Colleges do not typically begin campaigns for projects already started — but administrators at Oklahoma City University School of Law say their move to downtown's old Central High required extraordinary measures to ensure the deal got done.
Construction is well underway in the historic landmark, even as the law school's administrators, alumni and supporters gathered for a campaign launch Saturday.
A bidding war with Oklahoma City Public Schools, which hoped to acquire the building for a new administrative headquarters, required quick action by the university in the fall of 2012.
Josh Snavely, dean for external relations at OCU School of Law, said a “quiet” campaign that started earlier this year raised $10 million toward the $23 million goal, and another $3 million is being raised through the use of new market and historic tax credits.
“This opportunity presented itself outside the bounds of a usual campaign structure — usually you do a feasibility study first,” Snavely admitted. “But this was such a unique opportunity we couldn't miss it.”
Constructed in 1910, the new OCU School of Law building is a historic Gothic-style structure on the National Register of Historic Buildings. The structure was designed by Solomon Andrew Layton, whose work also included the State Capitol, the Skirvin Hilton, and the Oklahoma County Courthouse.
New renderings by FSB released at the “Growing Forward” campaign launch include a mock courtroom and a reading room/event space that the school believes will be second only to the Cox Convention Center in seating capacity for banquets and community gatherings.
That reading room will be in the re-created former auditorium of the former Central High School.
The renovation and move by the law school is on an equally quick track. Anderson & House began demolition on the first through third floors on Nov. 1 and is already moving onto framing work on the first floor.
American Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance Co., which sold the building to OCU, is set to remain in the fourth and fifth floors until the company moves in April to its new home at 4400 Will Rogers Parkway.
Bill Mee, an OCU trustee acting as developer for the new OCU School of Law, said the university is continuing to field interest in creating student housing around the school. The university, meanwhile, is searching for an operator for a cafe in the future school who can also oversee catering operations.