Turning Failure into Opportunity, Lexingtonians Embrace Centrepointe

Five years after an entire city block was razed in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, its people have learned to turn lemons into lemonade.

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Only in Lexington, Kentucky, the “horse capital of the world”- A twilight polo match in the center of historic downtown.

Google the failed development known as Centrepointe and reams of newspaper articles and blog posts will flood your results screen.  It reads like a soap opera- the (some might say greedy) developer, the hometown opposition, and the plot twist: death and financial ruin.

It started out as plan for urban renewal right out of a 1960s handbook.  Developer, Dudley Webb wanted to demolish an entire city block in the center of the city’s historic center, in order to build a new mixed-use property with a hotel, restaurants, offices and condos. In the past, Webb spearheaded successful downtown development  and even won awards and accolades from preservationists for his Victorian Square project.  In light of this, preservationists and concerned citizens hoped to dissuade Webb from demolition. Instead,  a tooth and nail battle over the fate of the block ensued.

Though the block contained some of downtown’s oldest buildings and more than a few beloved local business, and despite the fierce opposition faced by Webb, the block came down – only for the city to find that his mysterious main financial backer died suddenly. Without leaving a will.

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Stomping the divots (just like in Pretty Woman!) at Centrepointe field.

The whole deal went belly up, leaving Lexington with a large grassy field at its center.  Despite dozens of new designs for the development and promises by Webb that construction is eminent, the lot remains nothing but grass behind a wooden fence.

In the meantime, Webb has granted various groups in the city permission to utilize the Centrepointe field for events – a genius PR move.  Festivals that once lined the streets have found a new home at Centrepointe including festivities surrounding St. Patrick’s Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Some rather unusual events have also taken place at Centrepointe, including the Alltech National Horse Show, and most recently an exhibition polo match.

Marketed as a once in a lifetime event, the twilight match was rumored to have been conceived of and executed in just 7 days!  It was so fun and unique that it’s almost a shame that something will eventually be constructed on the lot. This author votes that downtown Twilight Polo should become a new Lexington tradition! Viva the grassy field!

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3 comments

    • bricksandmortarpreservation

      I totally agree! Part of me really does hope that nothing is ever built there so the community can continue to use. I’d like to see the fence come down and benches installed so that it can be used on a daily bases. It really reminds me of the large open squares (albeit grass instead of cobbled) you find in European cities. Now that the weather is getting cold, I keep thinking about how awesome it would be if we could have an old fashioned Christmas market with roasted chestnuts, hot chocolate, mulled wine, and booths with hand-made goodies!

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