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.