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Renovation set to begin on Rock Island Plow Building in Oklahoma City

The $13.4 million renovation of the old abandoned structure in Oklahoma City offers challenges for builder Richard McKown and architect Wade Scaramucci.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: April 12, 2014 at 10:45 pm •  Published: April 12, 2014

Construction crews will begin setting up at the Rock Island Plow Building in Bricktown next week as work ramps up on renovating the 105-year-old, boarded up building.

For Richard McKown, the $13.4 million renovation is unlike any project ever taken on for a man whose early career was spent exclusively building suburban homes. In more recent years, McKown has developed Level and the Mosaic apartments in Deep Deuce.

The Rock Island Plow Building, at Reno and Oklahoma avenues, is McKown’s first redevelopment of a historic building.

“This has definitely been the most intimidating building I’ve ever taken on,” McKown said. “But it’s beautiful. And when all the pieces started to fall together, it was then time to step on the gas, get everything in place and go for it.”

McKown’s team, meanwhile, is experienced in rescuing old buildings on the verge of collapse.

Wade Scaramucci, an architect with London-based Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, previously oversaw designs for redevelopment of the Duncan’s Bindery building at NE 10 and Oklahoma Avenue. Lingo Construction, meanwhile, is in the midst of carefully rebuilding the 110-year-old Hotel Marion at NW 10 and Broadway.

“These are very challenging but also very important projects for Oklahoma City,” Scaramucci said of the Rock Island and Duncan’s Bindery buildings. “In both cases, these buildings were largely gone. With the Rock Island Plow Building, we’re very carefully trying to leave as much as we can there, because it has a certain character and history to it. But we also have to make it a building for the 21st century, so there’s a delicate balance between the two.”

Neither McKown nor Scaramucci know how long the Rock Island Plow Building has been empty. But it was already vacant when original Bricktown developer Neal Horton bought it in the early 1980s. At that time, Horton and architect Don Beck toured the building and saw desks, chairs, typewriters and other furnishing intact, appearing as if the building had been occupied just weeks or days earlier.

But by the time the building was bought by its prior owners, part of the roof and floors had rotted through and were missing. Without some structural re-enforcements by the prior owners, Phil and Avis Scaramucci (Wade Scaramucci’s parents), McKown asserts the building would have collapsed.

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