Long before Richard McKown considered building housing in Deep Deuce, his dream was to bring life to the boarded-up Rock Island Plow Building in Bricktown.
After completing construction of the Level apartments and starting work on the adjoining Mosaic apartments, both along NE 2, McKown is ready to start renovation and conversion of the Rock Island Plow Building.
The four-story building, 29 E Reno, was built in 1908 and is the last large boarded-up structure left downtown. It was on the verge of collapse when it was purchased several years ago by Phil and Avis Scaramucci.
Now the building is set to be renovated into offices, ending decades of dormancy.
“When Phil and Avis, the current owners, bought the building, it had a massive hole in the roof,” McKown said. “A third of it was gone. They rallied and rescued the building, made it sound, safe and watertight. They put it into time-capsule mode until someone could come along with a way to bring it back.”
McKown spent years trying to figure out how to first convert it into artists' lofts, and then into housing. But all renovation plans required factoring in the money already spent by the Scaramuccis keeping the building standing and a limited number of secured parking spaces.
The easy way would have been to replace the windows and simply lease out the first floor, leaving the upper floors vacant.
“But my ambition was to bring the building back to life, all five floors,” he said.
McKown is doing the Rock Island Plow Building renovation with Architect Wade Scaramucci and his London-based firm Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, the design team for the Level and Mosaic apartments in Deep Deuce.
Plans by Wade Scaramucci call for construction of an entirely new building within the brick walls of the existing structure. Changes will include entrances to be added along Oklahoma Avenue, skylights and a vintage landmark water tower on the roof, and potential space for restaurants or retail on the ground floor.
An application was filed this last week with the Bricktown Urban Design Committee, and McKown is preparing to solicit construction bids. He is hoping to start work next year.
McKown is expecting the building renovation will surprise people who have never seen the building without boards on its windows.
“With the windows open, the building is filled with light,” McKown said. “When the sun is out, it's just dazzling. People are going to say, ‘Where did that come from?' Right now, it's a building that's wearing a mask at a masquerade ball.”