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Christmas cross will return at BancFirst Tower after makeover completion

The plaza surrounding BancFirst Tower is being rebuilt for the first time since it opened as the home to Liberty Bank in 1971. The exterior renovation also includes removal of every other column around the tower's podium and a complete redesign of the facade. Photo by Dave Morris, The Oklahoman.
The plaza surrounding BancFirst Tower is being rebuilt for the first time since it opened as the home to Liberty Bank in 1971. The exterior renovation also includes removal of every other column around the tower's podium and a complete redesign of the facade. Photo by Dave Morris, The Oklahoman.

The downtown skyline is missing the nine-story cross that has glowed every Christmas holiday for the past 40 years as a makeover continues at the future home of BancFirst.

Originally opened as Liberty Bank Tower in 1971, BancFirst is in the midst of a $70 million renovation of the 36-story tower at 100 N Broadway after years of neglect by former owner James Cotter. The base of the tower is surrounded with fencing as Lingo Construction redoes the plaza outside and removes every other two-story column.

The display of the cross by downtown towers during Christmas season dates back to the 1930s when one was created using lights on the 18th to 27th floors of First National Tower. The tradition was later picked up by Liberty Bank and Kerr McGee as both opened new towers in the early 1970s.

The lit cross still can be seen at the former Kerr McGee tower, now home to SandRidge Energy.

BancFirst CEO David Harlow promises the disappearance of the cross at BancFirst Tower is temporary, though its return could involve using other technology or projected images.

“We’ve got a bunch of demolition going on in those floors where the cross lights were,” Harlow said. “It was very rudimentary — it was lights hanging from a chain. We will do something again. Will it be the same? We don’t know.”

Work progressing

Harlow said the most visible work at the tower is the makeover underway with the plaza and the columns and podium facade. The new glass skin, he said, will be somewhat disruptive for tenants but not as visible or disruptive for passersby.

The tower was built with single-pane glass that will be replaced with “high performance” double-pane windows. Harlow said the process will involve placing new exterior windows first and then pulling out the old windows and replacing them with new interior windows.

“We are going to start on the 14th floor with the glass and come down,” Harlow said. “We will do a side at a time, not floor by floor. This gets our space done first so we can move in quickly. It also allows the glass subcontractor to start in empty space and get some practice.”

Harlow estimates the first half of the tower’s reskinning will be completed by late 2020. The bank’s concourse level, part of The Underground, also is expected to reopen in late 2020 after the first extensive renovation since the tower opened almost a half century ago.

“It has the same tile when it was picked out by (Liberty Bank CEO) J.W. McLean in 1971,” Harlow said. “Every surface in the concourse and the lobby is being changed.”

As the lobby is renovated, the Petroleum Deli is being moved up to the 34th floor with the Petroleum Club. Harlow expects the deli will be able to move back to the lobby in about a year, and at the same time the Hot Tamale should be able to open in the concourse.

The second phase of glass replacement will follow, starting on the top floor going down to the 15th with completion by late 2021. Harlow said the bank’s tech employees will move in first, likely in late 2020, with the remainder of the workforce completing their move in mid-2021.

The move consolidates some operations, increasing the downtown workforce from 300 to 425.

Harlow said the schedule for building a new garage east of the tower on surface parking at Main Street just east of the BNSF Railway viaduct is accelerating with construction likely to start “sooner rather than later.” A demolition permit for a warehouse on the north half of the site is pending at City Hall.

The project will include an extension of The Underground pedestrian tunnels with either a tunnel under or a skywalk over E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and the railway viaduct.

Once complete, the building will be equipped with upgraded infrastructure, renovated office and public space, and new exterior and outside plaza, and the BancFirst sign on top of the tower. Harlow expects the building will be 90 percent occupied once the renovations are completed.

Related Photos
<strong>The cross has glowed at what is now BancFirst Tower for more than 40 years as shown in this 1976 photo. The cross is missing this year as the tower is undergoing an extensive redevelopment. Oklahoman Archvies.</strong>

The cross has glowed at what is now BancFirst Tower for more than 40 years as shown in this 1976 photo. The cross is missing this year as the tower is undergoing an extensive redevelopment. Oklahoman Archvies.

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9a29b8abac6b2e9a7809f3af988eb665.jpg" alt="Photo - The cross has glowed at what is now BancFirst Tower for more than 40 years as shown in this 1976 photo. The cross is missing this year as the tower is undergoing an extensive redevelopment. Oklahoman Archvies. " title=" The cross has glowed at what is now BancFirst Tower for more than 40 years as shown in this 1976 photo. The cross is missing this year as the tower is undergoing an extensive redevelopment. Oklahoman Archvies. "><figcaption> The cross has glowed at what is now BancFirst Tower for more than 40 years as shown in this 1976 photo. The cross is missing this year as the tower is undergoing an extensive redevelopment. Oklahoman Archvies. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d2ea4cde42958b1611687771fb1d950f.jpg" alt="Photo - The future plaza and podium at BancFirst Tower is shown in this rendering by Bockus-Payne Architects. " title=" The future plaza and podium at BancFirst Tower is shown in this rendering by Bockus-Payne Architects. "><figcaption> The future plaza and podium at BancFirst Tower is shown in this rendering by Bockus-Payne Architects. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9c3c1f761d758c67b27ac9c2aaad5bcd.jpg" alt="Photo - The plaza surrounding BancFirst Tower is being rebuilt for the first time since it opened as the home to Liberty Bank in 1971. The exterior renovation also includes removal of every other column around the tower's podium and a complete redesign of the facade. Photo by Dave Morris, The Oklahoman. " title=" The plaza surrounding BancFirst Tower is being rebuilt for the first time since it opened as the home to Liberty Bank in 1971. The exterior renovation also includes removal of every other column around the tower's podium and a complete redesign of the facade. Photo by Dave Morris, The Oklahoman. "><figcaption> The plaza surrounding BancFirst Tower is being rebuilt for the first time since it opened as the home to Liberty Bank in 1971. The exterior renovation also includes removal of every other column around the tower's podium and a complete redesign of the facade. Photo by Dave Morris, The Oklahoman. </figcaption></figure>
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 ›

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