News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

December 11, 2013

Editorial: Intriguing option for ISU towers

Reuse rather than demolition worthy of consideration

TERRE HAUTE — It’s appropriate that Indiana State University’s Recycling Center on North Ninth Street sits in the shadow of  two hulking, well-used, 15-story towers that, if things develop as they might, could themselves be recycled rather than imploded.

That unexpected and serendipitous news, which our reporter Sue Loughlin learned of and broke last week, could open a whole new future for those buildings, for the university and for the surrounding neighborhoods.

Core Redevelopment of Indianapolis has presented to ISU the intriguing idea of taking over the Statesman Towers and rehabbing them, presumably as renovated residential spaces.

At first thought it was puzzling, this idea of giving new life to buildings the university abandoned because they were not affordably adaptable to classroom, administrative or residential space, buildings that were to be demolished this month.

But the more one ponders the concept — thinks the unthinkable — the more the option makes sense. There is much to suggest the idea merits close attention.

And when one examines what Core Redevelopment has done in Indianapolis, one sees that this is not a dreamy concept of what might be if the stars align.

Most famous is Core’s amazing renovation of the old, abandoned, crumbling Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, long ago the home of the Indianapolis Indians. That stadium would have been demolished by now had Core not come up with the idea — improbable — of converting the stadium into loft living spaces, specifically lofts. In July, 138 loft units opened, with no vacancies, at Stadium Lofts, where units look out onto a baseball diamond.

And that has not been Core’s only successful reclamation. It also has rehabbed a metal recycling plant into 125 apartment lofts, and has a half-dozen other projects to show for itself on its website.

The towers at ISU were originally residence halls. The towers were later repurposed as homes to the schools (later colleges) of Education and Business. The towers continued as classroom and faculty office buildings for years, even though their internal structure didn’t accommodate either. The interior was largely drab and cavernous.

Both of those ISU academic colleges have been relocated to grand new quarters — University Hall (the refurbished Lab School) for the Bayh College of Education, and Federal Hall (the old post office/federal building) for the Scott College of Business.

The towers must be disposed of, because the state will not allow publicly funded universities to retain excess classroom space after that has been replaced by renovations or new construction, as has been done with the new homes for Education and Business.

So, how best to dispose of the towers?

Demolition is one way. And, thereafter, the university would be left with flat land that it apparently was planning to use for parking. The neighborhood would not be improved.

The far better way of disposing of the towers is to sell them. That would save ISU $4 million it would spend on demolition, money it could better use on pressing needs. It would relieve ISU of responsibility for the property. And it would recycle the towers into new lifetimes.

The idea is just that at this point. Many details remain to be satisfied before ISU can cede the buildings to Core Redevelopment. But the idea of building up, rather than tearing down, the towers — may we call them Statesman Lofts? — is a welcome one. It is in the best spirit of recycling and reusing in a way that could be profitable to investors, appealing to residents and positive for both the campus and the community.

 

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