Tomorrow is the day of the SandRidge appeal before the Board of Adjustment. The appeal was filed by Preservation Oklahoma and has recently gotten a letter of support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The meeting is tomorrow in the City Council chambers, at 1:30. I will be taking off from work to attend the meeting. The way I see it, I already saved these buildings once from demolition..against the odds, time to do it again.
I don't really take ANY credit for saving the buildings initially, the real credit goes to Scottye Montgomery who read my letter to the City Council and other citizens who actually were able to show up on that day. The Downtown Design Review Commission obviously saw that citizens were concerned and responded by deferring it to a special meeting at which we eventually lost.
I still don't feel very confident about the appeal, but we have to make a good showing nonetheless on the off chance that we can make a difference. I also wrote a letter to Kathe Casula, who works for the Board of Adjustment. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
My letter is as follows:
Dear Ms. Casula,
My name is Nick Roberts and I run a popular local urbanism blog at downtownontherange.blogspot.com--recently I did a poll of my readers on the SandRidge demolition permit and determined that 42 of them actually opposed the $100 million SandRidge Commons project simply on the grounds of the demolitions. 20 readers approve of the project, but I wonder how many of them are just "glass half full" people who still wish SandRidge would do more to preserve a few buildings rather than tearing them down.
I like the SandRidge Commons proposal--in concept, but the incompetent, horrible, uneducated architects and planners who put it together need to be banned from ever doing any Oklahoma City projects again. If they really knew OKC, they would know how sour we still are over the I.M. Pei legacy. He ruined our city, basically--and they want to continue his urban renewal schemes. Basically we oppose two of the demolitions and support the other elements of the project, but with hesitation.
The India Temple, as I am sure everyone in downtown is aware now, is the oldest remaining building (built in 1902) and also served as the home of the Oklahoma State Legislature for years. It is an incredibly relevent historical site and SandRidge wants to tear it down and replace it with...nothing. A windswept corporate plaza will replace it. The person who put the false facade over it says it can be removed, although SandRidge says it can't. The building poses challenges but should be given a chance. Asbestos abatement will have to be done before it can be demolished anyway.
SandRidge wants to tear down the KerMac building to increase the visibility of the main tower. This is not only a bad proposition, but also sets a dangerous precedent for other companies thinking they can move downtown and establish a "corporate campus" area by demolishing density that leads up their tower. This building has no structural issues and on the outside appears to have a lot of really cool historic detailing--it should be saved even if the India Temple can't be. There is just no reason for it to not be saved, and in the past, there have been numerous (not just one) development groups interested in redeveloping this building and the adjacent Braniff building (as well as the India Temple). These buildings should be restored, not by SandRidge if they don't want to do it (but by someone), and not torn down and replaced with nothing but dead plaza space. We also need to preserve the streetwall along Robinson, one of the few in-tact streetwalls that remain from downtown's urban days. The effect of these streetwalls is defined space, which is becoming a rarity in downtown of all places.
The rest of the plan doesn't threaten the existence of downtown, but that doesn't make it wonderful. There is a really great cubist modern building proposed on Robert S. Kerr, but it's proposed in the middle of the Commons area and doesn't have any frontage on Robinson or Broadway. It makes no sense to have this building where it is proposed and it should be moved to be along Robinson or Broadway--preferably Broadway, where it can help reinforce an area with poorly defined space. This also would extend the Commons area up against a straight edge, which would support the commons and give it more definition as well.
By saving the India Temple and KerMac and allowing redevelopers to buy the buildings from them, moving the new building to Broadway near the India Temple, and extending the Commons to a straight edge--SandRidge Commons goes from being a horrible assault on downtown's urbanity and becomes a fantastic addition that will surely be praised in architectural journals as being a well-planned downtown asset. At any rate, we need to go back to the drawing board with this proposal--the public needs to be heard and the community's concerns for downtown's density and urbanity need to be taken into account. By taking into account these concerns, not only does SandRidge get a truly fantastic proposal at the end, but also would deserve praise for valuing the public process. How about it?
Thanks for reading, and I hope that you will pass my concerns along to anyone who might be concerned.
Have a great day!
OKC, OK 73170
In hindsight, I forgot to mention another important point: This should technically be against city code. City code for downtown development states that setbacks aren't allowed for downtown development and new buildings should be built right up to the sidewalk--so why is SandRidge being allowed to demolish buildings that DO come right up to the sidewalk in favor of nothing, for the sake of a plaza setback for their main tower. The city code states no setbacks for new development, but we're still allowed to have development that is basically just one huge setback??