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Reactions mixed as first buildings leveled

Louis Bickett has documented downtown in photographs for 20 years. Wednesday, he was adding the latest shots to his photographic history, shots of two buildings on South Limestone being torn down.

”We went through this once before in the 1960s,“ Bickett said, referring to the time when many buildings were torn down for what was known as ”urban renewal.“

”It's sort of sad when we're still tearing old buildings down,“ he said.

With his camera slung over his shoulder, Bickett, a downtown artist and resident, headed up Limestone on his way home.

The block, bounded by West Main, South Upper, Vine Street and South Limestone, is the site of the proposed CentrePointe project, a 35-story hotel, condominium, retail and office complex.

The Building Inspection office has issued demolition permits for four buildings on South Limestone. The first two came down Wednesday.

Asbestos issues were resolved for 111 South Limestone so that it and 109 can be torn down Thursday, said John Bryan, deputy director of Building Inspection.

Happy to see the buildings come down were Linda Taulbee and Linda McIntyre, who work in the Property Valuation Office across Limestone from the demolition site.

”I think all this needed tearing down,“ Taulbee said. ”I'm all for something new. I love new everything.“

Watching the buildings fall will be ”entertaining“ for a few days, she added.

Kathleen Imhoff, director of the Lexington Public Library, has a front-row seat for the CentrePointe block from her fifth-floor office.

It was ”surreal“ when the giant piece of demolition equipment rolled up to the old Levas building and a giant claw reached out and grabbed a piece of the building.

”When I see the puffs of dust rise up, it's like seeing the spirits of the people who used to inhabit those buildings,“ she said. ”It's sad.“

At the Good Foods Co-op's Chapter 2 cafe on the first floor of the library, manager Eric Sutherland could not bring himself to watch the destruction when ”in the blink of an eye“ a building is torn down.

”They're touting this (CentrePointe) as a community project. But they thumbed their nose at the community. This was never a community project,“ he said. ”It says something about a lack of leadership in the city.“