A group looking to move and save a mid-20th-century bank is asking the city of Lexington for an additional $150,000 after bids to move the bank came in higher than expected.
The Warwick Foundation, a preservation group, has spearheaded efforts to save Peoples Bank on South Broadway, which was slated to be torn down to make room for a planned 12-story theater complex on the same block. Earlier this year, the group met its original fundraising goal of $850,000, about $150,000 of which was an allocation from the city from the current year’s budget.
But when the foundation asked building-moving companies to bid on moving the bank from South Broadway to a donated location on the Rupp Arena parking lot on High Street, the bids were much higher than original estimates, said Laurel Catto of the Warwick Foundation.
The group used preliminary estimates from moving companies to set the $850,000 budget. But when the the moving contract was bid, the two companies that supplied the lowest estimates did not submit bids, Catto said.
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To secure historic tax credits, the group also had to have the new site on High Street approved by federal agencies. Those agencies wanted the original mulitiered exterior to be reproduced at the new site, further driving up costs, Catto said. The new cost of the project is $1.35 million, about $450,000 more than original estimate. Agreeing to keep the exterior approach to the building was key to securing the U.S. National Park Service green light for the new location. That federal OK also will allow the group to pursue tax credits that will help pay for the costs of moving and saving the building, Catto said.
“We are asking the city for an additional $150,000, but the Warrick Foundation is also going to raise an additional $300,000,” Catto said. The foundation already has donated $300,000. About $250,000 came from grants and individuals, along with $75,000 from Robert Langley and Langley Properties, the current owners of Peoples Bank; and $75,000 from Lexington Center Corp., which owns the High Street parking lot, the bank’s intended home. Warwick will pay Lexington Center $10 a year to use the site.
The Urban County Council will discuss the request for an additional $150,000 during Tuesday’s work session.
Planning Commissioner Derek Paulsen said the request came from council members. The $150,000 would come from unspent bond funds and would not be diverted from another project.
Councilwoman Susan Lamb said she supports giving the additional $150,000 to The Warwick Foundation. It wants to turn the bank into the People’s Portal, a type of community center with programming that will focus on inclusion and compassion. Lamb has put together a working group to have Lexington join the Compassionate Communities network. If the bank is saved and moved, People’s Portal would be the first designated space for a compassionate community in the country, she said. Louisville is the only city in Kentucky to be part of the nationwide network of cities.
“I hope we can get this building moved,” Lamb said, noting that $850,000 already has been raised. “It would be a shame to get this far down the road and for us to not allow this to happen.”
Councilman Kevin Stinnett said he has a lot of questions about the additional allocation. If the group can’t raise the money to move the building, it might not be able to operate it. If the council agrees to the additional $150,000,city will have allocated more than $300,000 toward saving the bank with the distinctive zig-zag roof and turquoise exterior.
“I want to know if they will have enough money going forward to operate it,” Stinnett said.
Catto said the group turned in a five-year business plan to the Lexington Center Corp. board before the board agreed to donate money to the project and the site for the building. In addition to being used as a community space, it will be available for wedding receptions and cocktail parties before University of Kentucky basketball games. It will generate revenue, she said.
That business plan “has been heavily scrutinized. All of that has been vetted. None of this pertains to operating costs going forward,” Catto said of the group’s request to the city. “Warwick will assume all responsibility for operating costs going forward.”