Before the wrecking ball comes

Plaza, schmaza, says Downtown Ranger Nick Roberts, the Kermac Building ought to be saved:

I don’t want to second-guess their commitment to the community, as it turns out SandRidge’s founder, Mitchell Malone, is an OSU alum who recently donated $29 million to OSU. So there’s no doubting their commitment to Oklahoma, and that’s great. But SandRidge, formerly known as Riata Energy, is not from OKC — it relocated here from Amarillo. They are likely familiar with the Kerr-McGee story as anyone in the energy industry probably is, but preserving that history is undoubtedly not a priority for them like it should be for people who are from OKC.

Furthermore, who’s to say SandRidge isn’t out-right trying to root out the KMG legacy around their headquarters and replace it with SandRidge footprints? I can even see a reasonable debate for and against that, because it’s certainly understandable that SandRidge DID thankfully purchase and occupy the tower when KMG left us high and dry. However on the other side, the argument that KMG history is NOT Luke Corbett history has to win at the end of the day. KMG history is OKC history, and it’s about the history of the thousands of people that worked for it, people from hard working oil drillers, to people like Karen Silkwood. It’s the history of Oklahoma, in a microcosm. SandRidge needs to be respectful of that, and there is no reason for them to mow down the original headquarters of Kerr-McGee and replace it with nothing more than a windswept plaza to inflict SandRidge’s corporate image on Robinson Avenue.

Luke Corbett was the last CEO of KMG; the sellout to Anadarko Petroleum happened on his watch, and he reportedly pocketed $200 million from that 2006 deal.

I am not entirely unbiased in this matter: my father worked for KMG for many years, as did my stepmother. But those considerations aside, it strikes me as a bad idea aesthetically to remove the building simply to increase the visibility of the new SandRidge plaza. Steve Lackmeyer noted a few weeks ago:

[T]he building can be salvaged, and there are good prospects for adaptive re-use. Further, SandRidge Energy plans to create an open plaza where there is now a strong urban streetfront. The entrance would create a gap — the sort of thing that pedestrian consultant Jeff Speck described as a sap on walkability and urban life.

I concede, the project plans look pretty good. Then again, we had pretty good plans back in the 1960s, and we wound up with a mausoleum for a downtown, a situation we’ve only just begun to correct.





1 comment

  1. Scott »

    5 March 2010 · 7:02 am

    WARNING: I saw the phrase “world class” in there. That’s urban designer code for “give me A LOT more tax money.”

    On a personal note, I used to call on KM back in the 90s, and I always liked that building, especially from the inside. Meetings in conference rooms with windows on the upper floors were simply fun.

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