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Design board to review tweaks to Lexington's 21c Museum Hotel

The First National Building at Main and Upper streets will be the new 21c Museum Hotel. Some surprises have delayed the project and raised the total cost.
The First National Building at Main and Upper streets will be the new 21c Museum Hotel. Some surprises have delayed the project and raised the total cost. Lexington Herald-Leader

The Courthouse Area Design Review Board will review slight tweaks to the design of Lexington's 21c Museum Hotel at its meeting Wednesday.

Architects of the 21c Museum Hotel filed revised plans in mid-October for the hotel in downtown Lexington. The revisions appear to be minor; changes were made to the proposed penthouse at the top of the former First National Building. The project also includes adjoining buildings at Main and Upper streets. The much-heralded project has been delayed because of unforeseen problems including water in the basement and unexpected environmental remediation.

The project entails turning the properties into a 90-room hotel and a restaurant.

The 21c Museum Hotel design was first approved by the board last year. The plans submitted Oct. 14 show some minor changes to the design, which preserves the facade of the historical First National Building, which was designed by renowned architects McKim, Mead & White.

Some of the changes that the board will consider include adding a retractable awning to a penthouse on the top of the First National Building, adding glass to some of the railings of the penthouse suite, and some changes to the back and front of the buildings.

The project will cost as much as $40.5 million. Organizers said in September that they hope to start construction by the end of this year and to open by 2015.

The first 21c Museum Hotel, accented with its signature red penguins, opened in Louisville in 2006. Since then, others have opened in Cincinnati (with yellow penguins) and Bentonville, Ark. (green), and one is under construction in Durham, N.C. (color undecided).

The hotels have won awards for their combination of modern art, innovative dining and top service.

The city and the state have committed federal and state money, including $9 million in state tax incentives over a decade, a $6 million loan backed by federal Housing and Urban Development money, a separate $1 million loan from the city, and $5.8 million in tax-increment financing.

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