Last year’s Architecture Tour was all over the map, mixing urban and suburban designs. This year, the title “Urban Life” was affixed to it, with the emphasis you might expect; in addition to the salutary effects of infill development, this saved a lot of gas, since I didn’t have to trek all the way out past Memorial Road. In the order viewed:
1) 1712 NW 16th Street
The first of two projects in the Plaza District, the Struble Studios building is a reclamation of a 1924 commercial structure, now in the process of getting an interior built. The exterior has a brick façade that had been painted over; to restore it, they simply turned the bricks around to present a fresh face. Ingenious. The renovation extends to two adjacent storefronts, though only this one was open for the tour. Contractor Jeff Struble, who owns this block, has been doing home renovations in the adjacent Gatewood area, so working in the Plaza District seemed like the logical thing to do. Next Big Thing status? We’ll see.
2) 1701 NW 16th Street
In the 1920s, this was the New State Ice Company, and when’s the last time you had ice delivered? Exactly. New State, once owned by Anheuser-Busch, exists now only in old Supreme Court records: in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, the company sought to enforce a de facto monopoly it enjoyed as a result of Oklahoma’s 1925 Ice Act, which declared the manufacture of ice to be a public utility and therefore to fall under the jurisdiction of the Corporation Commission, which had decided that there were enough ice makers in the city. In 1932, the Court ruled 6-2 against New State and overturned the Ice Act. The new owners of the building, Estrella and Mike Elliott, aren’t involved with ice, but they do have something cool in mind: they’re going to turn the storefront into the new Velvet Monkey Salon, replacing a smaller location at 1915 NW 23rd. (There are two other locations.) And the warehouse will be rebuilt as the Elliotts’ new home. Given its industrial past, you’d figure this would be a wide-open, expansive sort of place, and indeed it is; Brian Fitzsimmons (you’ll remember him from Okasian House on last year’s Tour) is thinking “sustainable,” reusing as much of the old stuff as possible. I asked him if the two big metal stars I found in the storefront area were from the old Plaza Theater, just up the street; he was surprised to find that they were there. (I am nothing if not a busybody at times.) Given Fitzsimmons’ knack for reconstruction, I expect this to be fabulous when it’s done.
3) 834 NW 7th Street
This got some coverage in the paper [link goes to PDF file] last week. Dennis Wells is building this house for himself and his wife Shellee; it’s basically a big concrete cube, which won’t even clash with the neighborhood. (The Okasian House is across Francis, halfway down the block.) The box is 40 feet square, so as to fit on to the 50×70 corner lot with appropriate setbacks. Two-thirds of the living space is upstairs; the entrance and a two-car garage are downstairs. “It’s going to be the architect’s ghetto,” quipped Shellee Wells about the neighborhood, which sounds about right to me.
4) 2200 Classen Blvd.
The Classen is the one-time Citizens Tower, south of the Gold Dome at 23rd and Classen; Robert Roloff designed it in the mid-1960s with an eye toward Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower in Bartlesville. Richard Tanenbaum bought it in 2004, and after first planning about 100 condos, has turned the tower into 66 of what the Jeffersons might call “deluxe apartments in the sky.” Certainly the views are fabulous. We were granted admission to a tenth-floor unit, relatively modest but still decidedly upscale, and to one of the penthouses, which looks pretty much like you’d expect a penthouse to look. Amenities are everywhere and consistent with what you’d expect from a high-zoot hotel; rents are, well, not for the squeamish.
5) 1007 NW 14th Street
Actually, this is in the back of 1007; it started out as a detached garage behind Steve and Annette Jacobi’s house in Heritage Hills. It was in bad shape; the new garage looks much like the old one, except that it’s two stories now, and above it is a small studio apartment, about 600 square feet. The city’s Historic District mavens had to pass judgment on this rebuild; it made it through on the first try. I was most impressed by the cantilevered stairway on the building’s west side, which somehow looks like it was part of the original design, which of course it wasn’t. The interior on this one is still on the drawing board, but I expect it will be cozy and neat.
6) 111 Harrison Avenue
This long building in the Flatirons District, northeast of downtown, was the original headquarters of Mistletoe Express, OPUBCO’s erstwhile delivery service. The reconstruction, on behalf of developers Momentum Partners, was completed in 2006; the tour stop was just for the conference room near the entrance, which was created by Stan Carroll from salvaged steel and tempered glass, which isn’t anywhere near as easy as it sounds since you can’t alter tempered glass worth a darn. Still: sustainable, and attractive in an industrial sort of way.
7) The Brownstones at Maywood Park, NE 3rd and Oklahoma
I mentioned this high-end townhouse cluster once before, remarking on its use of insulated concrete forms, a greener sort of building technology. I hadn’t visited any of the units at the time, though; now that sales are going on, models were open. (Floorplans here.) These are big and pricey, and did I mention big? The smallest unit is 2½ floors, which from the standpoint of stair-climbing might as well be three; the top model is 3½ floors, which we’ll call four. The taller unit was fitted with an elevator, which none of us seemed to be able to figure out. I liked the looks of these; I’d have liked them even more had I much better knees and/or much more money.
8) Block 42, 301 NE 4th Street
I visited Block 42 on last year’s Tour, when it was still big boxes full of nothing yet already half presold. Now they’re expecting the last buyers to come on board this spring. The fountain out front was greatly appreciated on a hotter-than-expected April day, and the two units visited (both three stories tall) were nicely equipped, though after more rounds of stairs I was grateful to be finished with the tour and grateful that I live in a ranch house.
Elapsed time: just about three hours. Price was the same as last year: $12, a fraction of which goes to Calm Waters. Time, and money, well spent.