About 40 student rental properties just north of the University of Kentucky campus are for sale as a single unit for $9.4 million.
"It is the largest group of contiguous properties owned by a single group in that area," said Bill Lear, a downtown developer and one of the owners.
The largest concentration of the properties is on East Maxwell Street, Hagerman Court, Lexington Avenue, Stone Avenue and Lyndhurst Place, with a scattering on Woodland Avenue, Columbia Avenue, Pennsylvania Court and Marquis Avenue. The 40 properties contain about 105 rental units.
The Lear family bought the properties starting about a decade ago.
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The decision to sell, he said, is "related directly to where family members are in our personal life cycles."
"We believe it's time to move on," Lear said, adding that selling was not dictated by the real estate market or opportunities for profitability.
The properties are being marketed as one unit and most are contiguous, "but that is not the only way we would sell them," Lear said.
Mike Meuser, former president of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, called it "a very unique neighborhood. ... There is architectural and historic significance to that area," where Irish immigrants once lived.
The properties are in an area becoming known as College Town. It is rimmed by High Street and Euclid Avenue on the north and south; Rose Street and South Limestone on the east and west.
The area is zoned R-4, allowing high-density apartments, Bill Sallee, the city's manager of planning services, said on Monday.
The houses could be razed and the land redeveloped, Sallee said.
College Town is dominated by rental properties, but owner occupied houses are scattered throughout. News of almost 40 properties for sale caught neighbors and UK officials off guard.
"The university had not been advised nor made aware of the potential sale of these properties in the Maxwell and Hagerman Court general area prior to your inquiry," Bob Wiseman, vice president of facilities management, wrote in an e-mail.
"At the present time we do not see a university interest in obtaining nor pursuing these properties," Wiseman said.
Wendy McAllister, who lives on Stone Avenue, worried about the prospect of redevelopment of her neighborhood, where many houses were built in the 1920s and earlier. "It would be a terrible shame to see that happen," she said.
McAllister and her sister, Peggy, have lived on Stone Avenue for 10 years. "We're the newcomers," Peggy McAllister said.
Stone Avenue is in the Aylesford neighborhood, Wendy McAllister said, but on the west side of Rose Street, it is not covered by the historic H-1 overlay.
A meeting of neighbors and property owners is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday in Conference Room A on the lower level of the Lexington Public Library, 140 East Main Street.
"It is to discuss the future of the neighborhood and to give landowners a chance to meet and become acquainted," McAllister said.
When the Aylesford neighborhood was working for historic designation, Stone Avenue, Hagerman Court, Lexington Avenue and Maxwell Street west of Rose Street were excluded. "Mr. Lear was concerned about H-1," said John Michler, a resident of East Maxwell Street.
A compromise was reached, Michler said, in which Lear and lawyers representing other landlords agreed not to object to the H-1 zoning if the boundaries became a bit smaller.
Being in an H-1 zone makes it more complicated to raze property because a set of guidelines must be followed and the Board of Architectural Review must give consent.
Harold Tate, CEO of the Downtown Development Authority, said with UK's and the city's interest in promoting the College Town area, redevelopment with affordable housing or houses for first-time buyers would be "a great opportunity."
Lear said he expected the properties will continue in the same use, "just under different ownership."
The sale of properties is not related to Lear's development business. He is heavily involved in South Hill neighborhood on the west side of campus, where he has built the CenterCourt condominium project, in addition to townhouses and apartments.
He and business partners own Gratz Park Inn and were selected by UK to redevelop the site around the Reynolds Building on South Broadway.