Oklahoma City planners are recommending denial of an application to demolish downtown's Stage Center to make way for a new OG&E headquarters due to the existing building's “groundbreaking design.”
Rainey Williams Jr., president of Kestrel Investments, bought the abandoned, flood-damaged theater in July from the Kirkpatrick Center Affiliated Fund of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for $4.275 million.
The theater was designed by John Johansen, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The theater is the city's only internationally honored building and is featured in architectural textbooks.
The report by Assistant City Planner Scottye Montgomery cites design ordinance guidelines, which state that structures significant to the history of the nation, state or city be rehabilitated so that as much of the original fabric as possible remain intact.
“Stage Center is a unique structure, for Oklahoma City and the nation, and illustrates a singular moment of progressive thought, optimism for future economic and cultural growth, and acceptance of groundbreaking design ideas in Oklahoma City's history,” the report said.
The report is not binding on the Downtown Design Review Committee, which must grant approval before Williams can obtain a demolition permit. But the reports are often relied upon by committee members, who are appointed by the mayor. Applicants can appeal the committee's rulings in Oklahoma County District Court.
In applying for the demolition permit, Williams provided photos showing extensive damage to the theater, which closed following flooding in June 2010.
Williams announced in December his planned tower would be home to OGE Energy Corp., which would seek to consolidate its 1,000 employees at the new headquarters. The company's operations currently are spread out over three different buildings. Williams also proposes the $100 million project also will likely include a second tower, eight to 12 stories high, that could be separately developed as either housing or a hotel.
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Stage Center started as the home of Mummers Theater, a popular theatrical company in the 1960s that was outgrowing the warehouse it called home. With downtown undergoing a complete makeover led by the renowned architect I.M. Pei, the theater sought out a similar talent to come up with a design that would be just as eye-catching as the Myriad Gardens.