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Cleveland's Key Tower

Updated on July 24, 2016
Key Tower, Cleveland, Ohio
Key Tower, Cleveland, Ohio

When this office tower was completed in 1991, it became the nation’s tallest structure between New York and Chicago. Even today, after recent building booms in Hong Kong, China, Dubai and elsewhere, Key Tower remains among the 80 tallest buildings on the planet.

Key Tower’s 57 stories reach to the tallest point in Ohio, and on a clear day, its terraced pyramidal pinnacle can be observed from twenty miles away. Designed by renowned architect César Pelli — as was the Marriott at Key Center flanking its base — the warm granite-clad tower houses almost 1.5 million square feet of office space. Much of that space is occupied by Key Bank, which is headquartered there. The Building’s mass is belied by Pelli’s artful terracing of levels and mix of fenestration patterns. Several years ago, Key Bank applied its distinctive red key logo to each of the four facets of the Tower’s silvered metal pyramidal cap.

Originally planned as Society Center (before Society Bank was acquired by Key Bank), the development of Key Tower included not only the adjoining Marriott hotel, but also a complete renovation and restoration of the former Society for Savings Building, Burnham & Root’s 1890 Richardsonian red stone castle of a bank, and a Public Square landmark. (See my Society for Savings article for more on that structure.)

The developer of Key Tower and its related structures was Richard E. Jacobs, Cleveland-based retail and office developer and former owner of The Cleveland Indians. For a time, the grand ground floor elevator lobby of Key Tower was dominated by his massive pop art masterpiece, James Rosenquist’s ‘F-111’.

Mr. Jacobs’ other significant Cleveland-area developments include The Galleria at Erieview, Chagrin Highlands office park in Beachwood, SouthPark Center in Strongsville, and Westgate in Fairview Park, as well as his involvement in bringing the Tribe to Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) in 1994, and to several World Series in the following years.

Key Tower has joined The Terminal Tower and the former BP Tower (now 200 Public Square) in defining the distinctive tripartite skyline of Cleveland’s tallest city center structures.

The red Key logo that you see perched atop the high rise's cap was orchestrated by sign designer and architect Richard (Rick) Zimmerman of ZZ Design Inc., a local Northeastern Ohio design consultant to building developer The Richard E. Jacobs Group. Also an expert witness, Mr. Zimmerman has written extensively about regional architecture, sustainable living, and litigation matters, and has created rickzworld — populated by imagination.


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