Protesters converge on Donnay building, defending its possible demise for new Braum’s and parking lot

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OKLAHOMA CITY - About 100 protesters came together Thursday afternoon to protest an Oklahoma City-based ice cream and restaurant's plans to build a new location currently home to several long-time businesses and residences.

Braum's Ice Cream & Dairy Stores filed a rezoning application with the Oklahoma City Planning Commission last week, calling for six residential lots near NW 50th and North Military Avenue to be re-zoned as commercial. A rezoning approval would pave the way for a new store and raze adjacent buildings for the business' parking lot, according to documents filed with the city.

“We don’t need another Braum’s. there’s one down the road!” said one protester.

“Like we need another Braum’s in Oklahoma City, no we don’t," Veronica Burroughs quickly added. "But we need this love, here.”

Love that's being shown for the businesses that inhabit the block along Classen Circle, some for 60 years. The Donnay building, built in the late 1940s, currently is home to the HiLo Club, Drunken Fry, Charlie's Jazz-Rhythm & Blues Records and several apartments. The Classen Grill would also be razed, according to Braum's submitted site plans.

Braum's tells NewsChannel 4 it has "no comment" on the matter.

"There’s nothing like it in Oklahoma City, and we’re losing too much of these unique buildings," said 73-year-old Mary Harris, who remembers coming to the former Patio restaurant as a child. "The town is starting to look too much alike and I would hate to see something like this go."

The protest was organized after word quickly spread Wednesday of Braum's rezoning request the property. Many protesters carried signs, others had shirts made criticizing the plans.

“We’re talking about people and neighborhoods. They’re out here because they love the place; that’s it," said Greg Bustamante, who owns the nearby Speakeasy bar.

Bustamante says it's not Braum's fault for wanting to move forward with their own business plans. But he says there is some fault with not understanding the community it would be moving into, as well as the city for not recognizing the Donnay building's historical significance and the importance of the HiLo and Charlie's to the city.

The planning commission is scheduled to hear the rezoning request August 24. Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid says more time is needed for proper studies to be done on the impact a Braum's store would have on the neighborhood and the already complicated traffic patterns around Classen Circle and NW 50th.

"[Protesters have] a right to hire legal counsel, this group has a right to do traffic studies, this is the most complicated traffic intersection in the city, there are going to be enormous traffic implications and safety implications from this development," said Shadid, who is calling for a continuance on the rezoning hearing.

Shadid also has concerns about how a high-density commercial operation, like a Braum's, would have on the residential neighborhood that surrounds the property.

"They haven’t met with the neighborhood. They haven’t met with surrounding businesses and all that needs to be done before it comes to the planning commission," said Shadid.

"Money is obviously the power," said Bustamante. "So if you don’t have money to buy the building, what can you do other than at least express your grievance with the situation."

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