More than mere masonry

The Oklahoman (presumably business writer Steve Lackmeyer) talked to developer and Criterion Group vice-president Marva Ellard last week, resulting in this interesting revelation:

When we first got the Sieber [Hotel] in 1998 and a friend of mine told me there are still Siebers in Oklahoma, every year since then I’ve been in contact with them. It’s important to me and important to my partners that the Siebers are informed and pleased with what is going on. It’s their legacy, not my legacy.

I think that’s something in preservation people sometimes miss. It’s not just the building. A building to most people is an inanimate object. People built that building. People had livelihoods and careers and families in that building. That personal part gets separated from the steel and wood and bricks of the building. But to me, you can’t separate that. You can’t separate William Skirvin from the Skirvin. You can’t separate the Siebers from the Sieber.

The six-story Sieber Hotel at 12th and Hudson, built in 1928, closed and was boarded up in the 1980s during the Great Oil Bust. Ellard and her partners took over in 1998, but securing the financing for the $8.5-million rehabilitation (including a two-story building next door, once a grocery) proved to be a long, arduous process; the last increment, from Oklahoma City’s Community Development Block Grant funds, came early in 2006. Construction began in the summer. While the ground floor is reserved for retail and a restaurant, the upper floors will be subdivided into apartments. And, oh, yes, the property will still be called the Sieber, and as of 2005, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

(How it looked right before reconstruction: photo by Jason B.)

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