If you didn’t catch the story yesterday in The Oklahoman, I wrote about a restaurant preparing to open in the Gold Dome. Dr. Irene Lam, who saved the landmark from almost certain destruction a few years ago, can soon boast more than 93 percent occupancy.
Not everyone thought she would succeed.
I still recall then councilman Guy Liebmann (now a state representative) expressing serious doubts about Lam’s chances and questioning whether the city should provide some grants and loans designed for restoring historic properties. I never sensed that Liebmann was opposed to Lam’s efforts – he just didn’t believe she would ever succeed at getting the odd shaped building (once the proud home of Citizens Bank) filled.
For those who don’t recall the events that led to this transformation, it began with an effort by BancOne (now Chase Bank) to move to smaller quarters across the street. Walgreens, meanwhile, was eager to buy the Gold Dome, raze it, and build a new store across the street from an existing CVS drug store.
The historic preservationists – to be blunt – went nuts. They organized, they held pickets at the corner of NW 23 and Classen, and they didn’t spare BancOne or Walgreens their wrath. They also sought out alternate buyers – one of whom ended up being Dr. Lam.
Walgreens and BancOne agreed to look at alternatives that allowed both companies to build new locations at the gateway to the Asian District and allow the Gold Dome to survive for future generations.
Dr. Lam, meanwhile, has stayed true to promises of making the Gold Dome a community center – and will be hosting the Lunar New Year festival on Saturday.
Preservationists since have had hits and misses. They succeeded in convincing the city to rebuild the Walnut Avenue bridge in Bricktown and also celebrated the renovation of once dilapidated Skirvin Hilton Hotel.
More old structures may face demolition in the near future. Developers of the Triangle have indicated they may seek to raze the Finley Building at NE 2 and Walnut. And Tom Ward indicated in an interview a few weeks ago that while he is keeping an open mind on the future of the former Braniff Building and former India Temple Building (one of downtown’s oldest – built in 1902) on the new SandRidge Energy campus, he also couldn’t rule out that they might be torn down.
Do these structures merrit pickets similar to those that surrounded the Gold Dome?