Candidates for Demolition? Not under Urban Renewal.
Last week’s Main Street column
delved into how the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority has changed its stripes and is more often than not an advocate for redevelopment of old buildings. As the Core to Shore discussion continues, it’s only appropriate to take a closer look at how Urban Renewal’s insistence that developers build around old structures in Deep Deuce a decade ago sparked renovation of every significant boarded up building in the area.
As we do so, ask yourself this: are the old renovated buildings better than the new construction we’ve seen in Lower Bricktown? What form of mixed-use development is more fitting for an urban neighborhood – what we see today in Deep Deuce or the Legacy at Arts Quarter Apartments? This is your city folks, its your downtown, and the city council and mayor answer to you.
The same buildings today - home to the Deep Deuce apartments clubhouse.
The Littlepage Building - boarded up and ugly, right? Once again, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority chose a new course of direction and required developers to build around the blight.
The Littlepage Building today - home to Sage Cafe and Gourmet Market, a corporate furnishings store and apartments upstairs.
Another building that needed a savior and could have been torn down in the name of progress.
All of these buildings could have been declared dead and targeted for the wrecking ball under the very same logic that apparently is being applied to Core to Shore. Now that we’ve seen what happened with the infusion of new development and a decision not to tear down old structures, let’s take another look at what’s left in Core to Shore.
Maybe it's easy to write this building off - the north facade's windows are broken and covered with graffiti as city officials have turned their backs on building maintenance in the area.
The same building in its heyday - once home to the Oklahoma City branch of International Harvester.
Another building that doesn't appear in any Core to Shore plans.
Yet another building not shown in Core to Shore plans.
Definitely not shown in Core to Shore plans. Once the original Film Exchange building.
For a city that claims to have learned from the demolition spree of the 1970s, it amazes me that there appears to be no discussion of this area bounded by I-40 and Shields Boulevard. These buildings could remain standing – if the city were to decide to build a convention center south of Lower Bricktown as proposed by former Mayor Kirk Humphreys.
To date the only explanation I’ve heard for building a new convention center south of Ford Center, and thus eliminating most or all of these buildings, is that the site south of Lower Bricktown might be too expensive and that “something must be done” as one City Hall source told me, with all the land that will be opened up by replacement of the elevated highway with an at-grade boulevard.
We also now know, thanks to a regular reader of this site, that the planning report on Core to Shore had this to say about the above buildings:
While no other buildings have the architectural significance of Little Flower Church and Union Station, several notable older buildings, such as the Latino Community Development Agency building, contribute to the character of the area and could be incorporated into development projects if economically feasible.”
Ah yes, so the experts have spoken. Of course, their forefathers also deemed the Criterion Theater, the Baum Building, Hales Building and many more not to be significant either. My hero, the late Mary Jo Nelson, wrote many a story challenging those experts. I think I’ll just let the photos and the history speak for themselves.
But let’s pretend city leaders were pursuing a different path for redevelopment of Core to Shore – one that left these buildings standing. Here’s the question folks – do you believe placing a boulevard through this area and sandwiching it between Bricktown, a new convention center and a central park will or will not spur the sort of private redevelopment and restoration work that took place with the addition of apartments in Deep Deuce?
(This post is dedicated to the memory of Mary Jo Nelson)
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