About 200 people turned out for a public meeting Thursday at ArtsPlace to see the fifth and latest design for Lexington's downtown CentrePointe block, and the reaction was mostly positive.
"I'm excited about it. It shows the benefit of opening up the planning process," said businessman Gay Reading, owner of the Greentree Tearoom on West Short Street.
"The exterior of the hotel, if you look at it closely, is almost lacy the way it's broken up," Reading said. "It's a far cry from the Stalinesque look of the original CentrePointe design."
The layout of the block is similar to what Chicago architect Jeanne Gang proposed when, at the urging of Mayor Jim Gray, developer Dudley Webb hired her to come up with a new vision for the block. The block was cleared in 2008 and has been vacant ever since. Financing never came through for the project. Without a clear explanation, Webb let Gang go after she did a master plan for the block and hired EOP Architects of Lexington.
EOP presented its design Thursday and encouraged feedback from those in attendance. The plan calls for a glass-and-limestone hotel tower at the corner of South Upper and Vine streets, a nine-story asymmetrical office building at Limestone and Main, and four low-rise buildings along Main Street for street-level retail and apartments on the floors above.
A glass building with what looks like leaning tree trunks on the exterior was shown for the corner of Vine and Limestone. A 45-foot-long, glass-covered pedestrian walkway, lined with retail shops, cuts through the block to connect Main to Vine street.
The four Main Street buildings, each looking unique, were designed by four architects — Graham Pohl, David Biagi, Dick Levine and EOP.
Dan Rowland, a downtown resident and one of the organizers of ProgressLexington, said after viewing the drawings, "I'm trying to convince myself that this is a positive result, and in many ways it is. It preserves much of the spirit of Jeanne Gang." He added, "Given all the constraints, I feel this came out pretty well."
Webb said representatives of two banks interested in possibly financing parts of the project were in the audience.
Woodford Webb, business partner with his uncle Dudley, said lending institutions were showing interest in the CentrePointe project. "If we didn't think this project could be financed, we wouldn't be here right now," he said.
The design for the block goes before the Courthouse Area Design Review Board on March 28. Because part of the block is in the Courthouse Area Design Review Zone, all new construction and exterior changes to buildings must receive board approval.