Community foundation buys key space in long-vacant condo complex

High Point at Woodland Park  on February 12, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
High Point at Woodland Park on February 12, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

The Blue Grass Community Foundation has bought the first-floor retail space in the long-vacant High Point at Woodland Park condominium project at East High Street and Woodland Avenue. It is scheduled to be open in its new spot March 1.

Moving fulfilled the foundation's goals to be "very visible, very accessible" to the community while remaining in the downtown area, said president and CEO Lisa Adkins said.

The Blue Grass Community Foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life in the region by encouraging philanthropy and fostering leadership.

"We help people and organizations establish charitable funds and ensure that giving is simple, organized and effective," Adkins said.

Foundation assets have grown from $30 million to $63 million in the past three years, she said.

The organization, which has seven employees, bought the 4,200-square-foot space at 499 East High Street for $435,000 from Central Bank & Trust. The foundation is moving from the Financial Center on West Main Street.

Luther Deaton Jr., CEO of Central Bank, called the transaction "a good deal for them and a good deal for us. That will give activity in there."

Except for a handful of condos that have sold, the building has sat empty for years. Now, Deaton said, the public will see "a respectable company in there. That will probably help us."

Construction of what was then called The Mark Lofts at Woodland Park was halted in 2008 after developers ran out of money when the building was about three-quarters finished.

Central Bank bought the project for $5 million at a court-ordered foreclosure sale late in 2008 after the Tribecca Development Co. defaulted on $8.2 million in loans and Visa card payments.

Once it bought the failed project, Central Bank changed the name from The Mark Lofts to High Point. Large portions of the building were reworked. Poor-quality brick was replaced. The majority of window casements and panes of glass were replaced.

The 36 condos have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. "I probably overdid it," Deaton said of the upgrades. "But I didn't want an eyesore with our name on it."

Condos range in size from 1,000 to 1,700 square feet. Twelve are two-story penthouses; 24 are one-bedroom units. Most units that have sold have been in the $370,000 price range, Deaton said. One small unit sold for $225,000.

Deaton said the bank is not discounting units just to make a sale.

"In today's economic climate, people are looking for a deal, and I don't blame them," he said. "We know what these condos are worth. We're going to stick by our guns."

People can buy a similar-size condo elsewhere for less money, Deaton said, "but they're not getting the same quality."

High Point is for sale as a whole or unit by unit. Central Bank has about $14 million invested in the project, Deaton said.

The bank decided after it bought the project that it would not lease the units. "I don't want to be in the leasing business," Deaton said. "I'm not going to lease them and let (people) start tearing up good property and downgrade them."