Op-Ed

Council delay of design excellence discourages development

In July, one of the tower cranes set up for the CentrePointe development lifted mechanical equipment to the roof of the future 21C Museum Hotel at West Main and North Upper streets.
In July, one of the tower cranes set up for the CentrePointe development lifted mechanical equipment to the roof of the future 21C Museum Hotel at West Main and North Upper streets. Herald-Leader

Last week the Urban County Council once again delayed movement on a design excellence initiative that has been almost seven years in the making. This design initiative was catalyzed by the enormous outpouring of dismay at the original buildings proposed for CentrePointe, and further encouraged by a similar reaction to the proposal for a one-story, suburban-style pharmacy for the pivotal corner of Vine and Main.

Either one of these projects would have been terrible for the city, branding it in a way that would work against the quality of life we can all envision and hope for.

But the design excellence guidelines wouldn't have just said "no" to these proposals. They would have provided a framework making it easier for the developers to find solutions that would have been met with a resounding "yes."

There are many alternatives for the same sites that would be fantastic for Lexington and would simultaneously serve the objectives of the developers.

To prevent the sort of guessing game that currently plagues new work in our downtown, all that is required are simple descriptions of design objectives that would best augment Lexington's urban fabric. This is precisely the void filled by the design excellence initiative. The initiative includes guidelines tuned to specific locales and a carefully structured method for executing these guidelines.

The initiative developed over more than five years from discussions, research and analysis by a task force comprised of developers, business people, design professionals, citizens and council members with the expert assistance of professional planning staff.

Opinions and feedback from all sectors were honored and adjustments made accordingly. The initiative is truly excellent. We need simple parameters and assistance to help developers find solutions suitable for their needs and for the city.

The council made a mistake in putting this off. I hope they will move to adopt the initiative at the next opportunity.

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