A highly visible property on the southeast corner of West High Street and South Broadway near the proposed Arena, Arts and Entertainment District has been bought by South Hill LLC, a division of The Webb Companies.
On the 1.3-acre tract are two parking lots, a historical house built in 1801, and a one-story office building.
South Hill LLC bought the property for $1.3 million from First United Methodist Church. The sale was finalized May 30.
Developer Dudley Webb said his company has no immediate plans for the property. "The church wanted to sell. We felt it was a strategic location. We'll wait and see what happens with proposals for Rupp Arena and the Lexington Center," Webb said.
First United Methodist bought the tract in 2006, when it had planned to build a 1,200-seat sanctuary on church property at 200 West High Street, next door to the current sanctuary, which seats 450 people. The expansion would have wiped out more than 100 parking spaces.
"We bought the corner for replacement parking we thought we were going to lose," said Foster Ockerman Jr., vice chairman of First United Methodist Church Realty Inc., a separate legal entity that held title to the lot.
Later, church leadership changed, and plans changed.
First United Methodist opened a second campus on Todds Road in the Andover subdivision in 2007. "Instead of having two services in one building, we have five services in two buildings," Ockerman said. That eliminated the need for more downtown parking.
Al Isaac, owner of NAI Isaac Commercial Properties and listing broker for the property, said it was premature to link the value of that property to what might eventually develop in the proposed arts and entertainment district.
"It's unlikely something that far off would be inflating the interest level," he said. "It's expensive to own property. If you have to sit on property for a few years, it really adds to the cost of the land." Isaac called the site "terrific all by itself."
In 2005, a 10-story luxury condominium project was proposed for the site, diagonally across Broadway from Rupp Arena. It encountered strong opposition from Historic South Hill residents. The property is in that historically zoned district.
Gary Spillers, CEO of Gameday Center Southeastern, based in Atlanta, had said the proposed 126-unit Kentucky Gameday Center would bring more retail to downtown and luxury living space for Kentucky basketball fans.
But the Board of Architectural Review, which oversees new buildings in historical areas, turned thumbs down on the Gameday project unless Spillers agreed to reduce the height. In October 2006, Spillers announced that he was scrapping the Gameday Center project.
On Tuesday, Lee Thomas, president of the Historic South Hill Neighborhood Association, said he was not aware of the sale until a reporter called, and he had no comment on the sale to Webb.
The neighborhood association will be interested in what is proposed for that parcel in the future, he said, "as the whole city should be."