I think the City Beautiful, which lasted roughly from 1900 to 1930, left an indelible imprint on American cities. The great architecture of that period includes railroad stations, libraries, civic centers, and urban universities. The period 1950-1970, the era of urban renewal, was a disaster that left nothing but mistakes, some of which we are still undoing. 1970-2010 has been the age of repair, conservation, and development. I’m not sure it will be remembered as a high point, rather it is a transition.
In case you missed it, this is a must-see video on the Paseo. Great job done by the folks at NewsOK.
By Mary Jo Nelson
Friday, December 6, 1991
The same cooperative effort that came close to winning a $1 billion airline center for central Oklahoma is needed to complete a downtown cultural district, an Oklahoma City official said Thursday.
Ward 8 City Councilwoman Jackie Carey, speaking at Thursday’s meeting of Second Century Inc., called for a combined effort from municipal and county officials, private corporations and labor to complete an arts district that has been slowly developing in the central city for most of a decade.
Directors of Second Century, a public/private board responsible for redeveloping downtown, are preparing recommendations for officials on elements not yet completed in the cultural zone.
“I would like to see the same enthusiasm from Oklahoma County, the city and business directed toward funding the cultural center,” said Carey, who also sits on the Second Century board. The councilwoman was referring to a two-year cooperative effort by the legislature, governor’s office, county commissioners, municipal officials, city council, business and industry, and labor unions to attract a United Airline maintenance facility.
Fred Hall, a Second Century director appointed to head a Mayors Cultural Facilities study, said the group will complete its recommendations by April.
Hall said the committee is conducting hearings with cultural agencies in central Oklahoma that want to locate downtown.
“We’ll spend late February and early March determining how the funding might be met, and by the end of March, will have recommendations made. ” Hall said a report will then go to Second Century directors and the city council.
Structures discussed include a new downtown library/learning center, a performance hall for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra and Ballet Oklahoma and an art museum. All were scheduled in the original urban renewal plan for downtown.
Second Century chief executive Tiana Douglas said officials from the University of Oklahoma have expressed an interest in participating in a central city museum.
Since the early 1980s, the Oklahoma City Arts Council has led an effort to transform a depressed area of downtown into a cultural district. It has evolved slowly through a series of pay-as-you-go projects at a fraction of the cost of new construction, primarily through restoration of existing structures.
Completed so far are the Oklahoma City Art Council headquarters and McAlpine Center, both reused buildings from the old central fire station, and a sprawling plaza used for the annual spring Festival of the Arts. After a $700,000 renovation, McAlpine shelters about a dozen agencies that direct and plan central Oklahoma’s top cultural events each year.
The next step is reopening the old Mummers Theater, retitled Stage Center, adjacent to the fire station buildings, next February, Douglas said.
The rehabilitation includes making the building accessible to handicapped people, adding elevators, enclosing open walkways, extensive indoor and outdoor lighting, mechanical improvements, and addition of gallery spaces around the two theaters.
Second Century demolished a full block of aging buildings, along Sheridan west of Walker, to make room for new construction in the arts district. In addition, Douglas said the board wants to see part of the four-block site formerly reserved for a downtown Galleria to be included in the cultural district.
Looks like these buildings are now history. It’s not that we weren’t warned that these buildings, built in the 1920s, were being targeted for extinction. Owners tried twice to get permission to tear them down as the area’s Asian community continues to erect concrete block retail strips with cute nods to the area’s emphasis on Asian design.
On the second go-around, with the local preservation community sidelined, exhausted from their unsuccessful fight with SandRidge Energy over its demolition plans, the owners of this strip succeeded in winning approval for demolition.
On Twitter, some on are asking… was this really an accidental fire? That’s a question that awaits the fire department now. Meanwhile, let’s look back at what this block looked like. Were there really no development options with this? Sit back and discuss.