Home » Downtown Lexington skyline to look dramatically different as City Center nears completion

Downtown Lexington skyline to look dramatically different as City Center nears completion

By Kathie Stamps

It’s been a hot year for Central Kentucky real estate and commercial construction in 2018, an indication the region’s economic engine is engaged and gaining speed.

In May 2018, the US Equestrian Federation broke ground at the Kentucky Horse Park on its new 35,000-s.f. office building with Lexington-based companies chosen for design (integrity/Architecture) and construction (D.W. Wilburn).

Lexington Center Corp. broke ground July on a $241 million replacement and expansion of the Lexington Convention Center – giving it a dramatic glass exterior that will engage iconic Rupp Arena with the downtown core.

Designed by NBBJ Architects of Los Angeles and Lexington-based EOP Architects, the construction contract was awarded to the Lexington office of Messer Construction Co., whose headquarters is in Cincinnati. The new 200,000-s.f. Lexington Convention Center will offer half of that in exhibition space, a quarter in hospitality space, and the other 25 percent in roughly equal areas for meetings and ballrooms. The project will have new public plaza and park gathering spots, two of which are already named as the “Cat Walk” and the “Gorge.”

Aggressive approach

Long Construction Management, a design-build construction firm focusing on commercial and industrial construction projects, recently completed Marikka’s Restaurant (and volleyball complex) in Lexington, as well as a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility for CreoSalus in Louisville and Blue Grass Airport’s new community hangar for the airport’s west side general aviation expansion.

“After the economic recession of 2009, we intentionally remained small,” said construction company owner Linden Long. “We maintained a reasonable overhead of confident, capable staff that executed some impressive projects each year, but we didn’t have confidence that the economy would allow us to sustain an increase in our sales volume and overhead.”

In 2016, Long Construction shifted gears and began an aggressive marketing campaign with the goal to double sales volume by 2020.

“Our intent was to make sure that when anyone in Central Kentucky had a commercial or industrial design-build project, Long Construction Management was one of the first firms that came to their mind,” Long said.

City Center changes the landscape

With the Webb Companies and Greer Companies as developers and D.W. Wilburn Construction as general contractor, plus numerous local subcontractors, the eye-popping City Center project is also Lexington-centric and is the hallmark of real estate and construction projects in Central Kentucky in 2018.

“It’s not an outside hotel company with a contractor; this is all homegrown Lexingtonian hospitality,” said Ralph Coldiron, City Center project coordinator. “This project is going to change downtown forever. Its amenities, its architecture, its concept will provide fun, entertainment and hospitality in a gigantic complex that’s operated by homegrown people. The $200 million investment in City Center strengthens all of downtown real estate.”

The project that started 10 years ago and emptied a block in the very center of downtown now has a completion timeline. And a name change: CentrePointe became City Center on April 19, 2018.

“We started construction on the garage December 2016,” said Dudley Webb, chairman and co-founder of Webb Companies. “It took almost a year to build the garage. The office building began first of this year.”

The $45 million parking garage has a sophisticated drainage system involving two pumping stations to keep it dry. Three underground levels will provide 700 parking spaces. January 2019 is the expected open date of the 12-story office tower. Nine floors are for office space and the top three levels are condos. The building’s silver exterior glass is the same used on the Freedom Tower in New York City.

In time for Derby Day 2019, a 10,500-s.f. Jeff Ruby Steakhouse will open. Look for a “super” 3,200-s.f. Starbucks on the corner of Main and Limestone, and a new Greer Companies concept restaurant on Main and Upper.

The fall of 2019 will see the opening of a 12-floor Marriott and eight-story Residence Inn. From a design perspective, the 12-story Marriott tower has floor-to-ceiling green glass. Five different colors of brick are being used throughout the entire City Center project.

“It’s going to be the most beautiful thing in Lexington,” said Phil Greer, real estate developer and CEO of Greer Companies. “Dudley and I are from Letcher County; so is Ralph. My son (Lee) and I love the project. We love Kentucky. We love Lexington.”

A hopping home market

The Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors, or LBAR, has 3,200 member Realtors in 22 counties – soon to be 26, pending national approval of the Madison County Board of Realtors consolidating with LBAR. In the first half of 2018, LBAR members in Fayette Country represented 2,384 residential sales totaling over $580 million. From the same time period last year, this year’s median sales price was up 9 percent; with inventory falling, the number of sales was down 11 percent.

“It’s the tale of two markets,” said Mike Wheatley, principal broker of Milestone Realty. “Anything under $300,000 is in extremely tight supply in Lexington. There are more buyers than sellers. The rest of the market is normal, but it feels ‘bad’ to those folks in the $500,000 range.”

While a five- to six-month supply of homes is considered a balanced market (e.g., 100 houses selling at an average of 20 per month for the preceding 12 months), Fayette County had a supply of less than one month (0.64) for June 2018 for homes priced between $100,000 and $200,000.

“We’ve never had a market like that in my 25 years,” Wheatley said. “Scott County is doing phenomenal. Coming out of the recession, they had new construction lots that have all been absorbed. Developers are hustling to get new lots on line.”

New apartment construction is underway in Lexington with the 312-unit Springs at Hamburg and 100 new units at Ball Homes’ Brighton 3050 site near Hamburg. Another Ball development, The MarQ in Georgetown, will add 295 apartment units by the beginning of 2019. At mid-summer, the occupancy rate was 92.4 percent on 33,000 units surveyed, according to Ken Silvestri, owner and principal broker of Silvestri Real Estate.

“The Lexington apartment market will continue to benefit from modest employment growth and low unemployment rates,” he said. “The majority of apartment owners and investors are from out of state. Downtown Lexington is finally getting additional new units where demand is strong and supply has been low.”

Milestone Realty Consultants

Lexington and Georgetown

(859) 245-1179


Milestone Realty Consultants is Central Kentucky’s largest locally owned and operated real estate company, with offices in Lexington and Georgetown. Milestone attributes its success to attracting highly experienced, real estate professionals who are dedicated to superior customer service. Milestone agents are committed to providing professional, efficient, and ethical service within our areas of expertise.

Walden Mortgage Group

NMLS# 140166

NMLS# 44452

Lexington, Louisville, and Knoxville

(859) 514-4444


Walden Mortgage Group is a Kentucky mortgage lender based in Lexington, Kentucky. Whether you’re in Central, Eastern or Western Kentucky; whether you’re looking for an FHA, VA, KHC or conventional loan, Walden Mortgage is the source for local mortgage loan solution. We represent a wide variety of local and national lenders with a complete menu of programs to serve our customer’s needs.

Long Construction Management

P.O. Box 910865

Lexington, KY 40591


(859) 523-9407

Long Construction Management offers design/build, construction management and general contracting. With experience in complex, multimillion dollar projects, a commitment to the values of workmanship, stability, and integrity; we have developed a solid track record with our clients. You have many options to consider and decisions to make as you plan your new construction project. All will impact the appearance, functionality, and longevity of your new or expanding building. And since LCM is also a Butler Builder ®, we can offer even more options to help meet your project needs.  Take a closer look and you’ll see that Long Construction Management is the right company for your next construction project.