After three years of anger and despair over the CentrePointe block in the middle of downtown people here seem almost euphoric over the new plans.
For good reason.
Studio Gang Architects, the Chicago firm the Webb Cos. hired to reconsider the project, has delivered a concept that is thoughtful and considerate.
Jeanne Gang and her team studied the surrounding buildings, the history of the block, the Central Kentucky landscape and created something that honors each of them.
Homage isn't slavish imitation, though. The result is an imaginative, exciting and quite possibly buildable project.
That last point is important. Building takes money and we're still struggling with the rest of the nation and most of the world through a prolonged economic slump.
As an example, David O'Neill, Fayette County's Property Value Administrator, recently reported that new commercial construction projects dropped from 165 in 2005 to 95 in 2007 to 14 last year.
Looking at those numbers, it would be hard to make a case for financing one huge megaproject as was originally proposed for the block. But Gang's design consists of many parts that can be built at different times.
For example, the Main Street frontage is five buildings on the scale of the historic structures across the street.
In a brilliant stroke, Gang invited local architects to compete for the job of designing one of these buildings.
That insures two things: diversity of design and local buy-in. It also means they can be built one at a time as the Webbs recruit signature tenants and financing.
The more ambitious and costly part of the project, a group of elegant tube-like towers facing Vine Street, can be built later when, we hope, the market is livelier.
Mayor Jim Gray, who has spent decades in the construction industry, emphasized the extraordinary opportunity at hand. "Where else in the world is a city's center available for an inspiring piece of architecture?"
Perhaps it's that shot at being part of something new and exciting that attracted Jeff Ruby, owner of Jeff Ruby's Steakhouses in Cincinnati and Louisville, to tell the Webbs he wants to put his planned Lexington restaurant on the block.
Ruby came to the public meeting where Gang presented her plans. He said, "I told Dudley (Webb) we want to go ahead and do the restaurant now."
Hope is a fragile thing, but there is reason to hold on to it now.