Thanks to the hard work, vision and generosity of many, the pieces of the puzzle have just about fallen into place to save and reopen the Peoples Bank building.
Monday the Civic Center Board announced it had agreed to let the Warwick Foundation move the 1960s jewel with the zig-zag roof from its home on South Broadway a few hundred yards to the back of the Rupp parking lot, at the corner of High and Patterson streets.
There, under the Warwick Foundation's management, it will become the People's Portal, a public space for lectures, exhibits, films and other events aimed at promoting respect, compassion, understanding and inclusion.
The building itself embodies those qualities, an example of what can happen for the good when people work together.
Lexington has a long list of buildings that have fallen to the wrecking ball amid pain, division and controversy. That list could begin on the very sight where Peoples Bank will find its new home. An entire neighborhood was destroyed in the 1970s to make way for Rupp and its parking. More recently, the CentrePointe block, home to some of the oldest commercial buildings in the city, was leveled in 2008 to make way for a development that has never materialized. And, of course, the University of Kentucky rejected calls to rehab or relocate outstanding works by noted architect and UK professor Ernst Johnson to make way for new, nondescript structures.
So, it was hard to hold out hope that the small, quirky Peoples Bank could be saved. The obstacles were enormous. The owner, Robert Langley of Langley Properties, had sold the property to make way for a 12-screen movie theater and had taken out a demolition permit for the building, which had been vacant for years. However, Langley ultimately agreed to donate the building if those who wanted to save it could find a new home and raise the money -- $850,000 -- to move and restore it. With construction looming, they had only until the end of this month to get all that done. Sunday, more than 100 people contributed $20 each to see the inside of Peoples Bank (Langley allowed those trying to save it to open it to the public) and by Monday the effort lacked only about $48,000. The support has been broad: the Urban County Council budgeted $150,000 for it, the Warwick Foundation committed $300,000, a foundation in Paris put in $30,000 and the Bluegrass Trust has helped out. Over $11,000 has come from small individual contributions.
The Peoples Bank, designed by Lexington architect Charles Bayless, is an exciting example of modern mid-20th century commercial architecture. At this moment when we are contemplating how to remember a more distant past, it is heartening that the community has come together to preserve this rare example of a more recent era, and give it new life.