Park Plaza apartment buildings to get $2 million renovation

Park Plaza apartment building in downtown Lexington, Friday August 31, 2012. The Lexington Public Library is at left and Phoenix Park is in the foreground. Photo by Ron Garrison | Staff
Park Plaza apartment building in downtown Lexington, Friday August 31, 2012. The Lexington Public Library is at left and Phoenix Park is in the foreground. Photo by Ron Garrison | Staff Herald-Leader

The Park Plaza apartment building in downtown Lexington will begin a $2 million renovation Tuesday that will add 5,000 square feet of first floor space suitable for retail establishments and a restaurant.

This additional space will come by enclosing a 20-feet building overhang that extends over a concrete walkway around the front of the 21-story building at 102 East Main Street.

"It's now a walkway to nothing," owner Dennis Anderson, a Lexington developer, told a Herald-Leader reporter Friday. He declined to name restaurants interested in the space.

Other changes scheduled for the largest apartment building in the center of downtown will be a new entrance on the Main Street side, three penthouses, eight apartments, a new fitness room and an outdoor hot tub. A 5-foot wide sidewalk will be installed around the building, with new lighting and exterior signage.

An elevator for the exclusive use of residents has been installed on the back of Park Plaza, with access from the public library's parking garage. This will give residents direct access from the parking garage to their own floor.

"Now when we have groceries, we have to park in the garage, unload our groceries, take the elevator down to the first floor, go through the lobby and get the elevator to our floor," said Joan Lyons, an 11-year resident. "This will make it so much better."

The building's lobby will be tripled in size and become a space where residents can watch television and socialize. Architect Rebecca Burnworth with Albert + Burnworth Architecture said Anderson's idea for the lobby design "was to really foster a sense of community among residents."

A hallmark of Anderson's projects, such as Meadowthorpe's Townley Center and University Village near the University of Kentucky, is designing space that "deliberately helps people connect and creates a sense of community," he said. "Social interaction contributes to the happiness of residents, and that's good business for us."

Lauren Holman, a former resident who now is the leasing agent for Park Plaza, said residents have a monthly potluck supper, Halloween and Fourth of July parties.

"Residents are so excited about the renovation," she said.

With businesses moving into downtown, Anderson said he wanted to update his building, to give it "a shot of energy."

Other developments by Anderson, a licensed pharmacist, include McConnells Trace, Still Meadows and Cottages of Laclede.

Park Plaza, built in the mid-1980's by former Gov. Wallace Wilkinson, has 201 units.

Anderson bought the building eight years ago and immediately did $1 million in upgrades.

"The AC didn't work. The hallways were dirty. We couldn't get a management staff that wanted to come down here because of the condition of the building," Anderson said. About every 10 years a building needs refurbishing, he said.

Rent in Park Plaza ranges from $900 to $1,900 a month. Occupancy rate is over 97 percent with only three units currently available, he said.

Anderson described the mix of tenants as "Noah's ark" with university students, young professionals, retired couples and physically disabled individuals.

Lyons, 82, moved in after her husband died because it was a safe environment. But the apartment building also has become like a neighborhood. She likes to shop downtown at Shorty's Urban Market and Shorty's Cellar wine shop on West Short Street.

"Most of us know each other. Most of us have dogs and the dogs know each other," Lyons said.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader