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Steve Lackmeyer: Protests against Oklahoma City hotel, office projects suggest design matters

Two Oklahoma City projects raise questions about downtown design standards.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: June 21, 2013

Design matters.

That was the message sent by more than a dozen residents gathered Thursday to protest a proposed “blue and yellow” limited service Marriott Springhill Suites hotel in Deep Deuce.

The same message was sent by property owners in Film Row who protested a two-story structure that they fear would have looked too much like a suburban homestyle office building.

And for the first time in 20-year plus history of city's design ordinances, a city council member representing downtown showed up and sent a message saying design matters.

Yet in a curious twist, the message sent by the city's planning staff on this very day was: these projects meet the minimum standards. Approval is recommended. Much to the relief of the protesters, the design committee members who volunteer their time to mediate such matters did not give their blessing to either project.

So what went wrong, what went right, and what can be learned?

The first application, for a six-story Springhill Suites, came with the sort of renderings and designs typically needed for consideration by the committee, which must grant approval before an applicant can obtain a building permit.

The building plans, being developed by Edmond surgeon Dr. Atul Patel, horrified nearby residents, who argued the surface parking, the blue and gold design, and generous amounts of synthetic stucco exterior made it a bad fit for the rapidly developing neighborhood.

One woman warned that she was ready to kill a contract to buy a town home building built across the street.

Another protester, Peggy Free, bought a town home at The Hill last year for $381,000 after she moved from California as part of the relocation of Boeing operations to Oklahoma City. She was visited by Mayor Mick Cornett and other civic and business leaders, and was convinced Oklahoma City was a community where design standards mattered.

Now she's worried about looking across the street at a yellow and blue hotel and hearing delivery trucks at dawn.

Patel did not attend the meeting, but design committee members agreed with Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis that his project should not be heard again until after he meets with the residents. Committee members also warned the designs, as submitted, will not be approved.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author 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...
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