Max Campbell building to be restored; will Coburn help?

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Just found this, from Tulsa Business Journal's October 27 edition: The Max Campbell building, with its distinctive roof of multicolored clay tiles, is going to be restored as a hotel and retail space. That's the original function of this 1926, block-long building on 11th Street between Birmingham and Columbia.

Aaron Meek, owner of Group M. Investments Inc. said he plans to restore the building turning the space into a hotel with an events center and restaurant in the bottom level.

"It is my understanding that the building was originally a hotel on the top stories, and the bottom was used as retail space," Meek said. "We have gotten enough interest to where we are going to go back to that original purpose."

The project isn't new territory for Meek, who he said worked primarily on the restoration of older homes and properties in the mid-town area.

"We love the old buildings and love getting them back to their original state," he said. "We're working on another project down the street that we're turning into lofts.

In 1957, this building was home to a drug store, an auto parts store, a barber shop, an office supply company, and, upstairs, the Casa Loma hotel.

It's a neighborhood landmark that has been in that spot since before Route 66 was routed down 11th Street.

In the story, Meek notes how costly it is to restore a building. Hopefully, he'll think to apply for the historic register status to which the building is entitled, which would qualify him for state and federal tax credits. This restoration seems like it would also be a good candidate for the Route 66 Corridor Restoration Program. That program was used to help accomplish the restoration of the Vickery Phillips 66 station at 6th and Elgin, which is being reused as an Avis car rental location.

Unfortunately, reauthorization of the Route 66 Corridor Restoration Program is being blocked by our own Sen. Tom Coburn. Here's a link to Coburn's statement and the key excerpt:

Several tourism related measures, including a couple that have already become a favorite piggy bank to pay for congressional earmarks, such as the Save America's Treasures program, the Preserve America program, and the Route 66 Corridor Preservation program. The Route 66 program is currently restoring aging gas stations, motels and restaurants. Unfortunately, tourism has declined with many Americans unable to afford the cost of gas and, as evidenced by this bill, Congress' misplaced priorities threaten to drive up the cost of travel.

While I understand his perspective, this program is administered by the National Park Service and is in keeping with the NPS's mission of protecting the nation's heritage and making it accessible to visitors from our own country and from overseas. Interest in Route 66 has been growing (a long-term, Internet-fueled trend that has received a giant boost from Pixar's Cars), but at the same time, landmark roadside buildings continue to be lost to purposeful demolition and to demolition by neglect.

As Route 66 expert and author Emily Priddy points out, cruising the Mother Road is a very affordable vacation destination, and people looking for cheap ways to see America are rediscovering Old 66:

I don't know where Coburn is getting his information. Yes, some Americans are having trouble buying gas, and no, they're not traveling as far. But in my extensive travels on Route 66, I have met literally hundreds of small business owners. I've spoken with many of them this year. They are all in a position to know what's going on along the Mother Road -- and what's going on is that Route 66 is thriving, largely because of increases in foreign travelers (who are used to unholy gas prices); locals (when you can't afford Disneyworld or the Grand Canyon, you explore your own backyard); and bargain hunters (fuel-efficient speed limits and great values on food, lodging and entertainment make Route 66 a penny-pincher's dream).

The Route 66 Corridor Restoration Program is not an earmark. Congress appropriates money for the fund, but the NPS processes applications for the grants, which must be matched, and must go to projects that meet the NPS's standards for the treatment of historic buildings. No money has been earmarked by Congress for specific projects. Originally envisioned as a 10-year, $10 million program, only $1.2 million in federal money has been granted over the first seven fiscal years. The program ends at the end of Fiscal Year 2009. The new bill asks Congress to authorize $8 million over 10 years, starting in FY 2010.

Compare that to the $15 million allocated by Vision 2025 for the highway, which would work wonders on Tulsa's stretch of 66 if it were used as matching grant money for neon repair and building restoration. (It won't be, sadly.)

This may be one of the government's most cost-effective programs to encourage historic preservation and tourism, as the government foots less than half of the bill and doesn't have to pay for ongoing operation and maintenance of the sites that are improved.

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singleton Author Profile Page said:

I realize you want something for this area, but I have to agree with Colburn. Why should the federal government fund it. It may be appropriate for local funds (Vision 25 or other), but why should there be matching federal funds. Why should people in Alaska and Maine be funding improvements to make investments to make Route 66 a vacation destination, any more than why should OK tax dollars fund a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, or making some vacation destination in Maine?

Roy said:

Agreed, Don. Furthermore, why should *any* gov't fund it?

Mike, your reasoning in, eg, your last paragraph uses the 'begging the question' logical fallicy. The hidden, unasked question depending on assent is whether gov't has any business (intended pun) in business.

sbtulsa Author Profile Page said:

the real question is why was this building allowed to fall in to disrepair to begin with. It is a symptom of our society that treasures of the past were neglected in the first place. Its just like a house. You keep it up a little bit at a time over long years of owndership.

This isn't another "Bridge to Nowhere." This is a program that generates many times its own cost in revenues for small communities whose economies were devastated by the rise of the interstates thirty, forty, or even fifty years ago. The federal government bankrupted thousands of small business owners and turned many thriving communities into ghost towns overnight when it created roads designed specifically to keep travelers from passing through downtown areas. I don't know how one would go about calculating this, but based on shuttered businesses alone, I think it's safe to estimate that the cost of the interstates to small towns is well into the billions. On Route 66, the federal government taketh away. All. The. Time. In light of all that the feds have inflicted on 66 over the past 50 years, how can anyone in good conscience begrudge these communities a few dollars per year to try to reverse some of that damage and salvage what's left?

This is one of the most efficiently run programs ever to come out of Washington. It operates on a shoestring, yet it consistently delivers an enormous bang for taxpayers' bucks. Further, it costs almost nothing. $10 million sounds like a lot of money -- until you do the math and realize that it amounts to six cents per person per year.

At that point, the question becomes much simpler:

Do you love your country enough to invest six cents per year in the preservation of its structural heritage, or don't you?

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

To add to previous comments: I suspect Coburn knows that way politics works. In order to get funding for OUR favorite bit of pork, we have to agree to fund THEIR favorite bit of pork. And around and around it goes; where it stops, nobody knows.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Herein lies the shape of our government, and the generational poor, big spending government we've had. Things like this which arguably should be funded - a national historic world renown highway architectural artifact - being kicked to the curb because we're all too disgusted with pork projects. I can't blame Senator Coburn. He's sticking to his guns, which is more than Henry Paulson can do. We are so tired of pork.

Because of the dreadful shape our country is in, the baby is going out with the bath water. What a shame. Shame shame shame. The richest, strongest country in the world squandering everything, now we can afford nothing.

singleton Author Profile Page said:

Red Fork Hippie Chick, I feel sure the 50 residents that would have benefited from the Bridge to Nowhere loved the plan, as did the construction businesses in Alaska that would have built it.

I am sure that every pork project benefits someone, somewhere.

The question is why should you and I pay for it.

Legislators adding pork say they know best what their constituents need, but it really is what can they brag about being funded with free money so reelect them.

But if all 535 legislators get free money for their constituents, then all of us are paying for it.

And if people in Alaska or West Virginia get more than their fair share because they have someone on the appropriations committee, then we are unfairly being taxed to give them a bigger slice of the pie.

If something benefits the whole country, the Federal Government should fund it. If it benefits a region, the states in the region should fund it. If it benefits a single state, the people in that state should fund it. If it benefits the people in a part of a state, the counties in that part should fund it. If it benefits a single county, the people in that county should fund it. If it benefits people in a single city, the people in that city should pay for it. And if something like a stadium is going to benefit land owners near the stadium or the team playing in the stadium, then it should be funded by the land owners near the stadium or the team playing in it.

Please permit me to post this note to Sen. Coburn from Route 66 researcher Jim Ross of Arcadia, Okla., which among other things, makes it abundantly clear that the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is NOT an earmark and pays for itself:

(start clip)

Five Sound Reasons to Support the Program’s Re-Authorization

1. It complies with your own policy regarding earmarks. The funds for this program are NOT from earmarks. If the program dies, the funds will simply shift to other Park Service programs.

2. The economic impact study of tourism along the Route 66 corridor now underway shows that the program’s impact on communities in Oklahoma (and elsewhere) are positively impacted to a level that pays for the program many times over. A letter supporting this fact from Dr. David Listokin at Rutgers University, who is conducting the study, was recently sent to your office.

3. Oklahoma businesses helped by the program have benefitted far more than any other Route 66 state, receiving $280,227 of the $1,313,204 awarded over the life of the program. These businesses’ cost share contributions total $329,613, more than doubling the funds provided.

4. In spite of the overall economic downturn and volatile gas prices, tourism on Route 66 is up this year and has increased each successive year since the early-1990s. International tourists
comprise a greater percentage of travelers each year and spend freely in the communities along the route. For example, director Pat Smith at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum reports that visitors in first two weeks of September 2008 surpassed the entire month of September 2007. Other businesses report equally impressive levels of visitation.

5. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is exceptionally well managed and has been a stellar success. It helps fellow Oklahoma businessmen and women, stimulates economic activity, and more than pays for itself without using any earmarked dollars.

(end clip)

I should note that I know Jim Ross, and he is a conservative. If he strongly endorses a government program, then it must be a very good one indeed.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 12, 2008 9:17 PM.

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