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Keystone Towers has been in the news a lot over the past few months. Most recently, depending on your news source, the city is either planning to demolish the buildings, demolish and redevelop, or renovate them for some purpose yet to be determined. Just the amount of confusion over the city’s actual course of action for the place makes my head hurt.

While the buildings are not “historic” since they were built in 1972-74, they are most definitely landmarks and good examples of later-era modernist architecture, which raises questions for preservationists.

They were built as a mixture of apartment and offices and tried to capitalize on views of Fall Creek and surrounding area. The building’s site had been platted as a wooded subdivision in the 40’s or 50’s, but that subdivision plan was vacated when what is now Binford Blvd was cut through to the northeast and Keystone Ave, Allisonville Road, and the Kessler-designed Fall Creek Parkway intersection was reconfigured, creating this oddly point-shaped lot.

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After construction, the surrounding areas quickly became poorer neighborhoods as the more affluent moved farther north. The Towers never really became the great property that the builder had hoped for, but instead suffered from high vacancy rates and bad tenants. Property owners changed many times, with maintenance being a lower priority for each one. After several rounds with the city on conditions, the apartments were finally closed by the city for health reasons in 2008, with the city assuming possession.

So, this is the perpetual question for preservationists…”What the h*ll do we do with these buildings?” Save them as examples of modernist architecture, and hope that they can be restored and fare better in their second life? Or demolish them since they are beyond hope, not historic, and there are plenty of other similar buildings around, andthe hope that a McDonalds isn’t built there instead? Demolish one tower and save the other? Or…?

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