Oklahoma City University School of Law's new downtown location will place students squarely in the middle of the work environment they can expect to enter when they graduate, the school's dean said Wednesday.
The law school highlighted the new location at an open house Wednesday. Dean Valerie Couch said students will benefit from the school's proximity to downtown law firms, corporate offices and the state Capitol.
Those centers are the same locations OCU students can expect to work when they graduate, Couch said.
“This location puts us in the heart of the action in downtown Oklahoma City,” she said.
OCU's Board of Trustees approved a proposal in October to move the university's law school to the old Central High School building near the corner of NW 8 and Hudson Street in downtown Oklahoma City. School officials hope to open the new location by the fall 2014 semester.
The 103-year-old building was designed by architect Andrew Solomon Layton, who also designed the Skirvin Hotel and the state Capitol. Layton also designed a number of buildings on OCU's main campus.
OCU officials won a bidding war for the building last year with Oklahoma City Public Schools, which hoped to use the building for its administrative offices. The school district sold the building to Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. nearly 30 years ago. Although the university didn't disclose the purchase price for the building, OCU officials estimated the total cost to buy, renovate and furnish the building would be between $20 million and $22 million.
The university launched a capital campaign to pay for the cost of moving the law school. During Wednesday's open house, Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, told those in attendance the university had identified all the funds it needed to complete the project.
“The bad news is it's in your pockets,” he told the crowd.
Shannon, an alumnus of the law school, encouraged attendants to donate to the campaign, saying the university is good not only for education, but also as a driver of economic development and a cultural center.
OCU Board of Trustees Chairman Ron Norick said the building is a major piece of Oklahoma City's history for a number of reasons.
When Oklahoma City launched the original MAPS program in the 1990s, the area around the building was identified a part of the city that needed revitalization, Norick said.
Later, the building served as a command center for the response to the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The attack was just blocks south of the old high school, which was owned by Southwestern Bell at the time. In the days after the attack, the telephone company turned the building over to the city to house workers and stage recovery efforts.
It's appropriate that the school make the move now, in the midst of efforts to revitalize Oklahoma City's Midtown district, Norick said.
OCU President Robert Henry said the university would make good use of the building.
“It is a temple of learning,” Henry said.