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It’s Always Cloudy on Keystone Avenue

This is the best this stretch of Keystone can look:



Keystone Avenue is a tough place to love. It is similar to newer automobile-based commercial strips, with a few differences:
  • Utility poles in the sidewalks. Actually, that makes 2 differences, in that there are actually sidewalks on Keystone. But with the utility poles crowding the landscape, it is simply unattractive.
  • Most of the buildings are smaller and closer to the street, so it’s actually a bit less spread out than current development patterns dictate.
The commercial stretch of Keystone Avenue is in a state of fluctuation, and it is difficult to determine where the future is headed. There are many empty and decaying buildings, but there are also some successes. However, it will tough for any successes to gain real traction until a major overhaul of the streetscape takes place. And the toughest news for the city is that there are a good number of challenging commercial strips in other regions (Lafayette Square, South Madison, East Washington), each one similarly deserving the same major investment at a time when we are in a serious financial pinch. I’m not sure when the time will come for the region to stop adding to the future generation’s pain of abandoned car lots and devalued strip centers, but we are clearly not there yet. Sprawl marches on.

6 Responses to “ “It’s Always Cloudy on Keystone Avenue”

  1. Curt says:

    Kevin, I had been planning a similar post. You know I live in this neighborhood and this is almost a literal stones throw from my home. I see it daily and it IS depressing. Good job at capturing it. Its too bad that such dense and colorful neighborhoods lie directly west of this stretch… so many good qualities to be had, but such a poor gateway to get to it.

  2. cdc guy says:

    How funny/sad, that Target left the corridor at the beginning of the present decade only to move right back in. The old "Targhetto" was between 52nd & 54th, now replaced with downscale versions of itself in AJ Wright and Dollar stores. The new store is in Glendale, barely a mile north. I guess it's good that Target's coming allowed Glendale to stabilize, but bad that it couldn't have happened at 52nd instead.

    My candidate for the worst piece of this corridor is that old sandwich shop/pool hall just north of the old O'Brien dealership and south of McDonald's. Getting rid of that blight would by itself be a remarkable improvement.

  3. CorrND says:

    This well-designed store front sticks out like a sore thumb on that stretch of Keystone.

  4. Kevin says:

    Yes, that building was recently redesigned.

  5. cdc guy says:

    LOL. I think it was redesigned because part of its old facade (which was further back) collapsed four or five years ago.

    And look at the more-prominent use…check cashing isn't quite as upscale as a billiard supply store.

    That's the kind of schizophrenia that results from higher-income neighborhoods being nearby. High-end drycleaner (Morellis) next to cheezy cell-phone store. Rally's across the street from Marco's. Oak Motors just down from the Caddy dealer. Kahn's Liquors in a steel barn.

    Bizarro World. Hard to tell if it's getting better or worse, as a good development seems to be followed by a bad one every time. And I've been watching for 25+ years.

  6. AmericanDirt says:

    Does crisis = opportunity? I don't know this part of town very well, but are many of the vacant auto dealerships on contiguous parcels? Chances are the real estate south of 56th is not so high, yet the retail reflects this strange, cheek-by-jowl mix of low income with stable middle class, much like Washington Street east of Post Road. Makes for quite a contrast from College Avenue only about a mile away. Thanks for bringing this worthy design problem to more people's attention, Kevin.

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