Only one item is on the agenda for Friday's 1:30 p.m. special meeting of the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment: whether SandRidge Energy Corp. can knock down two downtown buildings. It will be the third time the board has considered an appeal by Preservation Oklahoma to require further review and evaluation of the buildings before demolition is allowed.
For round three, both sides will make their cases, as the energy company seeks approval to remove a handful of downtown buildings to make way for a plaza and corporate campus, dubbed SandRidge Commons. The demolition of the five buildings was approved by a 6-1 vote April 8 by the Downtown Design Review Committee. When Preservation Oklahoma officials appealed the decision, the matter was referred to the Board of Adjustment for a solution.
On May 20, both parties appeared before the board and the item was ultimately delayed. On June 17, the two sides faced off again. After a tense and emotional hearing, board members denied the appeal and affirmed the decision of the DDRC for demolition of 135 Robert S. Kerr Ave., 124 Robert S. Kerr Ave. and 120 Robert S. Kerr Ave. The board's lack of a majority " and lack of a second on a motion " granted a stay of execution for 300 N. Robinson Ave. and 107 Robert S. Kerr, the buildings that anchor the southeast and southwest corners of that block.
Preservation Oklahoma Executive Director Katie McLaughlin Friddle said SandRidge has not done adequate historic assessments of the buildings slated for demolition. The director of Preservation's partner, Jonathan Poston with the Southwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, made an offer of $18,000 to SandRidge to do a historic building assessment of the properties, but the company declined.
SandRidge's attorney, Frank Hill, and the project architect, Rob Rogers, told board members that the master plan is for an integrated corporate campus and does not allow for those five buildings, or any combination of the five, to remain.
"It simply does not work if you start peeling parts of it away," Hill said. "I don't know where we end up if we are sitting here with two buildings on the corner that are not part of the master plan."
He added that if the plan did not go through as proposed, the company might find downtown is not the right place for its corporate campus.
After the June decision to knock down three of the buildings, Friddle said she was disappointed, but would continue to fight for the company to do the historic assessment on the remaining two properties, one of which is the former India Temple that once housed the Oklahoma Legislature.
She said the energy company must work with the city to complete a project that is mutually beneficial.
"They have a wonderful opportunity to do a really wonderful project here in Oklahoma City and to be flexible and to work with the community and to address the city's needs as well as their own," Friddle said. "It would be really sad to see them give up on that opportunity."
At the conclusion of the meeting, SandRidge officials declined to comment.
"We look forward to continuing to fight for these two buildings," Friddle said.
The meeting will be held in the city council chambers. Board members are newly appointed Chairman David Wanzer, Jim Allen, Jeff Austin, Ron N. Baker and Michael E. Dunn. " Kelley Chambers
top photo Historic India Temple. Photo/Oklahoma Historical Society
bottom photo Modern India Temple. Photo/Shannon Cornman