That’s not my way of doing things.
But last week’s OKC Central Live Chat (the transcript was posted Wednesday) included the following bit of conversation inspired by a $4.8 million building permit filed for a proposed Marriott Springhill Suites:
Wow. I’m impressed. If all this is being done for $62 a square foot, Dr. Patel is brilliant and he’s set to revolutionize the hotel industry.
“It’s future is as good as gold….” Um, not so fast.
As debate continues over the future of the Gold Dome, I’m digging up videos and information provided by preservationists on why they think the structure is worth saving. Have no doubt, an effort is underway to prevent a repeat of past protests … and while the owner, David Box, has not yet filed for a demolition permit with Urban Design, that does not mean he is promising to keep the structure standing.
Okie Mod Squad has a great history you can read here. Note, the building is listed as one of 100 best buildings in central Oklahoma by the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Architects Newspaper blog, meanwhile, noted after learning about Box’s demolition plan that “Oklahoma City just cannot tear down its architectural landmarks fast enough.”
Oklahoma City has won accolades in recent months from the architectural community with both a cover story on Architectural Record magazine and top honors from the National Architectural Foundation. But will those accolades turn to jeers if two nationally respected properties – Stage Center and the Gold Dome -are torn down in the same year?
There are assumptions being made that because Dr. Irene Lam lost the Gold Dome in foreclosure that it’s a failed property that can’t be saved. Lam is an optometrist. Her heart may have been in the right place, but tenants during her tenure argued she did not know how to manage or develop the property. She had no such experience.
I am hearing interest in the development community in buying the Gold Dome, preserving it and giving it a new life. But whether they can pay the price Box paid remains a question. He is seen as having paid too much for the structure – and the question is out there among critics as to whether he did so assuming he could easily raze the Gold Dome and replace it with a gas station or other commercial use taking advantage of the high traffic count at NW 23 and Classen (he denied having intent to tear it down when he bought it).
Box is now engaging with the preservation community on their Facebook page, and it will be interesting to see if they can provide him with a way forward that keeps the dome intact.
When designs were unveiled over the fall for a Holiday Inn Express at Oklahoman and Main Street in Bricktown, the project was greeted with applause by the public. The design were especially popular when seen in light against previous incarnations of the project just a few years ago that never got off the ground. The architects at ADG might have walked away from a conceptual presentation believing their work would easily win approval, especially when compared to other hotel projects reviewed and approved by the Bricktown Urban Design Committee. As I noted after the design review in January, the feedback from the committee was, well, confusing:
Plans for the hotel, drawn up by Architectural Design Group, were applauded at Tuesday’s meeting of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee, but not without conflicting guidance given on plans for the entryway.
Panel members unanimously agreed to allow the project to proceed, but with possible changes to the hotel’s entrance to be considered at a later date. Committee member Bob Bright, also a planning commissioner, repeatedly criticized the height of an entrance archway, while another member, architect Mark Krittenbrink, argued for the height but didn’t like its angled protrusion.
“Making a prominent entrance is typical of the era,” Krittenbrink said. “But the leaning out … is not historical.”
Another member, Avis Scaramucci, indicated she had no problem with the archway. She also disagreed with Bright’s suggestion that the entrance canopies were not a good fit for the district, arguing the design does reflect other canopies found in Bricktown. Bright also questioned whether the two-story glass-encased lobby was in keeping with the historic nature of the century-old warehouse district.
“It just seems like someone decided to stick something on the front to make it look modern,” Bright said. “It doesn’t seem consistent with where we are.”
Scott Dedmon, project architect, responded the design team wished to avoid a “Disneyland replication design” that attempts to recreate historic buildings. “We’re building a building in 2013, not a building in 1915,” Dedmon said.
Not everyone liked the committee’s reaction, and over at OKC Talk, several folks questioned whether the committee had gone too far. So how is Dedmon to respond? Well, in this case, they’re returning to the committee Wednesday with five alternatives that attempt to address all the conflicting feedback received in January. This sort of effort, in my years covering Bricktown Urban Design since 1997, is unprecedented.
I wonder if anyone on the committee has really spent the time to review the ordinance that established the design review and set up the committee’s responsibilities.
Here’s a section the Oklahoma City Municipal Code I find especially noteworthy:
§ 59-7150. – Bricktown Core Development District.
K. Design Guidelines for Certificates of Approval for BC Zoned Properties. The following design guidelines are advisory and serve as a reference for all parties involved in the design review process. They do not constitute regulations. The Bricktown Urban Design Committee shall be guided by these guidelines:
(2) Brick building facades, preferably varying shades of red brick, are an established and a critical characteristic of the district’s core. New and renovated facades should enhance or complement this characteristic. Innovative design and creative use of building materials, such as glass, concrete and architectural metals are encouraged. Mirrored glass and vinyl siding are discouraged.
UPDATE: Committee members Bob Bright and Mark Krittenbrink (who were among the ones giving conflicting feedback on the first presentation of the Holiday Inn application), were absent at today’s meeting. That left the committee short of a quorum, so the question of this project’s design remains to be decided another day.
For those interested in seeing how urban design review can change how a project is developed, consider the latest developments with a proposed Holiday Inn Express.
When the hotel was first proposed in 2008, it was a four-story, 95-room hotel with 41 percent synthetic stucco in the facade and columns unlike anything found in Bricktown.
The design was unanimously rejected by the Bricktown Urban Design Committee.
So then a new design was submitted that did away with the columns and the stucco and featured an all brick facade. The design was approved – though it didn’t draw much excitement.
With approval in hand, the project was scrapped due to the economic crash of 2009. Now the Bricktown hotel market is going full steam, and Holiday Inn Express is back on track with a new developer and new architect.
And on Wednesday, the Bricktown Urban Design Committee was thrilled to see a presentation of the newest designs by Architectural Design Group:
Over the past dozen years we’ve seen Chris Johnson proposals for Bricktown come and go, including the most recent controversial effort to build parking and a couple of retail buildings along the Bricktown Canal. To date, we’ve seen nothing but parking.
Now we’ve got another rendering coming to this week’s Bricktown Urban Design Committee. The property, 229 E Sheridan, once home to Joker’s Comedy Club, has been vacant for the past decade. Word on the street has it that it was previously either owned or leased by individuals who thought they could find a way to get around the district’s zoning against strip clubs (I was never able to verify or disprove this story).
Johnson quietly bought the building this past year, and what he’s attempting is a fairly extensive makeover. The former warehouse, built in 1952, is not generally regarded as one of Bricktown’s more remarkable structures, and I’m not sure anyone will really object to the design.
Over at www.okctalk.com, some are questioning why Johnson’s application shows no urgency for parking, referencing the heart of the dispute over his planned canal project that is now on hold.
Looking at Johnson’s track records, others ask whether they can even believe if this project will ever take place….
Urban Renewal board members objected to the building’s orientation being focused on surface parking to the south instead of the Bricktown Canal to the north. They objected to the idea that a nine-foot-wide alley between 17-foot walls of the new building and Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill would be the only pedestrian access in the area to the canal. They objected to the lack of interaction between the building, it’s limited patio, and the waterway.
Randy Hogan and Jason Wint say they don’t know how to design this building differently. They say their priority is to cater to the interests of the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, which they claimed was that customer access be from the parking lot. They say they do not know how to create a site that interacts more with the canal. They say they can’t build a two-story or higher building due to parking constraints in the area. Hogan believes the rendering above is an “outstanding” design – and resisted suggestions that it can be improved upon or made to be more focused on the canal rather than the parking lot.
I know there are many talented architects, designers and students out there who care about our city, and want to see our downtown become something special.
I’ve seen some of you lend your talents to enhancing the public discussion in the past on topics ranging from the downtown boulevard to Stage Center.
So here’s my request: come up with an alternative concept and rendering for Randy that allows for a 10,000-square-foot building (or more if you can show how this works in his interest) with space for two restaurants on the site between Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill and Earl’s Rib Palace along the canal. I’ll post them on OKC Central, and I’ll ask readers to vote on which concept and rendering they like the best. Maybe then I’ll post the winner in a future column in the business section so that it can be shared with Randy Hogan and the Urban Renewal board.
Let’s try to get something going this next week so your ideas can be considered before the next Urban Renewal meeting.
In the past week since the Downtown Design Review Committee, Planning Department and Public Works clashed on the proposed makeover of the Civic Center park, I’ve heard only negative comments about the designs by Rand Elliott and Tulsa-based PDG Inc., which call for the removal of all trees (some of the biggest trees to be found downtown), sculptures, monuments and other landscaping. Read the full story on that debate here.
Rand Elliott doesn’t think small – I think it’s safe to say everyone would agree he always attempts to hit a home-run – he aspires to create great, eye-catching architecture and design. And I think his biggest fans and even his greatest critics would agree that the city is better off with his imprint. But what if one of those high-flying balls ends up being a foul? Will anyone tell the slugger when his latest hit didn’t go so well?
That’s the question ahead ahead for those who see this hit as a foul ball rather than a home run. I’m hearing that any differences between city planners and engineers is being ironed out behind the scenes and that the rare display of disagreement will disappear with a reapplication of the designs that skip over, for now, questions about the proposed archway, spinning towers and City Hall fountain.
Of course, that still leaves a lot of questions unresolved. I’ve been asked by more than a dozen different readers what they need to do to voice their opposition to these designs. They say these designs were not fully vetted, and some also are questioning whether the committee that reviewed this work consisted of too many people hand-selected by the design team.
This project HAS NOT been approved by the mayor and council. It must get five or more votes to move forward. So to those asking how they can voice their disapproval – or approval – now is the time to contact the mayor and council.
Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs: email@example.com
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee: email@example.com
Ward 4 Councilman Pete White: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell: email@example.com
Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 7 Councilman Skip Kelly: email@example.com
Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Mick Cornett: email@example.com
Over at www.downtownontherange.blogspot.com, Nick Roberts is continuing to put his own stamp on the discussion of downtown Oklahoma City’s ongoing transformation. Nick, who is pursuing a planning degree in college, is able to take that discussion a bit further than I can due to our different roles in the blogging world. I try to offer news and observation (and sometimes very uncomfortable questions posed to those I cover), while Nick goes straight to commentary. He’s good at what he does. But confusion sometimes emerges. Last summer developer Richard Tanenbaum put up a slide of quotes praising his track record and attributed it to OKC Central – when it actually was written by Nick over at Downtown on the Range.
Nick and I are often thinking about the same topics. This time we’re both thinking about Avis Scaramucci, owner of Nonna’s and The Painted Door in Bricktown, and who is going on her fourth year as chair of the Bricktown Association (she also serves of chair of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee). A few weeks ago, I took the following photo:
Yep, that’s more windows getting covered with plywood over at the Rock Island Plow Building. Keep in mind it’s a structure that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Before I could post anything on OKC Central, Nick posted his own photo with the following quote:
Does a single successful restaurant make someone the “Queen of Bricktown?” So far Avis has done nothing to prove that she wasn’t one and done in terms of Bricktown development, and how did this get to be the person chairing the Bricktown Suburban Design Committee?
So I guess Nick would be none too thrilled to see more plywood going up on windows at the 100-year-old Rock Island Plow building, which Avis owns. It’s the ONLY boarded up structure left in Bricktown, and it’s along Reno Avenue where thousands of visitors travel daily, both by foot and by vehicle. It’s a prime corridor for tourists and those attending NBA games at the nearby Chesapeake Energy Arena.
County records show Avis and her husband Phil bought the building for $1,450,000 in 2003. I’m also aware they spent a significant amount of money doing emergency structural repairs several years ago that, if not done, we likely would have lost this building all together.
I’ve been hearing complaints similar to those voiced by Nick, and I asked Avis why the wait – why not move forward with a development or simply sell the building to someone who will make something happen. I know they’ve had willing buyers – parties with a track record of successful development. So far, Avis’ response is simply “now is not the time.”
This won’t make Nick any happier. And I fully anticipate he’ll have more to say on this matter.
Steve Mason and Blair Humphreys invite you to participate in an interactive placemaking charrette:
Everyone is invited to participate in an interactive placemaking charrette for the area surrounding 9th and Broadway in Oklahoma City. You can help shape the future of this area by submitting ideas online at http://www.plainurban.com/okc or by dropping by the design workshop at 1015 N. Broadway on Friday, June 10 and/or Saturday, June 11. A team of designers brought together by PLAIN URBAN, and funded by the 9th Street District, will use the input you provide to create a urban design plan for the area. Your ideas will help shape the future of this community! While the conversations begins at the corner of 9th and Broadway, it is up to you where it goes from there.
Should be interesting to watch.