Drive around downtown Oklahoma City and the scarcity of historic old buildings is noticable. Thankfully, the largest landmark historic tower, First National Center, has managed to survive and never see a single board covering up its doors and windows.
The community showed its renewed appreciation for such old buildings when an unprecedented mix of public grants, tax credits and loans were used to fully renovate and reopen the Skirvin hotel back in 1996. And since that show of public support for architectural relics, a procession of renovations has taken place in Midtown, Bricktown, Automobile Alley and Film Row.
The debate continues over the proposed demolition of Stage Center, the oddly designed theater just west of the Myriad Gardens. Some say it is historic and every bit as valuable to our architectural heritage as the Skirvin and First National. Others argue it was a design never embraced by the community and never a functional fit with downtown.
Elsewhere downtown, the wins for preservationists are adding up. Projects long considered virtually undoable are getting done. At NW 10 and Broadway, the century-old Hotel Marion, abandoned and boarded up for more than 30 years, is being renovated into apartments by the Midtown Renaissance Group. Another wonderful historic building turned eyesore, the Main Street Arcade along Film Row, is set to be redeveloped by a group led by David Wanzer.
The last boarded-up building in Bricktown, the Rock Island Plow Building (boarded-up since the early 1980s), is set to be renovated this spring by developer Richard McKown.