Fayette County

Fate of Lexington’s Peoples Bank building uncertain after move suspended

The former Peoples Bank building on South Broadway in Lexington was supposed to be moved across the Rupp Arena parking lot to make way for a 12-screen movie theater complex, but the move has been delayed indefinitely. Steel beams had been placed inside the building for the move.
The former Peoples Bank building on South Broadway in Lexington was supposed to be moved across the Rupp Arena parking lot to make way for a 12-screen movie theater complex, but the move has been delayed indefinitely. Steel beams had been placed inside the building for the move. cbertram@herald-leader.com

The effort to move and save a mid-20th-century bank building on South Broadway in Lexington has been suspended after a dispute with the moving contractor and a missed moving deadline, leaving the future of the project in doubt.

Laurel Catto of the Warwick Foundation, a nonprofit that is spearheading efforts to save the former Peoples Bank, said Wednesday a contractor hired to move the building a short distance from its current location across the Rupp Arena parking lot to a new location on High Street missed the Sept. 9 moving deadline. The building — with its accordion-style roof and turquoise color scheme — is considered a significant example of mid-20th-century modern architecture.

The moving contractor has left the project. The contractor’s father, who was a partner in the moving business, suffered a stroke and died in late August. That death and other delays made it impossible for the building to be moved by Sept. 9, Catto said.

The effort to save the bank was prompted by the announcement that a 12-theater movie complex would be built on the same block. The bank building originally was supposed to be demolished for a construction staging area for the theater. It’s also likely that an entrance to a parking garage between the bank’s current site and the theater site will have to be re-routed.

Scott Davidson of Langley Properties, which owns the bank building and part of the site where the theater is scheduled to be built, said Wednesday construction on the theater has not started. It’s not clear when construction would begin.

“We will do what we can to work with them,” Davidson said of the moving project. “We have not established a specific timeline (for the theater construction).”

Catto said the moving project has not been scrapped but has been stalled as the group tries to figure out if the project -— which includes $375,000 in city and other public money — can move forward.

“We are trying to do everything that we can to make this project a success at the same time we have to limit risk to our donors,” Catto said.

A work group including preservationists and key fundraisers will meet Thursday to discuss possible steps forward. Catto said a final resolution will likely not be reached Thursday.

“This is a several week process,” Catto said. “It’s a hard reset of the project. We need to figure out where we are in financial terms and operational terms.”

If the project is revived, the building would be moved across the parking lot managed by Lexington Center Corp., which oversees Rupp Arena. The timeline for the move had been set for late August because Rupp Arena was going through renovations this summer and had no events then. If the group can get another mover, they would have to find a time when Rupp Arena did not have events. Rupp Arena had asked that the building be moved by Sept. 9, which is when Rupp reopened.

Bill Owen, president and CEO of Lexington Center Corp., said the University of Kentucky mens’ basketball season starts in mid-October with exhibition games. Rupp Arena and the attached convention center have a busy next few months ahead.

The original plans called for the Warwick Foundation to take over the operations of the bank building when it is moved. It would be called the Peoples Portal and its programming would focus on inclusion and cross-cultural education. Warwick has said the building could also be rented for events such as weddings and other receptions, which would offset the operations cost.

The total cost of the project is $1.3 million. The Warwick Foundation has pledged more than $600,000. About $250,000 came from grants and individuals, along with $75,000 from Robert Langley and Langley Properties; $75,000 from Lexington Center Corp., and $300,000 from the city of Lexington.

If the project is scrapped, it’s not clear what will happen to the money. Some of that money has already been spent to pay the contractor.

“We owe the people who have invested in this project (to look at ways to move forward),” Catto said. “We will make a full accounting to all of our partners.”

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

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