Drive-through demolition part of plan to restore Gold Dome
A drive-through added to the Gold Dome when it was home to Citizen’s State Bank is being torn down and should be completely removed later this week as efforts continue to bring the property back to life.
Owner and developer Jonathan Russell said the demolition is intended to make restoration of the landmark at NW 23 and Classen Boulevard financially more viable.
“It’s not original to the building and there’s no historical significance,” Russell said. “The property is deed restricted against being a bank, so it can never be a bank again. And having a drive through makes no sense. This creates a pad site that financially will help make the whole project work.”
The drive-through, he added, was hard to secure, and it was an access point for thieves to get inside the dome to steal copper.
Russell bought the Gold Dome in 2015 when the prior owner, David Box, had a deal fall through with TEEMCO, a company that claimed to have bought the property to make it into a headquarters. The company sealed the roof and painted it before going under amid an array of lawsuits and fraud allegations.
Russell initially had a deal with Natural Grocers to move into the Gold Dome. The building began to leak and months passed before engineers determined the roof work done by TEEMCO had damaged the geodesic dome.
Russell said the damage done by TEEMCO is still being reversed.
“We fixed the cupola on top, which was in terrible condition, and that helped the leaking immensely,” Russell said. “It didn’t fix it completely, but it helped. We’re in the middle of tearing out the flat roof at the base of the dome which will help with leaks in the basement. We will next seal the seams, and we hope that works.”
Only then, Russell said, can a deal be made to develop the property and bring a tenant back into the dome.
When the Gold Dome was built at NW 23 and Classen in 1958, the two-story building with the familiar round anodized aluminum roof was touted by Citizens Bank as “the bank of tomorrow.”
The Gold Dome was designed by Robert B. Roloff of the Oklahoma architecture firm Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson & Roloff in collaboration with Kaiser Aluminum Corp. The building was based on the geodesic design by noted inventor, architect and engineer Buckminster Fuller.
The building's fortunes faded as the property experienced a series of bank tenants that either failed or were acquired by larger bank chains. It was targeted for demolition in 2001 by then-owner Bank One, which was planning to sell the corner to Walgreens.
Months of protests by preservationists and neighbors prompted the bank to reconsider the transaction. The building was sold in 2003 to Irene Lam, an optometrist, who obtained a $1 million federal grant through the city to renovate the Gold Dome into a mixed-use office and retail complex. The dome was filled for a few years with office tenants, Lam's optometrist shop, a restaurant and art gallery.
The building's upkeep became a problem, however, and Lam fell behind in her mortgage and property taxes as she lost tenants during the Great Recession of 2009.
The building was once again threatened with demolition when David Box bought the building from Lam's mortgage holder, Bank 7, in 2013.
Russell said he remains committed to redeveloping the dome and not tearing it down.
“The big thing is being far more able to quantify what it will take to make it operational again,” Russell said. “We must first make sure the building cannot leak. Once that is fixed, that will make clear what must still be spent to make it work.”