Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Careful with words

I think everyone needs to be a lot more careful than they have been in choosing words to describe buildings. We've seen a lot of examples lately where words have been used to degrade old buildings as worthless, particularly by people who are just very uninformed.

Take the Daily Oklahoman's editorial board for example. I'd like to say it's the intent that matters, although I'm not sure what the intent is, and I still think the article does damage because people do read the paper. A column touting the recent big developments downtown had this to say about the SandRidge Commons debacle, in a sentence immediately following Devon: "Another energy company, SandRidge, has its own big plans for downtown — provided it can assuage preservationists who wish to see some decrepit old buildings left alone." First of all, I will mention that calling it "big plans for downtown" following news of Devon Tower gives off the false impression that this is a development that will have a similarly sized impact, when in fact one adds about 50 floors, when another subtracts 50 floors from downtown. The myopia of this editorial is especially evident when you consider that in the same text they praise the historic rehab work that has been done in Bricktown, and they say this of Steve Mason: "An area that was once a stretch of abandoned and dilapidated buildings is now thriving."

So without insulting the intelligence of the average Oklahoman reader, are people really supposed to believe this? So the Oke's position on old buildings is that if they've been restored, that's awesome..but if not, they're decrepit and need to go. I think it's at this point that a reader of average intelligence should question the double standard that seems to put old buildings at a disadvantage, which is a shame considering the intrinsic value that they old, similar to a well-aged wine. As for the word decrepit, one could argue that is true that the buildings could be in better condition--BUT I would contend that decrepit is one of the strongest words you could possibly use to describe a state of disrepair, and what is the point in having a newspaper that is using colorful, vivid descriptions of the state of disrepair which some great buildings happen to be in. It's as if the Oklahoman is actively working against these buildings by invoking these descriptions, using the word "decrepit," which is comparing it to this..the top Google image result for the word "decrepit."

Perfectly describes the KerMac, Braniff, and India Temple, right?

I also see here in the Medical Business District Masterplan Final Report on page 18 it refers to "the success that is being had by housing developers in the downtown office core (mostly converting obsolete office towers) and in the adjacent Deep Deuce and Triangle sub-districts." Since when was the Park Harvey Tower obsolete? Granted, it is much better as apartments, and has been nearly 100% occupied as apartments--it was also nearly 100% occupied as an office building, almost completely by attorneys (due to its location across from the Courthouse). So obsolete? Seems like a strong word to use when you can be easily proven wrong..and I'm not aware of many more office towers that were converted to residential at the time of this study (since there has been the upper floors of City Place).

Also, in an article about the struggle a few years ago to save the historic Gold Dome at 23rd and Classen, this was printed in the Oklahoman: "'They (the building owners) have a building that is functionally obsolete,' said Dennis Box, an attorney representing Walgreen Drug Stores." I've said it before, but if the Gold Dome is "functionally obsolete" (implying that it was beyond bringing back) then maybe "functionally obsolete" is the new cool.


Doug Dawg said...

Good job, Nick.

bluedogok said...

"Technically" Dennis Box was representing the developer who was trying to put together a deal for Walgreen's to go in the Gold Dome location, mainly because it was easier than trying to put together several different parcels on the other corner....which is what they eventually did.

Walgreen's wanted on that corner, they didn't really care which one but with Eckerd (now CVS) on the northeast corner that left three options and it was up to the developer to sort out. Not only did Walgreen's have to approve it, so did Bank One as it was to be split into two parcels with Bank One on the 23rd & Western corner and Walgreens on the Classen corner.

Jason Brown said...

The Oklahoman comment is much more offensive than the one about "obsolete office towers". The latter isn't so far off. But you are completely right about the double standard displayed in that editorial. The immediate sentence following talks about restored historic apartments in Midtown!

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

Thanks Doug.

Hey Scott--I think we can all agree that the infamous developer of that Walgreen's was shady dealings personified (just ask Midwest Wrecking), yet Box is responsible for his comments, just as Frank Hill is responsible for his comments despite representing SandRidge.

Jason--don't you love it when newspapers make assumptions as to the braindeadedness of its readers?