Tom Eblen

Long-vacant bus station was almost demolished. Now, it will become a market and more.

A long-vacant historic bus terminal in North Lexington once slated for demolition will become a complex that includes a public market, stores, offices, a radio studio, a trade school and event space.

Chad Needham, who has renovated 42 old buildings north of downtown since 2009, purchased the 5-acre property at the northwest corner of North Limestone Street and West Loudon Avenue in January from Lextran for $1.35 million.

“Structurally it's in fantastic shape, and you've got all these great windows,” said Needham, who has a talent for re-imagining and profitably renovating decrepit structures most developers would be afraid to touch.

“I’ve driven by this building for the last 10 years and always had a vision that it could be something better than what it is,” he said. “Finally, we’re able to make this happen.”

The complex, which from 1928 until 1960 was the headquarters of Consolidated Coach Corp., later called Southeast Greyhound Line, includes three buildings with a total of 81,000 square feet and a lot with 400 parking spaces.

Work will soon begin on turning an 11,000-square-foot building on the northwest edge of the property into the new home of the Building Institute of Central Kentucky, a trade school operated by the local Building Industry Association.

The rest of the complex, fronting on Loudon and North Limestone, will become Greyline Station & Market, a mixed-use development. The main Art Deco-style building, which was the bus company’s offices, will house offices and shops.

North Lime Coffee and Donuts, which opened in 2012 in a former liquor store Needham renovated at North Limestone and West Sixth streets, will move to Greyline because it needs more space to expand.

The complex’s most interesting feature is a cavernous, 200-foot-long bus shed with clerestory windows and exposed steel beams.

Much of the shed will become a public market operated by the North Limestone Community Development Corp., a non-profit known as NoLi CDC that runs the popular monthly Night Market on Bryan Avenue.

As part of its Knight Cities Challenge, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2014 gave NoLi CDC a $550,000 grant to develop a public market to improve access to fresh food and entrepreneurial shop space in the neighborhood.

“I get a lot of calls for what I call micro-retail,” Needham said. “I think that's a huge opportunity for this market.”

Other parts of shed will be divided into shops facing North Limestone. Lexington Community Radio, now housed in cramped quarters at the Fayette County Public Schools’ STEAM Academy two blocks away, also plans to move there.

“This is all part of our growth strategy,” said Debra Hensley, founder of the low-power FM stations WLXU (English) and WLXL (Spanish).

About 9,000 square feet will be enclosed and turned into event space called Clerestory by Shelly Fortune, a wedding and event planner. It will be available for public rental and open catering.

“We have seen the need for a larger downtown venue that is one cohesive space and can accommodate a large group,” she said. “While the space will feel elevated and fresh, it will still have an industrial feel.”

Consolidated Coach Corp., an early leader in regional bus transportation and one of Lexington’s largest employers in the 1940s, was folded into the national Greyhound system and stopped using the building in 1960. The building also was used for a time by Kitchen Planning Center. Lextran later acquired it.

After getting a federal grant for a new headquarters, Lextran planned to build there. But in 2011 the station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Lextran decided to sell and build its new headquarters further west on Loudon.

Since then, several groups have been trying to find a feasible way to renovate and reuse the large complex to improve the neighborhood. Needham partnered with NoLi CDC on the project last year.

"When it gets done, I'm confident that it's going to be a great product for a very fair price,” said Needham, who hopes to have much of the facility finished by fall 2019. “That's what I've been able to create all along Limestone.”

“Chad is a great guy, visionary, and committed to the No-Li progress,” Hensley said. “He puts his soul into his work and has contributed ‘blood, sweat, tears’ and lots of money in the area.”