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City turns over historic Palmer building to community services agency United Way of the Bluegrass

Samantha Lederman

A historic structure in Lexington’s East End neighborhood will get a new lease on life. On Wednesday Mayor Linda Gorton transferred ownership of the former Palmer Pharmacy building on East Fifth Street to United Way of the Bluegrass. The building, once home to the first Black-owned ReXall pharmacy franchise in the country, will be repurposed as the Marksbury Family Way Point Center. President and Chief Executive Officer Timothy Johnson called the project a long labor of love for the stakeholders. Alan Lytle has details.


“This building made history in the 1960s, when it was home to the only pharmacy in town owned by an African-American. It made history when the Catholic Action Center operated a day shelter here, caring for people who were homeless. Now it is poised to make history again, as it finds new life as a United Way WayPoint Center … the Marksbury Family WayPoint Center,” Mayor Gorton said. “This is an important step forward for our community, and it’s a great way to celebrate Black History Month.”

Timothy Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Way of the Bluegrass, said, “United Way of the Bluegrass and the City of Lexington have been working together to find a way to breathe new life into the former Palmer Pharmacy. This building has a rich history that we want to ensure stays intact and true to its past as a community resource, and jewel of the East End of Lexington. This space will go from an abandoned building to a busy community hub, with nonprofit partners and other stakeholders at the ready to serve our community.”

Samantha Lederman

A United Way WayPoint Center provides vital programming to people living in underserved neighborhoods and communities of color, thereby promoting and growing resiliency in these areas. “Each WayPoint Center brings together the region’s most effective nonprofit, government, and business organizations to leverage their strengths against our community’s biggest issues,” Johnson said.

Currently there are WayPoint Centers in the Black and Williams Center in the West End, the Charles Young Center in the East End and at the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA.

Councilmember James Brown said, “I’m extremely optimistic about the future of the Palmer Pharmacy Building! From the beginning, we've been intentional and focused on ensuring that the redevelopment of this space would be for a purpose that truly benefits this neighborhood. Timothy Johnson and the United Way of the Bluegrass have stepped up to fulfill that purpose with their WayPoint Center.”

Samantha Lederman

Councilmember Tayna Fogle, who now represents the East End, said, “I look forward to partnering with the United Way and Mr. Johnson. The resources, including education, economic opportunity, and much more, are being brought to the heart of the East End. This is a game changer. I am committed to making sure the community in the 1st District has ample resources and opportunities leading to a better quality of life.”

The City acquired the building in 2016. Since then the City has:

· Invested $300,000 in environmental remediation and roof replacement. The city’s Department of General Services managed these repairs.

· Set aside $248,106 in federal funds for interior repairs, including electrical, plumbing and HVAC. The United Way will incorporate these improvements as part of its comprehensive renovation plan.

Gorton and Johnson thanked the Marksbury Family Foundation for its generous support of the project. “The Marksbury name is synonymous with thoughtful generosity,” said Matt Briggs, Vice President of Development for United Way of the Bluegrass. “Their family continually looks for ways to help strengthen our community. We are proud, and excited, that they see the tremendous value in assisting United Way of the Bluegrass to better serve our neighbors through the Marksbury Family WayPoint Center at the Historic Palmer Pharmacy Building. This partnership joins two organizations making powerful impacts on the lives of Central Kentuckians who need it most. We are grateful to the Marksbury family for their generosity and trust.”

Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.