the building.

The recommendation to fence or net the area for safety is sensible but it must be short term.

I am encouraged that a sophisticated assessment is underway of the architectural and structural condition of the building, but already concerns about cost and limited resources are starting to surface.

Of course, unbridled deference to a "we can't afford it" attitude brought us to this point in the first place. As we have learned, we can't afford to keep deferring this project.

The old courthouse sits in the center of an area that has attracted significant investment over the last five years — tens of millions of investment in new restaurants and bars, the 21c Museum Hotel and the reinvention of Cheapside.

Why would we undermine all that investment and tell the world to not bother investing in Lexington?

The community has risen to the challenge before, most recently with the rebirth of the Kentucky Theater, which was driven by citizens. The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation recognized their efforts with a Community Preservation Award at our 2014 annual meeting.

The old courthouse is too important to both our past and future to fall to demolition by neglect. And Lexington has way too many fenced blocks, let's not have another.

Let's make the courthouse right before the world looks at us during the Breeder's Cup.

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