Iconic Kirwan-Blanding towers, complex begin demolition next month


Scaffolding lines the Kirwan and Blanding towers that are in the process of being demolished on Monday, April 6, 2020, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Emily Laytham

After over a half-century of standing quiet watch over UK’s campus, the Kirwan-Blanding complex – including its famed towers – is scheduled to officially come down in May, according to UK Spokesperson Jay Blanton.

Crewmembers, along with a high-rise crane and scaffolding, have already moved onto the site to prepare for demolition.

The south campus Kirwan-Blanding complex is comprised of twin 23-story towers and several surrounding low-rise residence halls, as well as a dining area that has sat unused since 2015.

Students lived in the Kirwan-Blanding residence halls as recently as 2017, while the towers have been vacant since 2016.

Initial plans for demolition were introduced in 2017 and finally approved late last year.

Contractors with Sunesis Environmental have been on-site since February, according to Blanton. Early de-construction work focused on “utility terminations, abatement of hazardous materials, removal of interior built-in furniture” and general clearing of the site.

In early March, crews began dismantling “everything down to the bare… partition walls,” according to Blanton. Several buildings in the complex have also had window wells and glass removed to prepare for complete demolition next month.

Much like UK’s Spring Class of 2020, the demolition’s commencement date is tentative. De-construction is scheduled to finish before Fall 2020 and is not expected to impact foot traffic, according to Blanton.

Blanton said that all crewmembers will observe social distancing measures during deconstruction.

The towers were dedicated in October 1968 and have since become iconic to UK, both for creating camaraderie among its myriad past residents and for its visibility from virtually everywhere on campus.

The complex will be replaced by updated residence halls and “an extensive green space,” according to a UK Now press release. The new residence halls are predicted to open as early as Fall 2022.