Care Center proceeds with demolition plans
The Care Center, facing protests over plans to tear down a black historical landmark, is refusing to entertain a purchase offer from Chip Fudge, a developer with a history of restoring historic buildings.
Care Center board Vice President Aaron Curry said the board met Monday and decided to proceed with demolition. The demolition permit was filed in January but put on hold until the Medical Capitol Zoning Commission voted earlier this month to allow demolition to proceed.
Curry confirmed he and CEO Staci McNeiland spent about 45 minutes on a conference call Monday with Fudge and that the developer expressed an interest in buying the home at 1440 N Everest Ave. that for a half-century was home to the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.
“We briefed him on where we had come from, where we were now,” Curry said. “And sight unseen, he made an offer. It was just an idea. It wasn’t a concrete deal. The comments from me and Staci were, 'Does that improve our situation where we get the square footage needed' and 'does it get the care center where it needs to be?'”
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Fudge’s offer followed a meeting between Care Center executives and Cathy O’Connor, director of the Urban Renewal Authority and president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, who presented alternative plans that might have kept the Brockway standing while still accommodating the expansion needs of the Care Center.
“We’re not developers,” Curry said. “If they can come up with a concrete plan, that would be really good.”
Curry told The Oklahoman only McNeiland could answer questions as to whether the nonprofit would delay demolition further to meet with both O’Connor and Fudge.
Minutes later, McNeiland declined to speak to The Oklahoman.
“There were no concrete offers,” McNeiland said. “The board made their decisions. I think we’ve said enough. The Care Center has made their position very clear.”
In a statement distributed Wednesday afternoon, McNeiland said the nonprofit had the right to demolish the home after having followed zoning ordinances and that proposals submitted by O’Connor and Fudge did not address the organization’s needs for expansion.
“While we appreciate the role of the Alliance for Economic Development, their goal in this process is to preserve a building,” McNeiland said in the news release. “Our role at the Care Center is to advocate for abused children and serve as many as we can. We believe it is in the best interest of those children that we move forward.”
The nonprofit is a child advocacy center that provides a neutral place for abused children to be interviewed by caseworkers, detectives and prosecutors.
The Care Center at 1403 Ashton Place, is on the east half of the block shared with the Brockway Center, 1440 N Everest Ave. The nonprofit purchased the house when it came up for sale last year.
In previous interviews, McNeiland said the nonprofit was unaware of the Brockway Center’s history at the time of the purchase and that she originally sought to renovate the home for expansion until being advised repairs were not economically feasible.
Once the demolition was protested, she secured an agreement with the board of the women’s federation to memorialize their history at the new building. But some members were among those who showed up for a picket at the home after that agreement.
O’Connor met with Care Center representatives last week and said she presented them with a plan on how they could build their new facility directly north of their current building on the land they currently use as parking, retaining the parking lot portion of the Brockway Center property and possibly adding additional on-street parking if necessary to satisfy their parking needs.
She acknowledged the concern expressed by the nonprofit was that they would have to find a buyer for the Brockway Center house quickly as they would not be comfortable proceeding with that plan unless they knew they could sell the historic home and that it would not sit vacant and become dilapidated.
It was in response to a story on that discussion Saturday that Fudge approached the Care Center with his offer to buy the Brockway Center.
“To this point, everything thrown out brings in a lot of uncertainty,” Curry said. “We have donors who are very supportive of the Care Center who want to see us build something that will be a hallmark for the city. We didn’t buy the house with the intent of selling it or doing something else. To this point, we haven’t seen plans where it might work.”