The Journal Record Building, largely vacant since it was acquired by Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing of the nearby Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, may finally be redeveloped in time for the tragedy's 20th anniversary.
The Oklahoma City Cultural and Industrial Facilities Trust recently issued a request for development proposals that will be due Jan. 7.
“It's been a difficult space to try to find someone interested in purchasing it,” said Cathy O'Connor, who oversees the trust as part of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City. “We've not tried to lease it to anyone. We've tried to sell on several occasions, but never could make it work.”
O'Connor said several parties have expressed interest in the past about the building, though only one party, Heritage Trust, has confirmed it may bid for the property.
“Because of the city's excellent stewardship of this property over the past 17 years, we now have an opportunity for a responsible and sensitive restoration of the building,” said Bond Payne, co-chairman of Heritage Trust.
“Having studied this project for more than two years, I look forward to the redevelopment of this historic landmark.”
The building, built in 1923, was originally home to the Masonic Temple and was later a movie theater. In the years leading up to the 1995 bombing, it was home to the Journal Record, a business newspaper. The building was extensively damaged by the bombing, and was acquired and repaired by the city before it was turned over the facilities trust.
The western one-third of the building is owned by the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and one floor of the western two-thirds up for sale is being leased to the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. The space up for sale is the more ornate entrance facing Robinson Avenue.
“When the trust first began redevelopment of the building, it did have a broker to try to market the space, but that was a long time ago,” O'Connor said.
Over the past several years the property was eyed as a home for the Oklahoma City Public Schools administration and the Oklahoma Tourism Department. The department once obtained authorization from legislators to issue bonds to buy the property, but the deal never went through.
Kari Watkins, director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, applauded the effort to find a buyer and said she hopes that the remaining space can be bought and redeveloped before the 20th anniversary of the bombing is marked in 2015.
The museum was visited by 200,000 people and the outdoor memorial was visited by 450,000 people this past year.
“We want to see the site rebuilt and prosperous as we end our second decade,” Watkins said. “We think it would be a shame to not have this building filled and vibrant.”