Will anyone fight to save this fire station from being torn down in 50 years?
Oklahoma City Fire Station 37, built in 1996, Oklahoman Archives
I’ve been thinking more about the city’s decision to build a new fire station at the east entrance to Bricktown. Old Downtown Guy suggests we shouldn’t be trying to mimick designs of stations of decades past – but rather come up with a new design that still complements the area.
So here are some stations that caught my eye cruising the Internet. The first one, shown above, is located in Ashland, Oregon, and is clearly the pride of the community. The story below is from the city’s web site:
Ashland Fire & Rescue Station #1
Owners: City of Ashland – Keith Woodley, Fire Chief/Project Manager
Architects: Peck Smiley Ettlin Architects
Contractor: Adroit Construction
What started out as a small early 1900′s auto service repair and gas station and later converted into a fire station is now the site of one of the most attractive buildings in the City and probably one of the most attractive fire stations on the West Coast.Prior to the City’s commitment to reconstruct the fire station, the old fire/gas station was considered by manyin the community as an unattractive site with dangerous ingress and egress access.
Since the building’s completion, the community has embrace the building with enthusiasm.
The street activity along the frontage clearly demonstrates a positive aesthetic impact as well as a financial benefit shared throughout the Downtown area.In an age when projects of this type do not consider “human scale” design or orientation or have such recessed parking bays, they create a “missing tooth” in the Main Street façade.
Also, new fire stations are typically built near the city’s fringe – fragmenting any potential lationship to downtown businesses and the community. Ashland Fire & Rescue Station #1 shows vision for future developments in the City.The Historic Commission would like to thank not only the citizens of Ashland for providing the funds to build the station, but also the Ashland City Council for providing the necessary direction and vision for our community’s future.
Columbia, Missouri, Peckham & Wright Architects
Interesting tidbit from this week’s Bricktown Urban Design Committee. Jim Cowan, director of the Bricktown Association, and Avis Scaramucci, owner of Nonna’s and a member of the committee, both acknowledged receiving emails concerning the proposed Holiday Inn Express. And a partner in the development team for the hotel, John Sweeney, reported reading comments at www.okctalk.com. Sweeney spent part of his interview with me answering questions and comments registered on the online forum.
On Tuesday Oklahoma City officials met with Bricktown merchants and updated them on their desire to build a fire station at the east entrance to the entertainment district. Several Bricktown merchants are worried about the department’s chosen location because they fear it will result in fire engines racing along Sheridan Avenue, endangering pedestrians on busy summer evenings.
At the meeting, city staff acknowledged they did not survey other cities to see whether fire stations had been built in urban entertainment districts and if so, how that worked out. After the meeting, Jim Cowan, director of the Bricktown Association, called the meeting a start, not an end, of the discussion.
A glimpse at the agenda for this Tuesday’s meeting of the Oklahoma City Council shows city staff is asking council members to approve a $771,000 purchase of the property at Sheridan and Lincoln - the very location that concerns several Bricktown merchants. The transaction would also transfer ownership of a former city maintenance yard at Sheridan and Byers to the owner of the proposed fire station property. The council item does not call for any competitive bidding for the city property. The council item also does not include an appraisal for the city property.
City staff did not communicate at Wednesday’s meeting the purchase was scheduled for Tuesday.
Previously, city staff sought to locate the fire station in Deep Deuce, which is turning into the first true downtown neighborhood with a handful of housing developments being built between NE 4, NE 2, Walnut and Oklahoma Avenues.
Here’s one advantage of having a blog – the ability to provide to you more information on a story that just couldn’t fit into the newspaper (I’ve been told that because there are other writers at the paper, I can’t simply have two pages just for my stories each day).
Today’s paper had a story about a proposed Holiday Inn Express for Bricktown. Here is a more in-depth discussion of the proposed design:
Demolition of the building, however, is not a certainty. Committee members unanimously criticized the proposed design by Quinn & Associates, which included a facade of 61 percent brick and 49 percent synthetic stucco.
Kip Bettencourt, an architect with Quinn & Associates, defended the design and argued the use of synthetic stucco, commonly known as EIFS, was not a matter of cost. Instead, he said, the material was included as a matter of good design.
“I selected the amount of brick myself with architectural license,” Bettencourt said. “I felt that just slapping brick on this building for the sake of putting brick on it was inappropriate. These buildings were built at different times … and that’s how these things evolved and that’s what I was trying to be true to.”
The use of synthetic stucco – also known as Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFS) – has been frowned on before by the Bricktown Urban Design Committee. A glass elevator tower was dropped from the Hampton Inn at Sheridan Avenue and Vince Gill Avenue when developers were forced by the committee to increase the amount of brick on the hotel and eliminate much of the proposed EIFS from the facade.
Bettencourt countered his project’s use of EIFS would be different.
“The synthetic plaster is a Dryvit product – we don’t like to call it EIFS because that has a negative connotation,” Bettencourt said. “This actually does have stone and mica in it … it has the appearance of granite. It certainly doesn’t look like the typical EIFS you would see.”
Bettencourt also agreed with committee comments that the building was “a little bit busy.” But he said he was trying to provide something “attractive to address the corner of Oklahoma and Main Street.”Committee members, however, were unswayed by Bettencourt and ruled no demolition can take place before a new design is submitted that “flattens” the facade and eliminates much of the synthetic stucco.
Wilson also suggested the developers try to incorporate an antique boiler inside the building and the oldest part of the structure – the north facade facing the BPI parking lot.
John Sweeney, vice president of operations for Kusum Hospitality, said after the meeting his group is prepared to follow the committee’s recommendations – including possible preservation of the dairy’s north facade.
“We definitely are doing more brick,” Sweeney said. “The thinking was, let’s get out concept together, and make sure the building fits on the site. And then let’s go to the committee and get their feedback and make sure we’re doing in the right direction. If they want 90 percent brick, whatever they want to do with that, we’ll be happy to along with them. We see the committee as a resource, as a valuable tool, in coming up with what’s right for Bricktown.”
Sweeney said he also had read criticisms voiced on local online chat boards and forums.
“We’re not going to build an eyesore,” Sweeney said. “We’re relying on the local population, and we need the local population to like what we do. The Holiday Inn Express we’re going to build will be built to last.”
Sweeney noted his group is spending $2.2 million to renovate a two-year old Amerisuites at Belle Isle Station to convert it into a Hyatt Place – proof, he said, of their commitment to quality.But urban design committee members remained concerned Wednesday that franchise architecture, and not design intended for Bricktown, governed plans for the proposed Holiday Inn Express.
“It concerns me to destroy this building … and replace it with a busy footprint with 51 percent brick and all these ins and outs, and adapting a Holiday Inn franchisor’s requirements,” committee member Bob Bright said.
Sweeney promised he and his partners are balancing the desires of the community and Holiday Inn.
“Holiday Inn wants to brand their building so that a customer driving down the road might not see the sign, but they see the building and know it’s a Holiday Inn Express just as when you see a Chilli’s or any other national chain,” Sweeney said. “They have guidelines they want us to follow. But they’ll conform to the local codes as well.”
Bricktown on a nice summer evening, 2007 – and not a cold, cold day like February 12, 2008. Oklahoman Archives
More thoughts about Bricktown versus West End coming your way from local architect Dennis Wells:
“As a young architect my firm was literally the first tenant of the West End (excepting Spaghetti Warehouse) and we were the architects that Blackland Properties used to spearhead development of the district. We witnessed the transformation from bumland to wonderland, often questioning the sanity of our client’s program. Even though architects are supposed to be visionaries, the degree of success surprised us. I wasn’t in Dallas during the decline and fall of the district, so the demise also surprised me.
In OKC I witnessed the rise of Bricktown from a different vantage point, and even with my first-hand experience in the blossoming of the West End I was somewhat skeptical that a similar blossoming would happen here. I thought the canal idea was too counterfeit and would be an embarrassing flop. I didn’t think OKC had the critical mass for success. Obviously I was wrong.
I’m not writing this to sell my ability to predict future success or demise, rather as credential for the comparison I’m about to make.
My view was that The West End was a developer’s money-grab… The City of Dallas seemed to just jump on the bandwagon. The District was a relatively isolated island of entertainment without significant links to other sustaining city elements. It was a true flash-in-the-pan. (I think the “Historical” status of the West End was also a contributing factor. At that time it was vogue to be “historical” and there was much ado about it from a regulatory perspective… Many good designs were killed by overly cautious design guidelines. The historical aspect has been less emphasized in Bricktown’s story. This is good.)
I think that the City of OKC was more involved with the conception and birth of Bricktown, and now clearly holds the control strings. This won’t necessarily ensure its longevity, but I think its location will. Bricktown’s adjacency to the Arena-Convention-Hotel elements as well as the budding River District and Core-to-Shore development puts it in a place of more future significance rather than less. And don’t forget housing! Although several housing projects were attempted in the West End, none ever got off the ground.
Another factor in the West End’s demise is the shear size and variety offered in Dallas. Its a much more fertile environment for competing zones to quickly grow and die. OKC’s smaller size and limited urban diversity might actually be a good thing… Bricktown is more important to us than the West End was to Dallas.”
3 E Main, as it looks today (photo from Oklahoma County Assessor’s web site), and 1947, as shown in this photo included in Wednesday’s Bricktown Urban Design Committee packet (photo from the Oklahoma Historical Society).
To be fair, the damage done to 3 E Main was a deed done years ago. And while debate rages of a proposal to tear down the old Steffen’s Ice Cream building at 101 E Main and replace it with a Holiday Inn Express – with a facade that has a significant amount of synthetic stucco – the Bricktown Urban Design Design Committee on Wednesday will also hear a proposal to cover 3 E Main with synthetic stucco as well.
The building still has a brick facade under all that concrete, and a report by city planner John Calhoun indicates some of the brick is exposed in areas where the concrete has fallen away. But owners have told the city removal of the concrete is prohibitive, and they are asking to cover the concrete with a synthetic stucco, mixed with rock, similar to the material proposed for the Holiday Inn Express.
Thanks to everybody for your comments and participation in OKC Central. As I wrap up the week, here are some random thoughts…
OK, do we really need any evidence that I’ve still got a lot to learn? Old Downtown Guy corrects me on what the IIDA is – it’s the International Interior Design Association. The group recently met at the Red Pin Bowling Lounge in Lower Bricktown.
Here’s what Old Downtown Guy had to say: “The space was a difficult fit for the bowling alley/restaurant tenant but the design team did an excellent job of shoe-horning in all of the mechanical and sprinkler systems. The interior design, finish and materials selections were done by Cynthia Harrison and Bethany Jackson of Tandem Design. David Wanzer and Ken Fitzsimmons also worked on the architectural portion of the project. Monty Jacobs was the general contractor.”
Wanzer and Fitzsimmons are part of the influx of new talent making their mark downtown. Wanzer and his partners at J3 Architecture currently office in Deep Deuce in the Littlepage Building, but will soon be moving to Film Row on W Sheridan where they are participating in the area’s redevelopment. Fitzsimmons and his brother Bryan, meanwhile, are involved in some exciting and challenging innercity projects including the Tower Theater on NW 23.
Old Downtown Guy added he saw Jeff Bezdeck with a group at Red Pin as well. Bezdek designed the dancing fountains in Lower Bricktown, brought Centennial Clocks to just about every town in the state, designed the bell tower along the Oklahoma River and the clock tower for the MidTown Plaza at NW 5 and Walker. Bezdek also happens to office next door to Wanzer.
And here is Old Downtown Guy’s review: “Red Pin is a fun spot . . . nice bar and a decent restaurant. I don’t bowl, but I think their lanes get plenty of use . . . six or seven of the ten were going strong this evening. The pin setting equipment is very interesting and requires a full time mechanic to keep it working properly.”Second item: Harry Wilson rcorrectly reminds us that the old incarnation of the Urban Design Commission played a pivotal role in stopping demolition of the Gold Dome. The design commission, with more power to halt demolition of buildings deemed historic, created the delay needed for interested parties to attract a buyer like Dr. Irene Lam. Here’s what Wilson has to say:
How quickly we forget. Re the Gold Dome, the Urban Design Commission “saved the landmark from demolition”. If we had voted “yes” there wouldn’t have been a “landmark” for anyone to occupy.
The UDC has never received the credit it deserved for the behind the scenes leadership re Auto Alley, 23rd Street, The Plaza District, and more. For some reason the Bricktown UDC gets the headlines. I guess we were just too boring or maybe it was the professional approach of the UDC as opposed to the headline grabbing personalities of the Bricktown group.
BEFORE AND AFTER: McDonald’s changed designs for its proposed Bricktown restaurant after meeting resistance from the Bricktown Urban Design Committee.
“Urban designer? I’m not an urban designer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”
-Brett, Oklahoma City, at www.newsok.com
Today’s story about the owner of the Quality Inn at 1800 E Reno and his plans for a Bricktown Holiday Inn Express isn’t sitting well with all readers, if online comments today at www.newsok.com ,www.okctalk.com, www.okmet.org/bb are any indicator. The Bricktown Urban Design Committee, tasked with approving such projects, will consider the project at its next meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the second floor conference room at 116 E Sheridan Ave.
The criticism seems to focus on two different aspects of the application: the demolition of the old Steffen’s Ice Cream building, parts of which date back to 1917, and the construction of a new Holiday Inn Express that would have what appears to be about half of its facade consisting of a sythetic stucco.
Bob Blackburn advises to consider the first action very carefully – read his arguments here. It might be informative to look back at previous projects in the past couple of years that also clashed with standards set by the Bricktown urban design ordinance.
It was just last summer that McDonald’s pitched plans for a restaurant across from Bass Pro Shops. Officials claimed the restaurant was designed specifically for the entertainment district. But it didn’t take long to find the same design recently used on new McDonald’s in Mustang and other suburban areas. The design was even featured in a national advertisement. The McDonald’s folks tried to lecture the Bricktown Urban Design Committee on what they could and couldn’t require from the fast food giant. But with an hour-long special airing on cable that same month on how McDonald’s had constructed special restaurants to match historic districts, the company had a change of heart, hired a local architect, and came up with new designs that won unanimous praise throughout Bricktown.
When a Hampton Inn was proposed for Bricktown, it too was to include some synthetic stucco in its facade. The committee required the facade consist of brick, and the developers agreed without any argument.
Here are some questions not pondered: is the design of the proposed Holiday Inn Express, shown below, an example of franchise architecture or does it appear tailored to Bricktown?
Rand Elliott, left, talks with longtime friends Meg and Chris Salyer at Java Dave’s, 10 NE 10 in this 2005 photo. Oklahoman Archives
An update on Steve Mason’s work along Automobile Alley can be found in today’s business section. For those of you not familiar with Mason, his companies include Cardinal Engineering and Earl’s Rib Palace. Mason is also part of a wave of corporate relocations prompted by the expansion of the Chesapeake Energy campus at NW 63 and Classen. Instead of finding new digs out on Memorial Road, he bought some of Broadway’s most challenging buildings and committed himself to renovations that overwelmed prior owners.
He’s also had a bit of a setback – you can read about here.
Mason is trying to do something different by promoting retail in the ground floors of his buildings (several Automobile Alley owners have used their first floors for much needed parking). To provide ample parking, he’s bought empty lots across the street. Will this gamble pay off? And will other property owners take notice and possibly follow his example?
Automobile Alley doesn’t attract the same attention as Bricktown, but this district has an enviable mix that includes offices, a ballet conservatory, an art gallery, restaurants, an office supply store, two bike shops, banks and loft housing. Mason’s plans are targeted at giving retail more visibility on the strip.
Devery Youngblood, director of a then newly formed Automobile Alley, in 1996 when Broadway wasn’t looking too good. Oklahoman Archives
I still recall an Automobile Alley where weeds the size of pre-schoolers grew from cracks in the sidewalks. More buildings were empty, boarded up or dillapidated than not. Private and public investment that followed the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Developers still invested in Automobile Alley – Nicholas Preftakes, Chris and Meg Salyer, Rand Elliott – dedicated themselves to bringing the strip back to life. I’ve even seen Meg Salyer, a respected civic leader and business executive, take the time to remove weeds from the sidewalk. Now this group can add Steve Mason to their ranks.
West End in Dallas - When Godzilla welcomed visitors to Planet Hollywood and a day full of divisions could be found inside the West End Marketplace. But it was a ghost town when I visited in 2006. Oklahoman archives.
Today’s Main Street column has me thinking back to the West End – back when it was in its glory days.
Some would say it peaked with the opening of a Planet Hollywood, but I’m not too sure of that. I may be biased toward the early 1990s. I had just graduated from college and I always had a place to crash in Dallas thank to an old college buddy who had done well enough in advertising to afford a condo with a guest bedroom.
On any given weekend spring through early fall, it seemed as if a group of us could drive down from Oklahoma City and enjoy a free outdoor concert in front of the West End Marketplace.
As Chuck Davis noted in 1989 (read today’s column), West End had plenty of restaurants and clubs. I always liked the way the neon Dallas Alley hung between the giant brick warehouses, marking the entry into the club section.
But I also loved the geeky diversions – the 3D art gallery, the fudge shop where production of the treats doubled as entertainment, and of course, the miniature golf course and arcade.
The Marketplace closed two years ago. The West End Association had to lay off all of its staff a year ago – another sign of the district’s continued decline.
It’s difficult not to look at West End when discussing the long term prospects for Bricktown. Afterall, the Dallas entertainment district in many ways has the same feel – the same look – as Bricktown. And the district was an inspiration to early Bricktown developers.
West End – both its past glory and current decline – is mentioned a lot by Bricktown merchants who worry about escalating property values and continued disagreements over pricing of the district’s parking. City leaders have reacted by hiring consultants to look at everything from parking to long range planning.
But let’s go beyond these comparisons …
Bricktown is thriving, and it does boast a lot of attractions that easily top anything that anchored West End in its glory days. Sure, West End had a Planet Hollywood. But Bricktown has the canal and ballpark.
I’m still struck by the sights and sounds of almost 20 years ago. So I’m wondering – is the Bricktown we know today better than the West End I remember? What do you think?