Wednesday, July 07, 2010

SandRidge & Restoration

Below: a special 6:17 minute showing of 1951's Scrooge
starring Alastair Sim and various Oklahoma City buildings. The original version
opened at the Centre Theater on December 17, 1951.

Before I draw nearer to that stone,
answer me one question ...
Are these the shadows of things that must be,
or are they only shadows of things that might be?

Actually, Ebenezer Scrooge asked two questions to the spirit and both were relevant to Charles Dickens' 1843 classic tale of redemption and restoration, A Christmas Carol. They are equally relevant today when considering the SandRidge Commons proposal for its downtown campus. The next, and presumably the last, hearing before the Board of Adjustment is scheduled to occur at a special meeting of that board on Monday, July 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm in the Oklahoma City Council Chambers.

Although SandRidge Energy lacks the ignoble characteristics of Ebenezer Scrooge ... as a corporation it gives no appearance of being greedy and it has certainly contributed to Oklahoma City since during its relatively brief existence here in many ways ... it likewise gives all appearances of having a quality that Ebenezer lacked ... vanity. As was said by the character portrayed as the Devil, John Milton (Al Pacino), in the 1997 movie The Devil's Advocate, "Vanity is my favorite sin."

Not at all is SandRidge either Ebenezer Scrooge or the Devil ... it is a good corporate citizen of Oklahoma City. But, by attempting to force upon the city a gift that would reduce still further its remaining historic legacy and reduce urban density by creating a fine plaza which serves no purpose other than to showcase its own tower ... none of which would add any dollars to its shareholders' pockets ... it is not an unreasonable thing, I think, to see SandRidge's thus far intransigence to compromise as being based upon anything other than vanity.

It doesn't have to be that way. Nothing stands in the way of SandRidge beautifying its campus, adding the one new structure it proposes to take the place of those it would destroy, AND serve the city by not only keeping, but also restoring, two of the treasures which remain in its hands, the India Temple and the Oklahoma City Savings & Loan Building.

SandRidge has in its hands the present capability of embodying what Dickens said about Ebenezer Scrooge by the end of the tale's telling ...
Scrooge was better than his word. He became a good friend, as good a master and as good a man the old city ever knew, or any other good old city, town or borough in the good old world.
A Christmas Carol is not only a tale about redemption, it is a story of restoration. In the tale, it was restoration of personal character and relationships, but in this city, it just might be about willingness to save and restore a pair of venerable old buildings so that ...

This ...
... doesn't become this ...
... but that this ...
... instead becomes this ...
... and this ...
... doesn't become this ...
... but that the building which served as Oklahoma City's
first home to the Oklahoma Legislature
is instead restored to its former glory
Can such restoration occur? Look around the city and see what you think ...

Restoration Of Downtrodden Buildings Is Possible. I'll begin this section by mentioning an opportunity not taken but which could have been. Following the Murrah bombing, the 1952 YMCA while damaged was not structurally harmed. Preservationists attempted to save the building from being torn down by its then owner and turned into a street level parking lot. But, at that time, the City did not have ordinances like those in place today which govern the demolition of properties having historic value. The magnificent building was not destroyed by the Murrah bombing, it was destroyed by a property owner who wanted a parking lot.

The 1952 YMCA
Today's aerial view
Today, our city's downtown design and demolition ordinances would probably prevent that lunacy from happening again.

Can restoration of dilapidated buildings occur? Just look around the town. The most obvious example is what is now the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. Ironically, the hotel manager who benefited from the city's efforts to restore this building now favors the SandRidge Commons proposal, not restoration. Go figure.

Examples of Restoration

Skirvin During Restoration
After Restoration
The Dilapidated Seiber
During Restoration
After Restoration
Maywood Presbyterian Before
Maywood Presbyterian Before
Maywood Presbyterian After
Maywood Presbyterian After
Lee/Oil & Gas Building
After Restoration
Cline Hotel Before
After Restoration
Original 701 N. Broadway
After Restoration
Original 100 N. Walker
As USO Building During WW2
After Restoration As A City Office Building
Centre Theater in 1972
Restored as OKC Museum of Art
1201 N. Walker
After Restoration
1207 N. Walker as Beverly's
After Restoration as 1492
1215 N. Walker
After Restoration
Deep Deuce: Haywood
After Restoration
Deep Deuce: Littlepage
After Restoration
Deep Deuce: Ruby's Grill/Lodge
After Restoration
Rock Island Freight Depot
After Restoration
Many of the buildings shown above were almost certainly in far worse shape than either of the pair of buildings that SandRidge holds in its hands.

The question is not whether the buildings can be restored. The question is why they aren't proposed to be. It is a matter of will, pure and simple. This post hopes that SandRidge will see its way clear to actually being the good downtown citizen that it wants to be and has the capacity to become.

But, for that to occur, it will need to have a long internal look at its own motivation for insisting upon demolition ... perhaps, by analogy, it may come to have A Christmas Carol experience. Here's hoping that it will become possible to say of SandRidge that which was said about Ebenezer after his Christmas Eve experience ...
Scrooge was better than his word. He became a good friend, as good a master and as good a man the old city ever knew, or any other good old city, town or borough in the good old world.

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Brandon said...

Nice article, Doug. I discovered your blog recently and have spent a bit of time reading your older articles (which are great too). I was on the fence about the SandRidge plan, but I think you've won me over. Any plan that markedly lowers the density of Downtown is not positive for the city. Keep up the good work.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Brandon. I guess we'll know the outcome Monday afternoon.