Preliminary work began this week on the complex and complicated process of moving a mid-20th-century bank building on South Broadway in Lexington to a new site on High Street.
Crews began removing the former Peoples Bank from its concrete foundation this week, the first step in a multi-pronged effort to move the distinct building with its turquoise tiles and zig-zag roof a few football-field lengths across the Rupp Arena parking lot to its new home near High and Patterson streets.
“The Peoples has just begun an eight- to 10-month process with many moving parts,” said Laurel Catto of the Warwick Foundation, a nonprofit that has spearheaded efforts to save the building from demolition and move it. “Needless to say, this is a delicate process. Unlike wood buildings, concrete and masonry buildings don’t allow for much, if any, torque.”
Because there is so much involved with the move, a definitive timetable is nearly impossible to pin down. “Weather is also a major factor, as the building cannot be moved during wet conditions,” Catto said.
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In addition to removing the bank from its concrete foundation, roof supports and other supports must be added around the bank in preparation for its move. Then the building must be lifted, followed by a test move. Moving the building across the Rupp lot probably won’t occur until August and could take six days.
But the group has promised the Lexington Center Corp., which has donated the site and owns the Rupp Arena parking lot, that the building will be moved by Sept. 9, when the Ringling Brothers Circus is scheduled to begin a three-day engagement at Rupp.
The building will be at the site by then, but more prep work must be done, including re-creating a tiered exterior staircase and pouring a new foundation.
The foundation will be poured after the building is in place, Catto said, “with plumb lines dropped from the walls to show the exact location of the footers.”
After the building is moved and on its new foundation, it will be restored. That includes new glass, utilities, heat and electrical plumbing, new bathrooms and a catering kitchen. Work on the interior will take a minimum of six months, Catto said.
“We hope to be up and operating as the Peoples Portal in the spring of 2017,” Catto said.
Warwick Foundation will operate the Peoples Portal when it opens. It will be used for community meetings focusing on diversity and inclusion but will be available for private events, such as wedding receptions and corporate events.
The fate of the Charles Bayless-designed building, which was completed in 1962, has been in question for years. A proposed movie complex on the same block — which has yet to begin construction — meant the bank would have to be torn down. A social media uprising over the bank’s imminent demolition led the Warwick Foundation to step in and help spearhead fundraising efforts to save it.
The total cost to move the bank is $1.3 million. The group had to ask donors — including the city of Lexington — for additional money after bids to move the building came in higher than expected earlier this year.
Langley Properties has donated the building to Warwick and has given the group $75,000. The city has given $300,000. Lexington Center Corp. has given the group $75,000, and Warwick has pledged to raise $600,000. The public and other foundations have given $260,000.
In addition, dozens of contractors have donated in-kind donations.
“We have been overwhelmed by the number of local businesses that are giving in-kind services,” Catto said.
The group needs more money to help with renovations to the inside of the building.
Catto said the site will be closed much of the summer as crews work to move the building.
“We will try to offer opportunities for the public to see the project at times when it is safe to do so,” Catto said. “We are considering one more more event tied to the move path that would allow the community to celebrate its great accomplishment in saving this building.”