In the excitement of the 21c Museum Hotel announcement, we shouldn't forget mistakes that have taken a toll on our urban core.
Downtown, already hit by the recession, suffered a double-whammy as a result of the CentrePointe fiasco. Across the street from the 21c site there once was a collection of some of Lexington's most historic commercial buildings we now have grassland.
But then came CentrePointe, a $250 million hotel-condo-office-retail project proposed for the block bounded by Main, Limestone, Upper and Vine. Despite intense opposition, the developer, the Webb Companies, got permission to tear down the buildings on the block, including those in the protected Courthouse Design Zone. The Webbs moved quickly to level the block in the summer of 2008.
As it turned out, a mystery financier the Webbs never identified also never materialized before we were told he died.
As months passed without any building on the site, community activists and some council members began talking about developing an ordinance that would require a builder to put up a bond to assure construction would go forward before demolishing structures in a protected area.
Now, four years later, there's no CentrePointe building and no ordinance. Work has finally begun on establishing design standards for new buildings in Lexington, another effort that gained support as a result of the CentrePointe controversy.
However, until the city passes an ordinance requiring assurances before demolition, it could all happen again.
Now, with the excitement over 21c drawn to Lexington in part by an historic building, some of the potential destroyed on the facing block is more clear than ever.
Mayor Jim Gray talks about Lexington as "the next great American city." That's an exciting an ambition but it's one that will only be achieved by learning from our mistakes.