Developer Dudley Webb said Friday that 6 inches of soil will be spread on the empty CentrePointe site and the block will be seeded with Kentucky bluegrass to make it more attractive.
Work, which might begin as early as Monday, is expected to take three to four weeks.
Anna Marletta, general manager of Bellini's, an upscale restaurant across Main Street from CentrePointe, was jubilant at the news.
"Oh, hallelujah," Marletta said. "Our patrons sit outside having a nice dinner and an expensive bottle of wine, and it's a dust bowl."
Whatever the cost of contouring and seeding, "it's such a small price to pay," she said. "It would be marketing dollars well spent for the Webbs to have that site look nice."
Meanwhile, the Lexington tax appeal board on Friday heard arguments from Webb and businessman Joe Rosenberg protesting the recent reassessment of the CentrePointe block, which increased their property taxes fivefold over 2008.
Webb and his nephew Woodford Webb — through CentrePointe LLC — own six parcels on the block; Rosenberg owns 11 parcels.
At the hearing, PVA chief deputy assistant Carolyn Logan recommended the recent assessments be lowered to $10 million.
"When we did the assessment, we thought this was a development site ready to go," said property valution administrator David O'Neill. A mixed-used development on one of the most prominent blocks in the central business district would be the highest and best use for the block, he said.
"Since that time, we learned the financier for the project has died and the development does not appear to be imminent," O'Neill said. "They are not as close to achieving the highest and best use as we thought they were."
The tax board will notify Dudley Webb and Rosenberg of its decision by certified letter within three business days.
Webb said he will wait to see what the tax board recommends before deciding whether to appeal to the state tax appeal board.
Webb and Rosenberg were at the two-hour tax board hearing Friday afternoon. While there, Webb said he looks forward to the day when the grass could be removed from the CentrePointe site and construction commence.
Webb denied that beautifying the block means financing for CentrePointe has fallen through, saying it had only been delayed by the death of the unnamed principal financier.
While he insisted the financing will happen, Webb said it will take more time than anticipated to finalize the investor's estate and free up money for the CentrePointe project.
There has been widespread criticism of the site in the center of downtown that has sat empty for almost a year as the project stalled. Construction for the $250 million hotel and condominium project was announced to start six months ago.
At a contentious Urban County Council meeting last month, Vice Mayor Jim Gray gave Webb a bag of grass seed and said the developer should fill the hole and seed it over.
Several weeks ago, Webb told the Lexington Forum that he and his partners were prepared to do whatever was necessary to make the block more presentable.
Hauling dirt, grading and sowing grass seed will cost about $50,000. The site will be recontoured to slope up to Main Street.
The dirt will come from the excavation site for The Lex, a student housing development on South Broadway. Buckingham Companies of Indianapolis, developer of The Lex, will pay half the cost of loading the dirt. The Webbs will pay the remainder of the cost to load, haul and spread. The work will be done by Woodall Construction.
While the CentrePointe site is planned to become a grassy lawn — once the seed is established in a few months — it will not be a public park, at least not anytime soon. The construction fence will remain in place, and sidewalks will not be replaced.
How to enhance the area and open it to the public, "that's something we and the city and downtown interests will all be talking about closer to the World Games" if construction has not started, Webb said, referring to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
If funding comes through, he said, construction will begin immediately.