Fayette County

Leader who guided 21c Hotel, courthouse reinvention projects leaving downtown post

Jeff Fugate photographed looking towards the East End in Lexington Ky., Monday, August 26, 2013. Fugate has decided to leave the Downtown Development Authority after more than five years.
Jeff Fugate photographed looking towards the East End in Lexington Ky., Monday, August 26, 2013. Fugate has decided to leave the Downtown Development Authority after more than five years. Charles Bertram

The director of Lexington’s Downtown Development Authority has withdrawn his application to head a new organization that will oversee development and event planning in downtown Lexington.

Jeff Fugate, who has been president of the Downtown Development Authority since January 2012, withdrew his name from consideration Tuesday to be the executive director of the Downtown Lexington Partnership, a new umbrella group that will combine the Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Lexington Corporation.

The Downtown Lexington Corporation is responsible for marketing downtown and hosts many events, such as the popular Thursday Night Live concert series. The Downtown Development Authority promotes and facilitates development in the downtown core, among other duties.

Fugate helped secure financing for the 21c Museum Hotel on Main Street, oversaw the beginning stages of the renovation and reinvention of the former Fayette County courthouse, and steered the design process for Town Branch Commons, a more than two-mile stretch of trail that will eventually connect Town Branch Trail with Legacy Trail.

In an email to the board overseeing the merger of the two agencies, Fugate said he was withdrawing his application to lead the Downtown Lexington Partnership after “lengthy consideration.”

“While I have found the work personally rewarding, and while there is much opportunity ahead for the Partnership, I have decided to pursue other paths,” Fugate said.

In an interview, Fugate said he will remain with the Downtown Development Authority until the two groups are combined and the transition is completed, which will likely happen by Oct. 1.

Fugate said he is pursuing other opportunities.

“There are several new things in the works,” he said.

Fugate’s decision to withdraw his application comes six weeks after Alan Stein, who was hired to help oversee the merger of the two groups, stepped down after he was charged with driving under the influence. Renee Shepard, the longtime director of the Downtown Lexington Corporation, resigned in August 2016. Kathryn Minton, another longtime staff member, has served as interim director since Shepard resigned.

Stephen Grossman, chairman of the Downtown Lexington Partnership, said the new agency can rely on Minton and long-serving board members of the previous organizations to provide institutional knowledge as it grows.

The 21c Museum Hotel opened Monday in Lexington in the historic Fayette National Bank Building at Main and Upper streets.

The two groups plan to combine on Oct. 1 and will move into new office space on High Street.

Grossman said the agency will likely announce a new executive director before Oct. 1. Nineteen people, including Fugate, applied for the job. Seven of those people were from out of state, Grossman said.

“We got a lot of very qualified candidates with a lot of experience with development,” Grossman said. “I was sad to see Jeff take his name out. He has done a lot in his time here, including the 21c.”

The new boutique hotel has modern art in every room and the galleries, which will have rotating exhibits, are open to the public.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

  Comments