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Historic Building Could Benefit from Dealership Move

On Tuesday I wrote about the risks property owners face sitting on historic buildings gambling their value will rise no matter what. Among those buildings that have stood empty and at the mercy of out-of-state investors (Californians, a class of owners who have a special track record of getting nothing done) is the old First Church of Christ-Scientist at 1200 N Robinson Ave.

The building was once in good hands – the Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture. But they sold the Classical Revival style church in 2007 for a bargain $475,000 after failing to raise $1.1 million over eight years to transform it into a Centre for Design Arts.

The center was envisioned as a home for professional organizations associated with architecture and design. It’s a shame the dream didn’t become a reality. It's an amazing historic structure, and with some love, it could really be restored as the landmark it once was.

Back in 2007, this area and all of Midtown was still very much an uncertainty in terms of a real revival. A decade later, the once blighted stretch of Robinson Avenue is thriving with housing, restaurants and offices.

The church stands out as the one exception to the revival. But if the owners can get realistic in an asking price, today’s story of the adjoining Mercedes of Oklahoma City moving to Broadway Extension could improve the landmark’s prospects.

A lack of parking doesn’t help the old church in terms of marketing it for a sale. All of the surrounding surface parking is controlled by Bob Howard, who has been using it as storage of cars at the dealership.

Those lots will be emptied in one year. One is adjoining the former church. (dealership properties are shown in shaded sections on the map below).

The 2007 sale came with strings attached. As reported by Oklahoman real estate editor Richard Mize after the sale, “whatever owners do with the former church house, they cannot demolish it for 35 years, and, according to another protective covenant, any work on the exterior shall contribute to preserving the historical integrity of the building.

So whatever happens, this building is not going away. I have an idea as to what might be the best adaptive use… I will share that at a later time.

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Steve Lackmeyer

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... Read more ›