Tulsa needs tools for preservation

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Oklahoma City's Downtown Guy has posted the last installment in his series on a recent visit Tulsa, which features a photo of the demolition of the Skelly Building. He says it's been years since a significant historic building has been demolished in downtown OKC, and he mentions one badly-damaged building that the owner chose to restore because, like the Skelly Building, it sat on a prominent corner. About the Skelly, he writes:

Protests were held, much like those for the Gold Dome in OKC. But they weren’t victorious (the Gold Dome, on the other hand, was a big win for preservationists here).

Saving the Gold Dome was a hard-fought victory, but OKC preservationists had some tools at their disposal that are missing in Tulsa. The building is in an urban design review district, and the owner of the building had to seek a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the building and build the new Walgreens and bank branch to replace it. The Urban Design Commission denied all three applications, and ultimately a buyer was found to restore and reuse the landmark.

Here in Tulsa, we have nothing in our ordinances to stop or even slow the demolition of historic commercial buildings or to prevent the continued erosion of what remains of our urban streetscape. If there were a consensus among the powerful that preservation is a good thing, such laws wouldn't be needed, but the fact that we don't have such laws is a clear indication that the folks who really run this town don't get it yet. They see a new arena and a new convention center in Oklahoma City, and they think that's all we need to achieve the same sort of revitalization. What they don't notice are all the old buildings that weren't knocked down in the '60s for urban renewal or in the decades since for parking. These old buildings were available when people were ready to take risks and start businesses in Bricktown. Tulsa is starting off well behind Oklahoma City in the old buildings department. If we expect great things to happen in downtown Tulsa, one of the first steps is to stop tearing down buildings. A private effort to rescue endangered buildings, paralleled by public policy decisions to encourage preservation, are the first steps.

7 Comments

CGHill said:

What's more, the Walgreen's, which was built on the next block to the west, consulted with the Gatewood neighborhood, which it abuts, before ground was broken, and the UDC demanded a couple of changes to the exterior fittings to make it fit better into the streetscape.

We take this stuff seriously down here in the O.C.

W. said:

Maybe it's time to have a political party in charge that would be more sympathetic to historical neighborhoods.

Democrats, anyone?

WF said:

Preservation is great, but owning one of those buildings can be a liability if you're stuck with a structure you can't change and you can't tear down. And then they just sit empty for years like the Mayo (which even now after decades empty is just one nice floor at the bottom).

I'm not sure what moral principle states that the owner of one of these buildings is bound to preserve it at his own expense for the community at large. Sure, he'd be a nice guy and full of laudable virtue if he did, but it's not fair to force him to preserve a building for the rest of us to look at.

Preservation schemes that require the owner to foot the bill are just socialist theft.

Democrats? Susan Savage wasn't any friendlier to historic preservation. Under her reign part of the Swan Lake Historic Preservation District was surrendered to make way for Stillwater National Bank's parking lot. And the folks in Maple Ridge Central will tell you how the administration worked against their attempt to get HP status for their historic neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has had Republicans in charge for as long as I can remember -- before Mick Cornett there was Kirk Humphreys and before Humphreys was Ron Norick.

W. said:

See, Michael? You proved my point. What is the difference between Democrats and Republicans in Oklahoma? None.

Which is why the time is ripe for a third party. The Democratic Party can't seem to figure out what it stands for, and the Bush's lies about the reasons for war in Iraq and the poor postwar planning there are hanging around the GOP's neck like a 500-pound albatross.

If you get a political movement that truly separates itself from two main parties that are either stagnant or corrupt, then that's when it will gain traction.

It's something to think about.

mad okie Author Profile Page said:

Nice backpedal there W... first you suggest democrats are the answer, then when called on it you call for a third party... then go on with a Bush bash which has nothing to do with the subject at hand...

W. said:

Nice try, Okie. Note that I posed the original post in a question, not a statement.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 17, 2005 10:07 PM.

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