UK Board makes first move on plan to demolish iconic towers

The Kirwan-Blanding Housing complex has been a fixture on the University of Kentucky campus since it opened in 1967.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a proposal Tuesday to begin moving toward demolition of two landmark buildings on campus.

The Kirwan-Blanding Housing complex has been a fixture on the University of Kentucky campus since it opened in 1967. The dorms have remained vacant for the past two years. In a release, the university said that the $15 million estimated price tag for the demolition is much less than the estimated $126 million in renovations the buildings would need to be fit for living.

“These old residence halls served us well for a few decades, but they don’t meet the high-tech learning needs of students today as we’re preparing them for today’s economy. So they’re past their life expectancy, they’re not in good condition, it’s time to take them down,” said university spokesman Jay Blanton.

The first step is to declare the property as surplus, a requirement under state law that must be met before the university can dispose of or sell a property.

The university also plans to create a green space in the area currently occupied by the towers.

“Students have told us they want to live in high-tech living and learning spaces, spaces that encourage community and interaction with other students and faculty,” said Eric N. Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration. “Students – and other members of our community – have also told us that more green space is a critical element in building the campus environment we all want. This process, if approved, helps accomplish those goals on behalf of our students and the entire UK community.”

Blanton says there's no definite timeframe for when the complex will come down, but he thinks it will happen over the next few years.

In a related move, the board was also OK'd a proposal to declare as surplus property the Commonwealth Village Graduate Housing Complex. The 1963 complex, along Nicholasville Road, has been vacant since September 2017, when the university converted Roselle Hall into graduate housing. By declaring the complex as surplus, the school can move toward a sale of Commonwealth Village.

Like the Kirwan-Blanding Complex, the more than 50-year-old Commonwealth Village was deteriorating.

“With these moves, the board and the administration under President Capilouto’s leadership are thinking strategically about the needs of our students and of our campus community,” said Britt Brockman, UK’s board chair. “We have built housing and dining facilities to create community and improve living and learning spaces. We must continue that process while thoughtfully creating gathering spaces that further enhance our campus and the special community that more and more students want to call home.”

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