Following up on Kelley Chambers' "Temple topple" article from the March 10, 2010, Oklahoma Gazette, I wanted to clarify a few of my thoughts I felt could easily be misconstrued by readers, and at the same time offer a public call of action for SandRidge to better work with the downtown community.
It's reasonable to conclude that SandRidge (a good corporate citizen) understandably has PR envy in light of the new Devon Tower rising up and Chesapeake's sprawling campus. SandRidge should study carefully how this benefits the overall master plan for downtown, and not just the SandRidge compound. If SandRidge has sought additional structural reports, it would be good PR for them to make those efforts public.
Many people thought the historic Skirvin Hotel was too far gone, but look at it today. The India Temple may take a few million extra to preserve and bring up to modern structural standards, but in the long run it will be worth it for both SandRidge and the City of OKC.
Preserving this historic building will build much more PR than SandRidge could ever buy with their current proposal.
Proof of funds for construction should also be in place before we allow any additional historic demolition. It makes me suspicious when there were previous plans in place by a local investment group to turn several of these buildings into housing just a couple years ago when Kerr-McGee was still in OKC, and now the buildings are suddenly deemed not structurally intact or historically relevant.
Destroying what is arguably Oklahoma's best "urban canyon" or "street wall" along Robinson can have devastating effects on an already sparsely dense downtown core. As former executive director of OKC's young professional organization, this proposal is the opposite of what the "creative class" (that the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber is desperate in attracting and retaining) is looking for when considering a location to start their career. Most young professionals are looking for a dense, urban location with a high quality of life.
The biggest issue with this is that it obstructs the walkability between districts. Another park in the core doesn't make sense with Myriad Gardens nearby and "Central Park" coming on board. It is this continued suburbanization of downtown and goes against all of the effort Oklahoma City is putting toward walkability. Less building frontage at zero setback equals a less pedestrian-friendly environment.
Isn't this what community is all about?
Newlon, a marketing and PR professional, is a longtime downtown resident and homeowner.