Group has mission to save mid-century buildings in Oklahoma City area

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OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma group is on a crusade to save mid century masterpieces.

"Very few states have the collection we have, and it makes us distinctive. It's a big draw. People come from all over the country and beyond to see our architecture and I think it's well worth preserving,” Co-founder Lynne Rostochil said.

Lynne Rostochil co-founded Okie Mod Squad in 2009 with other with the same passion.

"It was the post war. People were super excited. There was a lot of money happening and designers were all about the future and designing for the masses," Co-founder Matt Goad said.

Both OSU and OU had a robust architecture department at the time. with distinguished architect Bruce Goff teaching at OU.

"A lot of them decided to settle in Oklahoma and make their careers here and create," Rostochil said.

The Founders National Bank building in north Oklahoma City was designed by former OU Student Bob Bowlby.

But last fall...it was torn down. An example of many mid-century buildings in danger of demolition.

In the past two years Okie Mod Squad started petitions for several properties on the chopping block.

"We've done the Donnay building so that was a big win for us was helping to save that building and now the Central National motor bank, we did a petition for that and now First Christian,” Rostochil said.

City Councilman Ed Shadid says the property is under contract contingent on the buyer being able to demolish the church.

So now Okie Mod Squad will hold a rally with hope the potential buyer will “save the egg.”

"I don't think anyone here is the bad guy. I don't want to even say the buyer is a bad guy. Maybe the buyer didn't realize how much people love this building and maybe we're making them aware of that," Rostochil said.

"And I'm very confident that in 20, 30 years that they're going to be kicking themselves like they did with all the art deco and awesome buildings that they tore down during Urban Renewal downtown," Goad said.

A time when art deco architecture met the wrecking ball to make way for a new landscape.

The rally to save the egg is happening Wednesday evening by the First Christian Church.

We spoke to developer Ben Sellers who redeveloped the Tower Theater, Sunshine Cleaners building and several others, about what it takes to preserve a building.

“Restoring historic structures is difficult, and demolition is often the easy way out.  The decision to tear down any structure is ultimately a function of the Highest & Best Use of the property.  Many will argue that restoration is not financially feasible.  Sometimes this is true, but more often this is laziness or apathy.  Restoring historic structures can be profitable, and ultimately increases the value of the neighborhood when done right.  But redevelopment also typically requires a rezoning to allow new uses,” he said.

“In the case of First Christian Church, there are a number of adaptive re-uses that could be possible for this structure & site, but the creative redevelopment of the surrounding land is crucial to this being financially feasible.  If the surrounding neighborhoods (and general public) want to see the church building saved, they are going to have to concede to a zoning change that would allow for higher density housing and commercial development of the overall site.  You can’t demand the building be saved and deny redevelopment of the remainder of the site.”

He also said he’s talked to leaders with Oklahoma City Public Schools about the so-called “wavy bank” building that’s in danger of demolition.

“I appreciate the OKCPS willingness to look at alternatives options to demolition the drive thru.  We are working with several groups to propose some alternative street parking arrangements that would accommodate their needs and save this structure,” Sellers said.

For more information on Okie Mod Squad, click here.

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