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Historic Oral Roberts building at risk of demolition

The Oklahoma State Legislature passed a bill halting tax credits for the next two years. The results will endanger historic buildings in downtown Tulsa.

The Senate Bill 977 was passed by Senator Mike Mazzei and it will suspend 23 tax credits beginning July 1. Three credits were removed from the bill through an amendment by Senator Kim David, including Tulsa’s historic preservation, firefighters and medical research.

The Tulsa Foundation of Architecture is putting together an economic impact study on Historic Tax Credit.

“If those tax credits go away restoring and reusing buildings downtown will become exponentially more expensive and this is where the danger of demolition starts to creep back in,” said Shane Hood, president for Tulsa’s Foundation for Architecture. “Currently, there is a fight in the state legislature concerning Historic Tax Credits; every year someone tries to get rid of them in the face of overwhelming evidence that they create jobs, income and a return on investment of about 500 percent.”

All buildings just north and south of the BOK center are in danger of demolition or possible “insen- sitive” remodeling, including Page Belcher and the Abundant Life Building. The Abundant Life Building once housed Oral Roberts’ ministry, but there is now a legal battle concerning its future.

“Right now I am unsure of what the future holds. [The Abundant Life Building] has been held up in legal battles for a long time,” Hood said. “Not a lot of people like the building. I like it and I run across scores of others who do, but it goes back to [having a vision] and people being able to figure out what they can do with a building that has no windows.”

The building is covered in Vermont white marble 2 inches thick and the marble at its entrances comes from France.

“I have seen designs for the building but they all include removing all of the marble which would, in my opinion, ruin the building,” said Hood.

The Vision 2025 plan resulted in almost $1 billion of real estate development which impacted downtown’s redevelopment and revitalization approximately 10 years ago. The newest Vision Tulsa plans are vague, but there are continued goals to increase places to work, live and play.

“Coming from a background in architecture I always say that we should be designing buildings that are reflective of our time and place,” Hood said. “We should be using the technologies and materials of our generation to be creating lasting pieces of architecture.”

Hood believes new architecture should address the requirements of expanding the city for years at a time to avoid constant issues of demolition and rebuilding.

“We should be embracing smart planning and zoning downtown. Buildings [should be] sidewalk friendly that invite pedestrians to walk downtown,” Hood said. “Everything should be mixed use and parking should be integrated into the buildings in some manner.”

He just hopes the town officials and developers’ decisions are made with the city’s best interest in mind.

“Tulsa goes the way that its downtown goes. Downtown is the heart of the city and if it dies so does Tulsa,” said Hood.

The annual list of Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Structures, provided by Preservation Oklahoma, will be announced April 6.

Story by Emerald Dean, Photo by Jeremy Luczak

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