Eight years have passed since Larry and Regina Waters bought an empty, forgotten two-story Clark Building at 16 NE 2 with plans of turning it into their dream home.
During that time, the world around them changed. Their original architect, Bart Shedeck, died, and after dealing with various surprises, their rooftop view no longer includes the state Capitol but does boast a view of the new Devon Energy Center.
“It was really a bad neighborhood,” Larry Waters said as he gave The Oklahoman the first public tour of the property. “Detox was down the street, vagrants were living under the (adjoining) railroad tracks, and there was nothing but abandoned parking lots around us.”
Waters is stunned by the changes that have occurred around his building — the 2nd Street lofts and Level Urban Apartments across the street, an Aloft Hotel being built next door, and a Native Roots grocery set to open next month with more restaurants and retail to follow.
Richard McKnown, developer of Level, is among those who say the true showstopper on the block is Waters' Clark Building. The addition of bay windows to the brick building's west facade, a 1,500-foot glass-encased entertainment room and pool added to the rooftop have long captured the curiosity of onlookers who often sought to coax contractors into letting them get an inside glimpse of the property.
“Everyone loves it,” McKown said. “I get asked the same three questions all the time: What is that building, who is doing it, and have you seen it yet? It's really cool. One hundred percent of the people I talk to wish they lived there.”
Waters estimates he is about 75 percent moved in, though he is still waiting for the arrival of new furnishings.
On a tour of the building this week, Waters showed how the once-underground basement has been partially exposed to the east so that it allows him an entrance for his personal garage. The remainder of the basement floor includes a space that opens up to a courtyard that might eventually be converted into a loft apartment.
A parking lot to the east of the building has been turned into a lawn and driveway entrance. The lawn is skirted by a century-old, abandoned wooden railway trestle that is now a popular spot for graduation, family and wedding photos.
Waters said the first floor, about 6,500 square feet with its own entrance, will be leased to a retail or office tenant. He recently purchased a parking lot and wood-frame one-story building to the east that will accommodate the building's tenants. He expects to eventually tear down the building, used for storage, as he repaves the parking lot. He also anticipates building a new structure in the lot at a future date.
The second and third floors will be the Waters' full-time residence. The kitchen, designed for his wife Regina, a surgical nurse, includes countertop seating for a dozen visitors with the cooking area that boasts a brick oven.
“She loves to cook, she likes to have friends over and she wants to have cooking classes,” Waters said.
Between the kitchen and large dining area is a large wall awaiting the addition of large flat screen television. Their bedroom and living areas boast views of the central business and Bricktown skylines.
The addition on the rooftop required installation of steel beams to support the added weight. The combined living area and secondary kitchen on the rooftop is in a room that has glass doors designed to create an outdoor space similar to a lanai-style room in Hawaii.
“The views are incredible,” Waters said. “You can sit around in the evenings and see everything. You can walk to everything. The only thing missing was a grocery store and now we've got Native Roots coming in across the street.”
The Waters have already hosted private parties with friends. They realize their new home — especially their rooftop — might be requested by various groups for parties and events. But for now, they're simply focused on making the Clark Building their home.
“We're just going to enjoy it,” Waters said. “Our kids will come over, our grandkids will come over, and we're going to have fun. That's what life is all about.”