Sep 052012

Letter to Mr. Fallon

By Mary Grace Barry

There were several startling things in the Herald-Leader article that splashed across the front page on August 27. “Victorian Square returns to ownership of The Webb Companies” ran the title, as if it were an old timey “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” moment.

One of those startling things was the quiet refusal to probe deeper as to why Victorian Square was listed for sale in mid-January at $7.25 million, assessed at $1.4 million, and sold at $1.7 million.

That aside, the strangest thing was the sense of time warp. So we’re back in the 80s with the Webbs redeveloping a space based on a popular model? (The boutique plan that Victorian Square uses also popped up in bigger cities in the 80s, often in re-purposed buildings like downtown train stations. While popular, it failed in places like Indianapolis and clearly has failed here.)

And now the Webbs, with Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc. of Cincinnati, want to do the currently popular thing: turn downtown life more toward a generic commercial district with big chain restaurants that pull suburbanites downtown.

Enter Mark Fallon, vice president of real estate leasing for Anderson. The Herald-Leader article reports that Fallon “gets” Lexington because he has worked on the recasting of Lexington Green as a fashion destination. During that project, evidently he felt he also became familiar with downtown LexVegas. His assessment: it was lacking.

His negative assessment led to this urban development blather, reported by the Herald-Leader: “Downtown has fantastic downtown hotels, Rupp Arena is in walking distance from the University of Kentucky, most of the business infrastructure is based in downtown, but what it needs is a traffic generator like The Banks [in Cincinnati] to bring more people downtown.”

Look Mr. Fallon (and others blathering the same sentiments), downtown Lexington is incredibly vibrant right now. I travel through downtown almost every day of the week by car or on foot. There is not one day when the streets are deserted, as they are in bigger cities like Indianapolis, Cleveland, or Columbus. The truth is, downtown doesn’t need more people. They are there—but evidently, the type of downtown patrons we currently have (young urban professionals, the artistic crowd, culture hounds, families, foodies, Thursday Night Live imbibers, general city folk) don’t count in your book. For you, the people who count are the ones who will drive downtown (and find limited parking) in order to eat at…(drum-roll)…Johnny Rockets.

Mr. Fallon, that type of shit is off Nicholasville Road (near, um, Lexington Green). Let it be there, that’s fine. When we want Olive Garden, we’ll pay the price by driving down Nicholasville. Don’t pretend to know our city, cuz you don’t. Right now, you can’t beat downtown Lexington for flurry and activity. Oh, and all you councilmembers who are convinced that we need to bring more people downtown, look away from the $300k consultants’ studies for a moment and use your own two eyes: downtown LexVegas is hip-happenin’.

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  One Response to “Have you been downtown?”

  1. Have you seen the chain restaurants the Webbs are touting for Victorian Square? I don’t know if Olive Garden is involved, but not much different. I have to give it to the Webbs, though. They have the game down: sell high, wait for collapse, buy low. Repeat. Of course, the repeat is because we let them do it. Festival Market, Centre Pitt, and now Victorian Square. Sherman did less damage to Georgia. (OK. Over the top there.)

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