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Keystone returns to prominent place in our community
Many of us walk or drive past it every day, but how many times have we stopped to stand back and take a really good look?
The beehive of activity around the old Keystone Hotel has counteracted that neglect in recent months, and will finally be corrected this weekend with an open house for the new Keystone Business Center, 402 Norris. Ave.
An old building at Norris and B recently became history, and it's looking like West Ward will meet the same fate, but historic preservationists have won a major victory with the "rebirth of a true McCook treasure," as a special insert in today's Gazette proclaims.
We can't say we'll miss the old Romanoff building, and those of us who didn't attend West Ward probably have little attachment to that structure.
But the Keystone-Defenders-Townhouse-Keystone building holds a special place in downtown McCook's past -- and now its future.
Anyone who has studied six-story building knows it's a solid building, and photos of its concrete and steel being put into place in 1920-22 confirm just how imposing it really is. Demolition wasn't a very attractive option in any case.
But how appropriate that rooms that once provided a conduit for commerce conducted by traveling salesmen can continue to provide the same service a century later -- albeit in an updated, 21st century method.
Appropriately, the anchor tenant is 21st Century Systems Inc., which provides decision-support software for technology and situations that were the stuff of science fiction when the Keystone's foundation was laid.
The Keystone was a $300,000 project in 1920 -- $3.4 million in today's dollars -- and remodeling and repurposing it was no less challenging when the McCook Economic Development Corp. took on the job in 2006.
In the end, funding came from a $55,000 federal grant, a $1.1 million bond to be paid back over 10 years with sales tax dollars, $750,000 in loans from local banks and more than $100,000 in MEDC contingency funds. Tax increment financing to take advantage of higher real estate values resulting from the renovation has also come into play.
Besides current offices and apartments, the former hotel houses the Keystone Business Incubator, offering office space, a desk, Internet access and telephone capabilities to start-up businesses in an effort to create jobs and opportunities for residents.
In conjunction with the Mid Plains Center for Enterprise, the incubator can provide marketing assistance, reception services, micro-loan programs, one-on-one coaching, mentoring, entrepreneur network luncheons, training and a health dose of advice and encouragement.
We hope you take time to read an interesting and enjoyable look at the Keystone's past and future in today's special edition, and turn out for the open house from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
And the next time you pass the rejuvenated but still stately old structure, thank all of those who have invested their time, talent and treasure in our community's future.