An upscale retail and residential development at Nicholasville Road and Man o' War Boulevard could open in fall 2015 — one of the first major retail developments in Lexington in recent years.
After a public meeting Tuesday, the Urban County Council voted unanimously to approve zoning changes for The Summit, a 50-acre development with 1 million square feet of residential and commercial space on the former Frtiz farm property. The project will be across from Wal-Mart.
A final development plan must be approved before construction begins.
Council members said Tuesday they sympathized with neighbors' concerns about traffic and congestion on one of the city's busiest roads, but some noted that the Lexington Planning Commission and its staff had already voted for the development. The commission unanimously approved the zoning change in June.
Residents on Tuesday night urged the council not to approve the plan as proposed, saying it was too dense and did not comply with the South Nicholasville Road Small Area plan, which guides development in the area.
Hank Graddy, a lawyer representing Don't Overload Nicholasville Road with More Traffic, an organization of residents in the Nicholasville-Man o' War area, noted that the plan calls for 1 million square feet on 50 acres. The South Nicholasville Road Small Area plan recommends a village-like development, Graddy said.
"That's more intense than Fayette Mall," Graddy said. "This is not a village-like plan."
The retail development would generate too much traffic on Lexington's busiest commercial corridor, he said.
Graddy said the South Nicholasville Road Small Area plan calls for an overhaul of the Nicholasville-Man o' War intersection. If The Summit was approved, it would sit atop where part of that improved intersection is supposed to go, he said. Adam Kirk, an engineer hired by opponents of the project, said the improved intersection is necessary to alleviate traffic congestion on Man o' War and Nicholasville. The improvement was originally planned in 2007, Kirk said.
But Bill Lear, a lawyer for Bayer Properties, which is developing the property, said the development is actually smaller and has less square footage than the small-area plan would allow.
Bruce Simpson, another lawyer for Bayer, said that the overhaul of the intersection was projected to cost $60 million and was not going to be completed until 2030. It is only three lines in the South Nicholasville Road Small Area plan. "That was simply a discussion item," Simpson said.
Darby Turner, a lawyer who represents Fayette Mall, said the mall does not object to The Summit but does have problems with the development's location.
"Our concern is traffic on Nicholasville Road," Turner said.
Lear scoffed that Turner and Fayette Mall would raise traffic concerns. No commercial development has dumped more traffic onto Nicholasville Road than Fayette Mall, Lear said.
Bayer Property officials have said the project would cost $92.5 million and generate $153 million in economic impact during construction alone. The company has estimated that nearly 1,400 jobs would be created during construction, generating $40.4 million in wages.
Bayer officials have declined to name potential tenants for the development. But similar "The Summit" properties owned by Bayer have upscale retail such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Coach.
The project includes 435,000 square feet of residential space, including living space above retail shops and individual homes, said David Silverstein, principal of Bayer Properties. The proposal also includes a five-story hotel and two parking garages. Silverstein said the plan approved Tuesday was preliminary and could change slightly.
Graddy said he will talk to his clients before deciding whether they will challenge the council's decision.