A year ago the CentrePointe block was a mud hole. Today, it's a grassy lawn in the middle of downtown Lexington, and that's turning out to be a handy place to have activities for events such as the Fourth of July and the Spotlight Festival during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Developer Dudley Webb said this week that the CentrePointe groundbreaking will not occur before the World Equestrian Games end in October.
Meanwhile, the block bounded by Main, Vine, Limestone and Upper streets will be in the center of Fourth of July activities and also will be a key location for Spotlight Lexington.
While the city could have made do without the CentrePointe block during Spotlight Lexington, said Krista Greathouse, equestrian games liaison coordinator for the city, "It will be a good place for people to mingle because it's between the two entertainment venues — Cheapside Park and the plaza in front of the courthouses."
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Food and merchandise vendors will be set up there, including an Applebee's tent.
The space was used for St. Patrick's Day festivities after Bill Enright, president of the Bluegrass Irish Society, approached the Webb Companies about using the block.
"While it was sitting there idle, it turned out to be a good spot for people making their way to the Alltech Beer Garden," said Matt Cordle, Alltech Lexington Brewing Co. marketing and sales manager.
On the Fourth of July, kids activities will be corralled on the CentrePointe block, including carnival games, pony rides and a tent with a petting zoo. "It will be like heaven for the animals to be an grass," said Penny Ebel, the city's special events director.
Ebel said she hasn't looked beyond the equestrian games for utilizing the block, which could be vacant indefinitely while Webb tries to arrange financing for his stalled high-rise project.
The city has installed three 16-foot gates on the Limestone side of the block and will have another one on Main Street for easier access.
As part of the downtown streetscape project, new sidewalks on the Main and Vine street sides of the CentrePointe block are being laid. The Vine Street portion will be completed by July 4, said George Milligan, downtown streetscape coordinator.
"The only thing we are doing is basic concrete, not tree wells or that fancy stuff because when development goes in there, the sidewalks will be torn up anyway," Milligan said.
Megan Craig, director of Gallery B at 145 Main Street, whose front door looks right onto the CentrePointe block, said she likes looking across Main and Vine streets up to High Street. She said it would be a good site for arts fairs.
"In the long term, you would like to see it be more functional, but this is good until they figure out what they're going to end up doing there," Craig said. "I'm not disgruntled."
It's all well and good to say the CentrePointe grass adds an attractive green spot in downtown, "but from an economic development standpoint, that is not the wisest use of space," said Renee Jackson, president of the Downtown Lexington Corp.
"We are looking forward to having development on that property and creating jobs," she said.