Your job today is easy – the SandRidge proposal is not in compliance with design guidelines.
He’s doing another powerpoint… “history will be written today. Whether we will be remembered in a good light or a bad light.” Williamson reminds the Board of Adjustment is charged with ensuring Downtown Design guidelines are followed. Says board was misinformed about facade on the India Temple building, thousands of examples of similar buildings restored.
Michael Dunn is absent from today’s Board of Adjustment meeting; Jeff Austin has recused himself again. That means all three present must agree on a motion if there is to be a decision today.
Just a couple weeks after Jane Jenkins helped host the National Main Streets conference at the Cox Convention Center, she signed the following letter which has been sent to the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment as it considers the SandRidge Commons project – which proposes tearing down six buildings (they will hear the issue again on Thursday):
SandRidge Energy attorney Frank Hill told the board the India Temple, YMCA and Kermac buildings were all empty for three decades. But then we hear this:
My name is Brian Young. Back in March 2006, I was hired by Kerr McGee as a legal contractor to work on environmental litigation. Initially, 5 of us were assigned to go through various reports and files. Due to the quantity of files for this particular project, there was no room in the regular Kerr McGee tower for us to go through everything. So KM put all of us over in the India Temple building. At some point, our employment shifted from Kerr McGee to Tronox (in fact, I think it shifted within the first week or so)
I worked there from March 2006 until January of 2007, when the project was completed. The number of people working in that building varied over the course of the year, but it ranged from 5 people up to about 10 or 12. We worked on the 4th floor of India Temple. All the lighting, electrical outlets, and plumbing still functioned. Kerr McGee/Tronox sent over some IT guys that summer to hook up computers and high speed internet access. They ran standard ethernet cables through the walls and ceiling as well.
The only safety hazards we ever encountered were a warning that the middle of floor could not hold the hundreds of file boxes we were searching through (we had up to 200 on the floor at one time with no issues), and difficulty in going down the old emergency stairs when a transformer exploded and left half of downtown without power (there were no emergency lights installed in the stairway and they had to send over someone with a flashlight).
Now, no one may have had their permanent office in that building, but it was continuously in use. While I only worked on that one project, my understanding is that the India Temple building was where KM sent various overflow projects that were too large to handle in their tower.
We’ve also heard over and over again from those supporting demolition of the buildings that if they were good candidates for redevelopment that a person would have done so long ago. But then Doug Loudenback reminds of this 2005 comment by former Kerr-McGee Chief Executive Luke Corbett:
Corbett said his company has fielded numerous offers for the properties over the past decade, but he said the ideas or timing was never quite right.
“What’s captured our attention is what has happened to the downtown area after MAPS,” Corbett said. “If you look at the momentum we have in this city and the growth that’s occurring downtown, it’s breathtaking.”
Marsha Wooden, vice president of administration, declined comment at the end of today’s meeting.
Here are the questions I wanted to ask:
1. SandRidge Energy and Preservation Oklahoma are providing very different accounts of Oklahoma Historical Society director Bob Blackburn’s thoughts on the historic merit and viability of the older buildings on the SandRidge campus. Would it help clear up any confusion if he appeared at the next Board of Adjustment meeting?
2. Why won’t you accept the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s offer to pay for a historic analysis of the buildings in question?
3. What is the consequence of further delays in the project?
4. What should have been the basis for the Downtown Design Review Committee’s decision on whether the buildings in question should get their approval for demolition?
5. Why won’t SandRidge Energy entertain proposals to turn the Kermac building into housing?
But definitely no decision today. Deferred until later this month.
May have just complicated effort by Board of Adjustment to seek structural reports by noting structural integrity not a factor for consideration, but historic integrity is.
SandRidge attorney Frank Hill now agreeing with Miller after previously agreeing to hiring of engineer.
Board of Adjustment is on the verge of voting to delay decision, demand that both sides agree to hiring of a structural engineer to compile reports on each building.
This certainly isn’t a loss to Preservation Oklahoma, and certainly not a win for SandRidge, which hoped to come out of this meeting with a vote to move forward.