Developer OKs city's CVS design requests

People looked at the Horse Mania horses across Main Street from where a developer has proposed to build a CVS drugstore. If allowed, construction will begin in September and take about 5 months.
People looked at the Horse Mania horses across Main Street from where a developer has proposed to build a CVS drugstore. If allowed, construction will begin in September and take about 5 months.

After a year of negotiating with Lexington's planning staff, Louisville developer Gary Joy said on Thursday he will comply with all of the city's design requests for the CVS pharmacy planned for the intersection of Main and Vine streets.

The city's planning staff sent Joy an e-mail on July 1 setting out seven requested architectural changes. These include using only one color of brick and making the entrance three dimensional rather than a flat "false front."

"We're agreeable to everything on there," Joy said of the city's requests.

He said he had forwarded the e-mail to his architect with instructions to incorporate the "final changes" into the building. The design for the building has also been approved by CVS corporate headquarters, he said.

Joy expressed confidence that his new design would meet the city's demands and said he is moving forward with construction documents needed to apply for a building permit. Joy builds all CVS pharmacies in Kentucky.

He said he hopes to break ground in mid-September. Construction is expected to take five and one-half months, with the pharmacy opening in mid-March.

Chris King, Lexington's director of planning, said on Thursday he had not seen the new drawings, but the planning staff is ready to give its approval if Joy makes the changes. A building permit will not be issued until the planning staff gives its approval.

The design of the pharmacy that will sit at one of Lexington's most high-profile entries to downtown has been an issue. City officials want to make sure the store looks less like a big-box store in a suburban mall and more like the multi-story buildings that line downtown streets.

Joy had made some changes to the original design, but not enough for a local non-profit group called Progress Lex, which started a petition drive in May to give the pharmacy a more urban look.

Joy said a challenge was to "try to define what urban design is."

"I'd say we have done not less than 15 to 18 concepts and refinements," he said on Thursday.

In the end, he said the new store's design will be "one that everyone else is going to Google around the nation to say, 'We want an urban design like this one.' "

Most suburban CVS stores have few windows, small amounts of brick, big red doors and red CVS signs on every side.

The CVS in downtown Lexington has come a long way from its original design. Previous compromises include making the front of the building taller, using an all brick facade with stone accents, setting the building closer to the street, using exterior gooseneck lighting fixtures, and installing an aluminum door.

The store will have a drive-through window and a parking lot accessible from both Main and Vine streets.

The former Integra Bank building and the Heritage Antiques building were razed earlier this year to make way for the CVS. A pile of gravel and weeds remain on the site.

Owners of the property could not be reached for comment Thursday. Joy speculated that the gravel will be used to bring the site to grade level.

Unlike many cities, Lexington does not have broad-based design standards to make sure new construction in the downtown area is historically and architecturally compatible with existing buildings.

There is a design review board that approves plans around the old and new courthouses in downtown, but that does not cover the CVS location. Besides that zone, only designated historic districts have rules that require property owners to get approval for exterior changes.

A task force is being appointed by Vice Mayor Jim Gray to come up with design guidelines for downtown. The task force will also define the area to be covered by design standards.

Urban County Councilman Tom Blues will chair the task force made up of six council members, who will vote, and about 15 others with expertise in areas such as planning, design and architecture.

Council members include Vice Mayor Jim Gray, council-at-large member Linda Gorton, and district council members Julian Beard, Kevin Stinnett and Ed Lane.

The final list of other appointments should be completed in the next few days, Blues said.

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