Q & A at forum meeting sheds some light on CentrePointe struggles

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- Within the first year of developing for Lexington’s CentrePointe venture, one of — if not its largest financial supporter died, leaving Webb Companies wondering if it was going to get its money.

That may seem insensitive, but when you’re working on building a 40-story multiplex, complete with underground parking, office space and high end living; money is important.

The short answer to whether or not the developers got their international financier’s money: no. Developer Dudley Webb says the man died without a will and family didn’t follow-up on the unidentified man’s promise to support CentrePointe.

“The money hadn’t come. The first draw was due September 18th, and that was the big check here to pay for what we were doing down there,” says Webb while sitting next to former Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Beverly Fortune.

Fortune covered the controversial development closely since its story began in 2008. After leaving the paper, Fortune still kept up to speed with CentrePointe happenings. She was invited to interview Webb, “Charlie Rose” style in front of a meeting of the Lexington Forum, Thursday morning.

A frustrated Webb speaks openly about public and media outcry.

“I don’t know what more we can do to demonstrate our good faith, our desire to deliver the project but it’s been very frustrating to go through this exercise when everybody takes pot shots at us,” he says. The comment is followed up by Fortune’s persistent approach.

“This is right in the center of downtown and so everybody cares and everybody feels ownership,” she says.

Even so, Webb himself refers to the void in downtown Lexington as a “pit.” He would know, he says he paid to have it dug.

The price tag? $7 million. He says you can add that to an already paid $28 million with an anticipated $38-40 million for an underground parking garage which he expects to be complete in eight to 10 months.

Fortune asks the $40 million question: “So if you did that today, I mean, why didn’t you consider doing that six, seven, eight years ago and not put yourself and the community through all this?

Webb’s response: “Because that money wasn’t available at that point in time particularly, but more importantly because you don’t go and stick $40 million in an underground hole down in downtown Lexington. If I didn’t feel responsible to the community for having gotten us into this mess I wouldn’t have done it.”

Webb says within a year after the garage is complete, an office building will join it, hotels will follow. However, it’s not been disclosed what the plan is for the hotels or who is financing them.

“The problem is you can’t announce somebody’s involvement until they sign the documents,” says Webb. He’s referring to pending contracts for the hotels. Fortune responds, “So, in other words, you’ve had somebody say that they will put up the money but they haven’t signed the contract so actually you don’t have ironclad financing for the project.

“You know and if you don’t, you’re going to have a beautiful flat slab that you can put a park over top of if you want to,” says Webb.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the cranes growing up with the Lexington skyline, Webb says they cost Webb Companies $35,000 per month to sit there.

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