The demolition rubble is nearly hauled away at the corner of Main and Vine streets, but the dispute over what comes next may not be cleared so quickly.
At issue is the design of the CVS pharmacy destined to sit at one of downtown Lexington's most high-profile entries. City officials are working with Louisville developer Gary Joy to make the store look less like a big box in a strip mall and more like something that is appropriate for downtown.
Joy has made some changes to the design but not enough for a local non-profit called Progress Lex, which has started a petition drive to make the design better (www.progresslex.org/lexington-deserves-better/).
There is one thing on which the two sides do agree, however: the need for design standards for new construction in all of downtown Lexington.
Unlike many other urban areas around the country, Lexington does not have broad-based design standards to make sure new construction downtown is historically and architecturally sensitive to what's already there.
The city does have a design review board that approves plans around the old and new courthouses downtown. Besides that zone, only historic districts have rules that require property owners to get approval for exterior changes. The CVS location is not in a designated historic district, but it is considered part of downtown.
Joy said it's been a challenge to "try to define what urban design is."
Graham Pohl, a local architect who serves on the board of Progress Lex, says broad design guidelines are key to any future discussions of downtown development.
The CVS design has come a long way from its initial stages, Pohl said: "It was really bad. It's all about branding, and it's not about a response to the urban condition."
Most suburban CVS stores are windowless, stucco boxes with big red doors and red CVS signs on every side.
The compromises on the downtown store include a facade that is about two-thirds brick, more uniformity to the windows, a wrought-iron fence with stone columns; exterior gooseneck lighting fixtures, and an aluminum door rather than a bright red one in the front.
It will also have parking and a drive-through window. Traffic can access the lot from either Main or Vine streets.
Joy is meeting with city planning staff later this week to work out additional details, including more windows. He said it's the first time he's been asked to design an urban-looking CVS in Kentucky.
How high is the bar?
At previous meetings with city officials, lawyers for Joy said a major drug store would not build without a drive-through, according to minutes from a Board of Adjustment meeting last year.
That's not always the case.
A brick, windowed CVS without a drive-through was built in Davidson, N.C., a town of just 10,000 that adopted downtown design guidelines in 2001. It also has a design review board that oversees each step of construction.
Davidson Planning Director Kris Krider said the guidelines require two-story buildings that are 65 percent glass on the first level and 30 percent glass on the second. Neither stucco facades nor drive-throughs are permitted, and signage is restricted.
CVS didn't have a choice in the matter in Davidson, and Krider said the company has told him sales at that location are double those of an older suburban location there.
Design guidelines "give the community the opportunity to say how high the bar is, but you have to have it in writing before they come to town," Krider said. "You are basically saying 'this is what we like about our downtown and this is how we want new things to look.'"
Lexington has traditionally resisted such guidelines because they are thought to be bad for business, said Scott Guyon, an architect who has designed two residential developments on West Main Street.
But "it's good for your business to involve higher forms of visual design," Guyon said. "People respond to things that are considered and designed in a better way."
A design review board has to have people who are "comfortable with the mediation of architecture and commerce," Guyon said.
The issue of design guidelines became a hot one a few years ago over the CentrePointe development on Main Street because many people objected to the multi-story retail and hotel space that did not appear to fit in with the buildings around it.
At the end of the month, Chris King, the city's director of planning, will present an overview to the city council on possible ways to adopt design guidelines downtown.
The city council would have to pass any such rules, which have not been considered before, King said. Two years ago, Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray debated the issue; Newberry said he was opposed to design guidelines, while Gray said he wanted to study the issue further.
On Wednesday, Newberry said he is now open to the idea of design guidelines. "Ultimately, my support will depend upon the specific proposal," he said.
Gray said he supports design guidelines.