Lexington businessman and former vice mayor Mike Scanlon has acquired a block of mostly vacant properties at the end of Race Street, near the corner of Short Street and Midland Avenue, and he says he looks forward to working with neighbors to come up with a development plan for the area.
The latest and final purchase, the Bluegrass Auto Sales property at 143 Midland Avenue, was completed Dec. 28, Scanlon said. He bought the property from Thomas McKinney, whose family has owned it for decades.
Scanlon, CEO of Thomas and King Inc., said Wednesday that input will be solicited from residents, business owners and anyone else with a stake in the area before any major decisions are made.
"I think this will be a signature property, so what we put there is really important," Scanlon said. "We just need to go slow and think it through and do it right."
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Scanlon said he doesn't have specific plans for the property just yet, other than to clean it up to be presented to potential developers. As weather permits, crews will remove overgrowth, clean up debris and knock down a vacant building once owned by Micro-City Government.
The properties now owned by Scanlon's investment firm, Fleetwood Land Management LLC, include much of the block bordered by Short Street, Midland Avenue, Corral Street and Eastern Avenue. It does not include the city park or residential properties along Eastern Avenue, the Kentucky Utilities power substation or the former site of Fayette Heating and Air Conditioning.
Six years ago, two Central Kentucky developers planned an infill project for the property, including condominiums, a church, a day care and office and retail space. The proposed development, tentatively called Trinity Flats, was quietly scrapped a few years later when the economy nosedived and one of the project's developers went out of business.
In 2012, Scanlon bought several of the parcels from LP Young Homes LLC, one of the developers of the proposed Trinity Flats.
Among those properties was the property at 153 Race Street, where the community center formerly owned by Micro-City Government sat vacant. Scanlon said Wednesday that the property had been vandalized and had degraded, and restoring it would have cost more than it was worth.
"It also has some amount of unhappy history associated with it, with Micro-City Government," he said. "Tearing that down, I think, relieves the neighborhood of an eyesore and a bad memory."
Micro-City Government is a defunct non-profit with an infamous history.
The youth program was created in 1969 by Ron Berry, and it dissolved in 1998 as Berry was fighting allegations that he used the program to meet and molest boys. Berry was convicted in 2000 of 12 counts of third-degree sodomy, for which he spent three years in prison. Lawsuits by alleged victims who accused city officials of covering up the abuse are still ongoing.
Demolition of the brick and cinder-block building began Monday.
Scanlon owns several other properties along the Midland Avenue and Race Street corridors, including a vacant city block at the corner of Midland and Second Street. Eventually, he said, much of the area could be redeveloped in line with the revitalization of Lexington's East End neighborhoods.