Fayette County

Lexington may pay for sidewalk improvements in area of new 21c Museum Hotel

Lexington's 21c Museum Hotel is expected to open next year in the First National Building, right.
Lexington's 21c Museum Hotel is expected to open next year in the First National Building, right. Herald-Leader

The city of Lexington might be paying the new 21c Museum Hotel more than $200,000 to replace sidewalks and put in other improvements on North Upper Street.

The project — from Main Street to Short Street — would install new curbs, sidewalks, planting beds and other planters, trees, bike racks and benches. The hotel building — in a 15-story former bank at West Main and North Upper streets downtown — is undergoing renovations. It is slated to open in February.

Several Urban County Council members raised questions Tuesday about why the city would pay 21c to do the work.

It will be several weeks before the council will take a final vote on authorizing $207,786 to 21c for the sidewalk project. David Holmes, Environmental Quality and Public Works commissioner, said at a council work session that the hotel would hire a subcontractor to do the work.

Councilman Kevin Stinnett asked whether the hotel was going to pick up some of the cost. He questioned where the city was getting the money.

Holmes said he was not sure how much money the hotel was going to put into the sidewalk restoration project, which will include additional features.

Holmes said after the meeting that the $207,000 price tag is for planters, bike racks and planting beds similar to streetscape improvements on Main and Vine streets.

Contractors or developers are responsible for restoring public property such as sidewalks if it is damaged during a construction project. 21c would be required only to put in a concrete sidewalk in front of the hotel. The project would extend past the hotel and include the entire length of Upper Street between Main and Short streets.

That block of North Upper Street, which has been closed for months during construction of the boutique hotel, also will be repaved, Holmes said.

He said money left over from a Main and Vine street streetscape project would be used to pay for the sidewalk project.

But Stinnett and other council members said they were not aware there was money left from the Main and Vine street project, which was completed several years ago. Stinnett asked that the council be provided with a breakdown of funds in that account.

Councilwoman Susan Lamb also asked the city to explain to businesses on Short Street the time line for the project. Businesses on Short and Upper streets have complained about construction traffic and lack of communication from the city.

If the city has a plan, "Can we make sure we share it with them ahead of time?" Lamb said.

Holmes promised he would communicate with the businesses and also promised Stinnett that he would provide the council with schematics of the proposed sidewalk improvements before the council takes a final vote. Holmes said after Tuesday's meeting that officials would meet with other businesses on North Upper Street to determine what types of amenities they want in front of their businesses.

If the council gives its approval, work could begin within a few weeks, he said.