Demolition began Thursday on a block of buildings on Midland Avenue to make way for a mixed-use development that could include as many as 120 new apartments, plus restaurants and retail space.
Community Ventures, a community development group, is spearheading the project that is expected to include three to five buildings that will be three to five stories each, said Kevin Smith, CEO of Community Ventures. The cost of the project could be as much as $30 million.
The first floors will contain restaurant and retail space, and the upper floors will be residential.
If the group receives enough grants and low-interest loans, 30 percent to 40 percent of the apartments will have rents of $600 to $800 a month.
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"Lexington is growing," Smith said. "We want to make sure that there is a place for workers in Lexington to live."
The group has raised more than $15 million for the project through various sources and is working to raise another $15 million — including some from the Urban County Government's new affordable housing program. Grants and low-interest loans are crucial in making the apartments affordable, Smith said.
"We may have to take market-rate financing, but we are hoping to get low-interest loans and grants so we can have affordable housing."
The Community Ventures development is part of a larger redevelopment of Midland Avenue and Lexington's east side that will use tax increment financing: new taxes generated from the development to pay for infrastructure costs. Another part includes a new mixed-use development on a vacant lot at East Main Street and Midland Avenue — across Main Street from Thoroughbred Park.
Smith said demolition of the group of industrial buildings was scheduled to be completed by the first of October. Architects are working on designs for the multiuse buildings. Those designs, once completed, will be shown to neighborhood residents, Smith said.
Phil Holoubek, a developer who is part of the Midland Avenue redevelopment, said the group had met with East End residents three times to get input on what types of retail are needed. Grocery stores, restaurants and entertainment are tops on residents' wish lists.
But so are jobs.
Smith said the demolition company — Green City Demolition — agreed to hire at least one person from the East End to work on the demolition. Retail tenants that hire neighborhood residents will be key to the development's success, he said.
If the group gets the full $30 million, an assisted living facility might be part of the project. Assisted living is another need identified by neighborhood residents.
"You have to have the restaurants and grocery stores and other retail within walking distance to make that work," Smith said.
The two-story brick building at Midland and Third streets that once held a small business incubator and is only a few years old will be converted to restaurant space on the lower level and office space on the second level, Smith said.
Using state and federal money, Community Ventures was able to buy the group of industrial buildings that borders Midland, Lewis and Third streets that are currently being demolished. About $6 million already has been spent, much of that on environmental mitigation, he said. That $6 million is in addition to the $15 million the group has raised so far for the construction costs.
The group aims to start construction in early 2016 and hopes to have the project completed in 2018, he said.
"This is really a gateway into downtown," Smith said. "This has to be a showplace."