A couple of interesting real estate transactions have taken place this past month, but this one has me intrigued and excited. Architect Rand Elliott’s designs are like great art – there is really no middle ground with the guy. His work is either loved or hated. And that’s OK. I know some of my coverage hasn’t made Elliott happy, but I still admire him, I still love much of his portfolio, and I think Oklahoma City would be poorer without him.
Even Elliott’s toughest critics must admit that his heart is completely in the right place when it comes to his immediate neighborhood – Automobile Alley and the old Harrison-Walnut neighborhood (also referred to in the past as the Flat Iron District, sometimes mixed in with Automobile Alley or Deep Deuce).
Elliott is the guy who bought the Buick Building and waited until the right opportunity came along with Keith and Heather Paul to convert it into Red Prime Steakhouse. He also accomplished what very few in this town could have done – the rescue and renovation of the Heierding Brothers Meat Co. building at 35 Harrison Ave. Now consider that Elliott bought the building in 1991 – when few in this town believed a downtown comeback was even possible. And that he bought the building when it was a burned out wreck and on the verge of collapsing. And consider that Elliott at the time was not the superstar architect that he is now. The building had been empty more than half of Elliott’s life at that point (Elliott was about 41 at the time).
Oh. One other note: the surrounding neighborhood was blighted, with no prospects whatsoever. There was no Deep Deuce, and Broadway was lined with empty, boarded up buildings. Even The Oklahoman had abandoned its historic home at nearby NW 4 and Broadway. I don’t care whatever happens from this day on; for this accomplishment alone, I always see Elliott as an architectural and preservationist hero.
So imagine my reaction when I found out that Elliott had paid $400,000 for the old building just west of his offices in the Heierding Building. The building was briefly home to Leo’s Barbeque, but otherwise has pretty much stood vacant more often than not, and not very well loved.
I spent a couple of hours digging up these two photos:
This purchase also gives Elliott control of the entire block surrounded by the Heierding Building. And at a time when Deep Deuce to the south (up to NE 4) is rapidly reaching full development as a mixed use development, Automobile Alley is pricey real estate to the west, and hundreds of apartments starting at NE 6 and Oklahoma are set to be built linking up with Ninth Street to the north, this block consolidation will be quite the envy of Elliott’s neighbors.
Elliott isn’t saying what his plans are yet. So for now, we can wait, and know that this building is in good hands.