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Demolition of Oklahoma City Film Exchange Building put on hold

The 90-year-old Film Exchange will not be demolished after protests that the building is historically significant.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: July 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: July 25, 2013

A plan to raze Oklahoma City's 90-year-old Film Exchange Building was put on hold Thursday following protests that the building is historically significant and should be incorporated into plans for the future Core to Shore park south of downtown.

The two buildings in the 500 block of S Robinson Avenue are located along what will be the eastern edge of the park, and the very earliest plans presented by designer Mary Margaret Jones with Hargeaves Associates showed a park with the buildings being removed.

But after questioning at Thursday's meeting of the MAPS 3 Citizens Oversight Board, Jones said extra effort was taken to see if the building could be preserved.

“We took a hard look,” Jones said. “There was extensive work done on the buildings' structural attributes.”

Jones said she also took developers and nonprofit groups on tours of the buildings, with no one expressing an interest in the buildings. David Todd, director of the MAPS 3 program, insisted the buildings are structurally unfit for redevelopment.

Those assurances did not sit well with critics of the demolition, including Councilman Pete White.

“It seems Oklahoma City, as much as any city in the country, should learn from the problems of destroying a historically significant building,” White said. “We just can't seem to stop doing it. No matter what happens, there's always another reason.”

The building was the second Film Exchange built by the Vitagraph Film Co. The operation moved to Film Row on W Sheridan Avenue in 1936 and the building later became home to the City Rescue Mission.

Asset Group, a disaster recovery firm, bought the property shortly before the 2009 MAPS 3 election with plans to renovate the Film Exchange building into its offices. Cathy O'Connor, who was assistant city manager at the time, met with the company's executives about their plans.

O'Connor, now president of The Alliance for Economic Development Oklahoma City, said Thursday that while Asset had building plans ready for renovations, the company's plan to use adjoining property for trailer storage did not comply with downtown zoning.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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