Whirled calls demolitions "improvements"

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The Tulsa Whirled 'fessed up in Sunday's edition, owning up to plans not only to demolish the nine-story Skelly building for a small parking lot, but also to demolish the old Froug's Department Store building at 3rd and Main for a heating and cooling system.

The demolition of Froug's will mark the destruction of one of the last remaining retail spaces on Main Street of any size. In 1998, Cathey's Furniture (8th to 9th on Main) was pulled down and more recently three two-story buildings, built in the late 1910s, on the west side of Main north of 6th Street, were demolished by Arvest Bank. Both demolitions were for the purpose of creating surface parking. Another two small buildings on the east side of Main between 4th and 5th will be torn down for no good reason -- for another worthless plaza.

Main Street was once the principal commercial street of our city, but we blocked it off with the Williams Center, malled it, de-malled it, and our city's culture of demolition resulted most of its buildings being pulled down. Where there were department stores, now we have holes in the ground. Grand theatres gave way to parking garages.

During TulsaNow's bus tour of Oklahoma City back in 2002, I asked then-Mayor Kirk Humphreys about the urban conservation districts that were set up in Bricktown and other areas in and near downtown OKC. These districts set design requirements for new construction, and if memory serves me, they also place some restrictions on demolition. I asked the Mayor how they convinced developers to go along with restrictions on what they could do with their property. He said (paraphrasing here) that the City pointed out how many millions of dollars the City had invested in that area, and that it was reasonable for the City to take steps to protect its investment.

Tulsa's taxpayers have or will soon pour over $200 million into downtown Tulsa -- the arena, convention center upgrades (including some 3rd penny projects in addition to Vision 2025), removing the Main Mall and Bartlett Square, funding downtown housing initiatives, streetscaping, a new Central Library (if their bond issue passes).

The Tulsa Whirled strongly supported the reopening of Main Street to vehicular traffic. They told us that we had to reopen the Mall to traffic in order to encourage residential and commercial development. It is a shame and an outrage that fronting Main Street -- newly reopened at great taxpayer expense -- will be a big air conditioning system where a department store once was. Our city leaders need to take action now to prevent the Whirled from devaluing the taxpayer's investment in Main Street and downtown.

And what greater waste than to demolish tens of thousands of square feet that could be reused and redeveloped to create maybe a dozen parking spaces, just so the Whirled's executives don't have to cross the street. Don't believe it when they say it's for the customers. They could easily make arrangements with the lot across the street or the new city-funded structure a block away. They could validate parking.

The Whirled's publisher says this demolition represents the Whirled's commitment to downtown. The Whirled appears to be committed to the idea of downtown as just another suburban office park. As with TCC and its parking land grabs, downtown would have a better chance of becoming a real downtown again if the Whirled packed up and moved rather than tearing down more buildings. But of course, the Whirled doesn't really care about downtown or about Tulsa, as it proved when it refused to renew the joint operating agreement with the Tribune in 1992. The Whirled cares about its own business interests and those of its cronies. That's all. Nothing illegal about that, but you may want to take the Whirled with a nine-story tall grain of salt.

I believe Tulsans want downtown to be a real downtown again. A real vision for downtown should address parking issues, demolition, historic preservation and design guidelines. It is completely reasonable for the city to tell landowners, we've done our part, now you do yours. But that will only happen if the City Council takes the initiative. Dear Councilors, the Whirled already doesn't like you -- what have you got to lose?

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» Razing awareness from dustbury.com

Michael Bates has been all over the story that World Publishing Company, owner of the Tulsa World, plans to tear down the Skelly Building and the nearby Froug's Department Store... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 12, 2004 6:27 AM.

Is a confederacy of dunces running downtown? was the previous entry in this blog.

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