“They had the best chance to make this thing work in any form or fashion,” Pickel said. “They couldn’t make this happen.”
Pickel added he was involved in previous efforts to save Stage Center and his construction company, Smith & Pickel, oversaw renovations in 1991. In the years since, he said, advocates of Stage Center were unable to get major corporate endowment for the building or convince city leaders to make it a MAPS project.
“The group of us who have spent 25 years to save this building basically have given up,” Pickel said. “We cannot save this building. This thing has no more life. It’s a dead building.”
Designed by internationally prominent architect John Johansen, Mummers Theatre — as the structure was originally known — opened in 1970. The Brutalist-style structure’s avant-garde design was said to be based on an electrical circuit system and is the only city structure to have won international acclaim.
Preservation Oklahoma Executive Director David Pettyjohn said the organization sought to stop the demolition because members felt the Downtown Design Review Committee violated city ordinances requiring that historic preservation solutions be thoroughly vetted before considering demolition.
“These zoning ordinances were approved by the city council in recognition of the vital nature of historic resources and how they contribute towards the economic vitality of downtown OKC,” Pettyjohn said. “The ordinance signaled the community’s recognition of past mistakes when historic treasures were allowed to be demolished.”