Meet The MET: Grocery store, restaurant, more housing coming to Lexington’s East End

**This article appeared first in the Herald Leader by Beth Musgraves. You can read the original article here.

Third Street used to be the main commercial corridor on Lexington’s east side.

Over the past decades, Third Street became a mostly-residential street with pockets of commercial activity.

That started to change in recent years. And more retail is coming in the next year.

On Monday, Community Ventures will hold a groundbreaking on a 75,000 square-foot building at the corner of Third Street and Midland Avenue that will include retail on the first floor including space for a much-needed grocery store, restaurant and other retail space. The EOP Architects-designed building will hopefully open by June 2020.

The top two floors will include 44 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Approximately 30 percent of those apartments, or 13 of the 44, will be subsidized or for low-income renters. The remaining 70 percent will be market-rate apartments.

Called The MET, it’s the first building in the long-delayed Midland Avenue and Third Street redevelopment project.

The $22 million three-story building will be paid for using $10 million in new market tax credits, which are used to finance real estate, commercial, industrial and other projects in poor neighborhoods. Community Ventures has put in $2 million into the project and the remaining financing comes from community banks.

Kevin Smith, president of Community Ventures, a nonprofit, said they are in talks with a grocery store for the ground-floor space. The lack of grocery stores in downtown and the city’s east end has long been an issue.

“We haven’t signed the lease yet but we are hoping that we can announce the name of the store soon,” Smith said. “As long as I have been working in Lexington, a grocery store has been the top request on the east end.”

That side of town has no grocery stores and is a designated food desert — an area does not have access to fresh healthy food.

The restaurant will also be named in coming months, Smith said.

Restaurants will help create more foot traffic on Third Street. Martine’s Pastries kicked off the Third Street renaissance when it moved there in 2018.

“We are hoping we can create a food hub,” Smith said.

The city’s east end is also facing rising property values, which has forced many long-time residents, particularly renters, out. The new apartments will hopefully keep more residents in the east end by offering another rental option, Smith said.

Community Ventures held extensive, town-hall type meetings prior to construction to gauge what people in the neighborhood needed. The project was originally announced in 2016 but was delayed because it took time to get the financing, mainly the new market tax credits, in place, Smith said.

“We were fortunate that we had so many community banks that came forward to help us with this project,” Smith said. “They saved the day.” Banks involved in the financing include Republic, US Bank, NeighborWorks Capital, Community Hospitality Healthcare Services, Traditional Bank, Limestone Bank and Whitaker Bank.

Smith said they have also applied to the city’s affordable housing program for funding.

The current Community Ventures building on the corner of Midland and Third will remain, Smith said. Construction crews have torn off the back pavilion of the building and will add a 1,500 square foot addition. The plans call for that building to have restaurant space, he said. The remodeling of that building will take place at the same time construction begins on the MET, he said.

The groundbreaking will be at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the corner of Midland Avenue and East Third.

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