Developer Dudley Webb of the Webb Companies didn’t make any friends when his company razed an entire block of downtown Lexington, Kentucky dating to the 1820s. The demolition was to make room for a massive mixed-use tower called CentrePointe, which ended up stalling in the recession. But now community support for the project is on the rise thanks to the involvement of Studio Gang, brought on board to reevaluate the project at the behest of Lexington mayor Jim Gray and Dean Michael Speaks of the University of Kentucky College of Design. Firm principal Jeanne Gang revealed her redesign at a packed public meeting in July.
Original plans for CentrePointe released in 2008 called for a luxury hotel, condos, office, retail space, and parking housed in a single $250 million building bounded by Main, Vine, Limestone, and Upper streets. The project featured a central tower rising 35 stories designed by Lexington-based Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, which sparked widespread criticism for its design and scale.
Gang approached the two-acre project site, now a grassy field surrounded by a horse-farm fence, as a series of smaller-scale interventions that could be built over time, not as a single structure requiring complete financing up front. Webb appreciated the phased approach. “It's a little easier with this concept to get financing because you can find investors to do smaller buildings, unlike finding one investor for one large building,” he told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
She intends to collaborate on the project with a team of five Lexington-based architects to provide local character to the large project. Firms were chosen from a pool of 25 applicants based on their design background and past collaboration experience. The selected firms include: David Biagi, Architect; CSC Design Group; EOP Architects; OMNI Architects; and Ross Tarrant Architects with Pohl Rosa Pohl.
New designs call for each piece of the project to be designed individually, responding to specific site conditions on the block. An eight-story glass shard filled with offices occupies one corner and a series of low-rise structures on Main Street—to be designed by local teams—reflect the scale of historic buildings across the street. Another corner facing an existing high-rise is anchored by a 30-story residential and hotel tower comprised of a bundle of tubes.
Gang told the Herald-Leader, “The benefit of the tubes is you can go inside and on top of them and have public spaces.” Different height tubes are bundled together providing landscaped rooftops that create outdoor public rooms. Arrangement of the vertical tubes and voids where the tubes are split maximize air flow and sunlight to the building.
Gang was inspired in part by horse farms surrounding Lexington. Project elements are organized within a cellular grid abstracted from local topographies. Gang hopes for a pedestrian passage and sculpture park to cross the site’s sinuous grid and unite various elements of the design.
Webb must still find financing for the project, but interested tenants are already coming forward since the unveiling of Studio Gang’s redesign. Over the coming months, designs by local teams will be presented at a public meeting before the entire project begins to move through the public review process again.