The latest design of the long-discussed CentrePointe project in the center of downtown Lexington was granted lukewarm approval Wednesday afternoon by the Courthouse Area Design Review Board as the specter of the project falling through hung over the panel.
Developer Dudley Webb and his legal council Darby Turner told the design review board that failure to receive approval on the project as a whole would lead to the loss of a major tenant in the planned 10-story office building. The unnamed group’s need to go into new office space and a desire not to be surrounded by construction mandated action no later than today.
“It’s a deal breaker,” Webb said.
A short recess in the proceedings gave Webb and Turner an opportunity to confer on the phone with the potential tenant, which Turner said would sign a lease if everything but the cosmetics of the proposed apartment building on the CentrePointe block were set and ready to go.
“We have to walk out of here today with your approval,” said Rick Ekhoff, design principal for EOP Architects, the firm designing the four buildings that would eventually make up CentrePointe. “That doesn’t mean the design process stops; that doesn’t mean we put down our pencils and go right into the construction documents. It means we continue to tweak, we continue to talk, we continue to improve where improvement’s needed.”
After nearly three hours, the five-person board granted approval of the project’s design, with the exception of materials to be used on the seven-story apartment building and other design tweaks on the building, by a vote of 2-1.
Architect Graham Pohl, the board’s design professional, abstained from voting. Michael Meuser, the preservation professional representative on the board and the board’s chair, did not vote, as is common for the chair.
Kevin Atkins, Lexington’s chief development officer, the head of economic development for Mayor Jim Gray, was the dissenting vote.
Atkins expressed concern about the design of both the hotel and the apartments, at one point stating the apartments “quite honestly look like they were moved down two or three blocks from another development.”
Much of the meeting centered around concerns over the look of the apartment building, which will house around 60 one-bedroom and 40 two-bedroom apartments.
The final vote allowed for the footprint of the apartment building to stay in place, as well as the interior layout including balconies, but required Webb and Ekhoff to return with plans to make the building’s exterior look more like the neighborhood it is in. Webb said the layout of the building had to be set now so a three-story, 700-space underground parking garage could be designed and constructed with the knowledge of where to place infrastructure for the apartment building, including elevator shafts and plumbing.