The historic former Central High School may soon return to the Oklahoma City Public Schools system as it seeks to acquire the landmark for its administrative offices.
Oklahoma City Schools Superintendent Karl Springer confirmed negotiations are ongoing to buy the former school at 800 N Harvey Ave. as he successfully sought $1.5 million in tax increment financing Wednesday for the proposed new administrative headquarters from a review committee consisting of representatives of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, CareerTech and the Metropolitan Library System.
Offices under one roof
“It's a magnificent facility,” Springer said. “We see it as a great opportunity to move our administration into the building, and work to get other entities that have to do with education under the same roof.”
Springer noted MAPS for Kids included funding for remodeling of the current school administration building at NW 9 and Klein west of downtown. Springer noted the former junior high school has insufficient parking and has the administrative offices spread out over three buildings.
“Where we are right now, we could refurbish it, but in 10 to 15 years we would be right back where we are now,” Springer said.
The former Central High School, meanwhile, has 300 parking spaces and was renovated by Southwestern Bell Telephone in 1984 into offices. That renovation won several national design and rehabilitation awards and was one of the first major examples in Oklahoma of historic preservation using tax credits.
One Bell Central
The building's designer, Solomon Andrew Layton, is widely considered to have been one of the state's pioneering architects, and also designed the Skirvin Hilton, the Oklahoma County Courthouse and the Oklahoma State Capitol.
The building was known as One Bell Central until 2005, when it was sold to Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Co. The company listed the property for sale in 2010 after determining it needed less space.
Springer said the support by the tax increment finance review committee was important not just financially, but symbolically as well.
“This basically says the city of Oklahoma City and the larger community support this kind of effort,” Springer said. “And it takes a coalition to make this sort of a move.”
AT A GLANCE
The current headquarters
If the Oklahoma City Public Schools administrative operations relocate to the old Central High School, superintendent Karl Springer believes the current headquarters at NW 9 and Klein, a former junior high school, could once again see students filling its hallways. Potential reuses include existing charter schools seeking more space or a school that caters to the district's growing Hispanic-speaking population.