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Neon rooftop sign to cast glow on Automobile Alley

The 15-year effort to bathe Broadway with neon signs echoing back to its hey day as Oklahoma City's premier automobile alley is set to get its biggest addition yet with recreation of a “Buick” rooftop sign that likely will be seen from miles away.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: August 7, 2013 at 9:00 am •  Published: August 6, 2013

Elliott, one of the founding members of the Automobile Alley Association, credits the neon sign effort with helping bring life back to an area that already was in decline before the 1995 Murrah Building bombing. Broadway was left in shambles by the attack, with property owners facing demolition of many of the century-old buildings without serious investment.

Broadway since has undergone a transformation topping $50 million.

The last of the empty buildings along Automobile Alley at 1100 and 1101 N Broadway, and the last boarded-up building, the 109-year-old Hotel Marion, are to be redeveloped next year by Midtown Renaissance. The neon signs cast a warm glow at night on a block that little resembles the blight that existed in the mid-1990s.

“It all got started as part of us being the first urban Main Street program in Oklahoma,” Elliott said. “We were looking for ways to identify the neighborhood … We created the name Automobile Alley, did the medallions on the street … we did the banners on the poles to identify the district. And we were looking for ways to add energy to the neighborhood.”

With the grants provided by the Kirkpatrick Foundation, funded through the association's annual Chocolate Decadence festival, Elliott is convinced the goal of adding a neon sign to every building along Broadway is within reach.

Jane Jenkins, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., sees the Buick sign as a game-changer in the branding of Automobile Alley.

“The retro-rooftop sign will serve as a district marker and let people they have arrived in a significant place,” Jenkins said.

“This nod to the past within a modern context is an excellent example of how to create a contemporary sense of place in a historic district.”

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist 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 Metropolitan...
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