A highly visible block in downtown remains a graveled site with no construction of a CVS pharmacy, which was to have begun in September.
Louisville developer Gary Joy, of Joy & Associates, said the drugstore will be built, but the project was halted when preliminary site work during the summer uncovered a junction box of underground electrical lines that provide service to downtown.
"The project is still very much alive," Joy said recently of the drugstore that will be on the site of the former Integra Bank building and Heritage Antiques at the convergence of East Main, Midland and Vine, across from Thoroughbred Park.
The Kentucky Utilities lines are buried about where the remnant of a paved driveway crosses the property.
"What we told them was, we need to have access to those lines without a whole lot of difficulty. Don't put a building over it. Frankly, don't put a parking lot over it," said Cliff Feltham, KU spokesman.
That meant there had to be a change in the layout of the site, and the building shifted more to the west, said Joy, who has built 35 CVS stores in Kentucky. His firm is working on adjusting plans.
Phil Holoubek, a downtown developer and one of the owners of the CVS site, said last week he had not been notified by CVS of any changes in their plans to build the drugstore.
"However, we have received unsolicited phone calls from several other entities interested in locating on the site" if CVS pulls out, he said.
Joy has spent two years, and CVS has spent "a lot of money pursuing this project," he said. "Obviously I feel it would be super location for CVS — the only drugstore in a downtown that's being revitalized," he said.
The CVS drugstore was announced in March 2009. It came as welcome news to people who live and work downtown who expressed concern over the void created when Rite Aid on Main Street closed in 2008. The Rite Aid was razed to make way for the CentrePointe project, which has not yet materialized.
Even without discovery of the KU lines, Joy has failed to satisfy all the architectural demands of the Board of Adjustment. Because the building will sit squarely on Main Street at one of downtown Lexington's most highly visible entrances, downtown supporters, the BOA and the city's planning staff have insisted the exterior be compatible with nearby buildings.
Most CVS buildings are large stucco boxes with big red front doors and red CVS letters on each side.
In June, ProgressLex, a local non-profit focusing on issues related to downtown, collected 1,300 signatures from people who said they would boycott the proposed drugstore unless it had an urban look. Because Lexington does not have design guidelines, trying to define urban design has been a challenge to the developer.
"I'd say we have done not less than 15 to 18 concepts and refinements," Joy said in July.
The building had come a long way from the original design. Compromises made the front of the building taller with an all-brick facade, exterior gooseneck lighting fixtures and an aluminum door. The building was also set closer to the street.
But one condition BOA insisted on was that the building must have on top a large, square architectural feature called a parapet, which is brick on all sides. It cannot be a one-dimensional flat surface that sticks up above the roof line.
Last week, Chris King, the city's director of planning, said his staff still had not received an architectural rendering for the building showing the parapet. The most recent round of communications was in October, when Bill Sallee, manager of planning services, sent Joy a letter saying without the parapet, the design did not meet the city's requirements, King said.
"Seems like they get hot on this for a while. Then we don't hear from them for months and months and months," King said.
Without planning's approval, Joy cannot get a building permit.
Originally, construction was slated to take about six months, with the pharmacy opening in March. A pile of gravel was removed and weeds cut prior to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in September.