In the interest of provoking a thorough and balanced discussion on the pros and cons of the SandRidge Commons proposal, I’ve invited two guest bloggers. Our first guest blogger is David Pollard, who is watching this debate from far away and has some concerns about his hometown. Pollard was born and raised in Oklahoma City and is an OU graduate with a degree in Political Science and Business. David completed his Masters Degree in European Studies from the Catholique University of Louvain in Belgium and worked in the financial services industry in Germany and the Netherlands for 20 years. Currently a resident of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, David has started his own business consultancy called Community to Community (www.c-2-c.eu) which specializes in creating practical solutions on diversity topics for governments, international corporations and diverse communities. He is an avid fan of developments in downtown Oklahoma City and, thanks to the internet, remains close to his hometown.
The newly released proposal for the redevelopment of the Sandridge campus in downtown Oklahoma City brings a number of emotions to the surface. First of all, it is commendable, encouraging and even heartwarming to see major corporations like Sandridge and Devon take interest and be willing to invest in downtown thereby creating jobs, increased peripheral development and, perhaps even act as a magnet for new large projects. The citizens are largely grateful and politicians satiatied. This all goes without saying.
What doesn’t go without saying though is that Sandridge is making a huge design mistake that most people will not be aware of until it is far too late. Namely, the plan as presented totally disrespects the cultural integrity of Oklahoma City and even worse, totally ignores the most important lesson of the past that this city should have learned. Only now, after 30 years are the ugly, and economically devastating scars of wanton destruction due to the ill-conceived Pei Plan, being filled in by the Devon project.
The lesson of-course is that the urban fabric of the city is its lifeblood and the destruction of historical buildings should not be taken lightly: particularly not when there are so many excellent alternatives that could actually put Sandridge in a much better light with the media and the citizens of Oklahoma City.
Impossible? Not at all. To be concrete, the Sandridge proposal suggests the destruction of an historical building ‘Capitol Federal Saving and Loan Building’ on 302 N. Robinson.
The building is a prime example of the beauty that was lost as a result of Urban Renewal. Although it’s destruction, and that of the one next to it on N.W. 2nd would provide Sandridge open access to Robinson and, presumably enhance the sight lines to the Sandridge skyscraper (formerly Kerr McGee Head Office), the disservice to the streetscape of the city would be irreparable. However, instead of dwelling on what Sandridge should not do, I would like to offer some suggestions of what it SHOULD do.
For one: Restore the former glory of 302 N. Robinson (see photo below). Make at least one floor if not two a new ‘City of Oklahoma City Museum’, fully sponsored by Sandridge. Talk about corporate responsibility and service to the community! Although it may not be suitable for class A office space, there are other, economically sound reasons to restore this building in such a prime location. Yes, retail, yes housing, yes to a creative solution. The building next to it, although an interesting example of 60’s architecture, would be a candidate for a very modern update, keeping with Sandridge’s plans for the back facade of the Braniff building, and the new building planned for across 2nd Steet from the corporate headquarters.
All of this could enhance the Sandridge headquarters, reinforce the urban fabric of the city, and secure a ‘constructive’ top-of-mind presence for the company in the minds of OKC’s citizens. Really quite simple when you think about it, and likely just as cheap when potential return on investment and goodwill value is factored into the equation.
Finally, there is one aspect of the Sandridge plan that could actually go a step further. The new plan for Kerr Park has a great deal of merit. The new building facing it breathes life into the space and creates more of a corridor to the rest of the downtown, but frankly, it is too short. The intention is good, but that extra airspace only highlights the large blank wall above it, not to mention its rather bizarre configuration directly across from Sandridge’s corporate headquarters.
My suggestion? If zoning regulations would allow it, and if Sandridge has the nerve, this would be an excellent location for a tall, striking hotel addition to downtown, while still incorporating Sandridge’s original requirements for the property. Shall we add 15 to 20 stories on top? The company should go back to their architect with this challenge! Apart from the advantage of convenient and striking accommodation for Sandridge’s clients (a la Devon & the Colcord) this would be a credit to and an example of their genuine long-term interest of downtown Oklahoma City.
In summary, the current plan for Sandridges new ‘campus’ need to be slightly modified to take into account the setting, the history and the possibilities of this unique area. The company is, hopefully, a long-term ‘guest’ of the city and, in Oklahoma, we appreciate it when our guests respect our history and sense of place; just like we do theirs.
Click on photo to enlarge
So now we have what is the full vision of SandRidge Energy. Well, sort of … architects may flesh out the design of the 120 Robert S. Kerr Building a bit more (shown above overlooking a revamped Kerr Park). With this blog, with my column, and with my stories I try to do nothing more than to ask questions, provoke discussion, and introduce ideas that may not be in the mix but may be worth consideration.
Contrary to belief, I’ve not advocated “streetwalls” or staged any arguments against what should or should not be done. I do my best to leave that to you the readers, and you do quite a good job doing just that. It’s not my job to simply reprint press releases or stick to story lines desired by those I cover. Yes, I go off the reservation and ask the questions some might not want asked. I bring up ideas some might not want considered.
So as we move along with discussion of SandRidge Commons, let’s be clear – I’m not here to advocate or dismiss. But yeah, I suspect there will be some in-depth discussions. I’ll start this discussion by simply printing these images of past, present and potential future. And hopefully tomorrow I’ll post pro- and con- guest posts from a couple of readers.
So before all excitement this afternoon and the excitement over SandRidge’s plans for it’s campus makeover, a story about the project popped up online at Fast Company. A reader emailed me and made note of this quote from the story:
“We really messed up in the 1970s with urban renewal,” says Craig Tucker, a senior vice president at the commercial real estate firm Price Edwards. “We tore down buildings we should have kept, going with I.M. Pei plans that left us with generic ones.”
Later tonight I’ll post all the renderings and guest posts from those arguing for and against SandRidge Commons.
In younger years I’ve been shot at while covering a gang funeral (I suspect the gangbanger was aiming at the officer I was visiting with), gotten too close to tornadoes and firestorms, and ventured alone into some of the most dangerous areas of town – at night.
But I’m older now, married and with kids.
So to those of you who have given me grief for not going in person (I’ve handled interviews by phone), understand this is what I’d be walking and driving on if I had ventured downtown:
Nope. No thank you. Yep, I’m scared of breaking a leg. Get over it.
Wow, downtown’s energy companies are bringing some serious love to OKC this week.
All materials for this afternoon’s press conference are embargoed until 2 p.m. But since this one rendering is already been posted by the architects, well…. they’ve broken it, not me. Besides, there are a lot more to follow.
RENDERING FROM ROGERS MARVEL ARCHITECTS
This ought to be interesting to see exactly how they envision using the space that would result from tearing down the four surrounding buildings. Here’s a bit of fun for you folks who have been following this story – WHAT QUESTIONS WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO ASK AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE???
I had the great fortune of getting to tour the old Cellar restaurant space in the basement of the Hightower Building with Dave Cathey, David Morris, Tanner Herriott, Johnson Hightower, Chuck Ainsworth and the great, legendary chef John Bennett. Enjoy!
So there may be some folks who wonder, why is does it matter if downtown Oklahoma City is featured in a publication like the New York Times?
Truth be told, and this may surprise some of you, people still read newspapers. A lot of people still read newspapers. And while the industry has had it’s troubles, such trouble is shared by local television and the big networks (you just don’t hear about the cutbacks and layoffs at tv like you do with newspapers) and radio.
The media pie has a lot more slices to it. But the important, credible brands, I believe, will persevere over the Perez Hiltons and TMZs of the world. And in the newspaper world, no newspaper is bigger in legend than the New York Times. Go to any Starbucks or Barnes and Noble and you’ll find it. It’s to be found at any airport in the country.
At some point Charlotte, N.C. was a blank slate. Ditto for Seattle, Denver, Houston and Portland. Yet all of these cities emerged as trend-setters over the past two decades – areas hailed by planning experts, the business world and academia as places worth watching.
And such image transformations began with the very sort of article printed today in the New York Times – one that will be read by thousands of executives traveling by air, by academics enjoying their morning paper or scanning headlines online. And with the image transformation tackled in such cities, economic development and investment followed. Some of the most creative, smart and talented folks around decided to give these cities a shot.
The next trick, obviously, is to move beyond print – to get the same sort of results with cable news networks. In the past 20 years I’ve seen a dramatic transformation of this city’s self-image, one that went from young people saying “we’re boring, our downtown is dead, and I can’t wait to get out” to “we’ve got a great city, our downtown kicks ass, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
Now, before anyone accuses me of being too much of a cheerleader here, I’ll be the first to say we’ve still got plenty of problems to tackle. And despite the headlines, we’re not some magical recession proof city. But for now, let’s just enjoy the afterglow of a national story that doesn’t mention tornados, football, the Grapes of Wrath, corrupt county commissioners or narrow-minded legislators.