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Architect not hopeful for Steffen's

By Steve Lackmeyer Modified: February 14, 2008 at 6:00 am •  Published: February 14, 2008
The outside of the old Steffen's Ice Cream building in Bricktown may appear intact, but architect Tom Wilson insists appearance, in this case, is indeed deceiving.

The roof is caved in. The floors, all poured-in-place concrete, go from one level to another and then another. Structurally, Wilson said, the building is on the verge of collapse. The brick facade itself was damaged when previous owners tried to sandblast white paint.

"It's prohibitive,” Wilson said. "It's a stretch to just keep it up.”

Such an argument was to be expected at Wednesday's meeting of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee, which heard an application from Kusum Hospitality to tear down the dairy and replace it with a four-story, 95-room Holiday Inn Express.

But Wilson isn't working for Kusum Hospitality — he's a veteran Bricktown architect and chairman of the urban design committee. And it was Wilson's account of his firm's attempt to buy the same building a couple years ago that convinced fellow committee members the old Steffen's Ice Cream building is beyond saving.

Architect Fred Quinn, working on behalf of Kusum Hospitality, said his firm made several efforts to see if the former dairy could be converted into a hotel.

"All in all, we tried hard,” Quinn said.

Demolition of the building is not a certainty. Committee members unanimously criticized the proposed design by Quinn & Associates, which included a facade of 61 percent brick and 49 percent synthetic stucco.

Kip Bettencourt, an architect with Quinn & Associates, defended the design and argued the use of synthetic stucco, commonly known as Exterior Insulation Finish Systems or EIFS, was not a matter of cost.

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