Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Diamond Building - Abundant Life Building Reimagined

"This reconstruction of a 6 story windowless building into an 12 story mixed use facility is expected to help revitalize an entire section of near-downtown Tulsa. The uses will include ground floor retail, office space from 2nd through 6th floors and well-appointed condominiums in the 7th through 12th floors. Materials include a rough rectangular limestone base and columns, metal trellises and sunscreens and preformed concrete panels. An iconic rooftop lookout platform is oriented towards the downtown skyline, and extends the roof garden that overlooks the neighboring Veterans Park, historic neighborhoods and the Arkansas River in the near distance."

It's an interesting idea, although I have to wonder where the "diamonds" are. In fact, this design is lacking in pretty much any reference to the original architecture. Ignoring that fact, I think it's a pretty good looking building. I'd love to live in a modern multi-use building like this, particularly once occupancy reached a good level. With an additional 6 floors you'd have some spectacular views comparable to the University Tower. It's unlikely that this particular proposal will come to pass, but it's interesting to see what people can dream up for the renewal of this historic Tulsa landmark (albeit eyesore, currently). Most people I talk to dream of it as a rubble heap, being carried off in large dump trucks. I have mixed feelings myself. The historic significance as the headquarters of Oral Roberts Ministry is unquestioned, but the structure simply doesn't lend itself easily to re-purposing without drastic changes.

Top photo/Quote: Freese Architecture

Abundant Life Building at Night courtesy of Beryl Ford Collection, Tulsa City-County Library


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Williams Center Forum

The Williams Center Forum was a modern 3-level shopping mall with ice arena in downtown Tulsa from the late '70s to early '90s. After going defunct, it was converted and reopened in 1998 as the Williams Energy Trading Floor, taking up the space of a football field and wired with over 235 miles of data cable.

I've had a lot of requests and questions regarding pictures of the former mall and it's ice skating arena. Unfortunately, even though I spent lots of time there during High School (my Sr. prom was even held there), I never managed to take any pictures before it closed down. However, today I stumbled across Flickr user Steven Wilson's fantastic Williams Center Forum photo set of the center during it's prime.

Also of interest is his Woodland Hills Mall photoset showing it's original '70s design before several subsequent renovations. I so glad someone else managed to capture images of these places before they were changed so drastically.

Above: Photo by Steven Wilson of the Williams Center Forum ice arena.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Remains of Detroit

From the "It Could Be Worse" Department:
Sean Hemmerle, a Brooklyn, New York-based photographer has captured much of the world when they were at their lowest point. His work at Ground Zero led to his continued work in Afghanistan and Iraq. A regular photographer for Time, he has recently preserved the derelict side of Detroit. Time.com has put this photo-essay online covering some of these aging abandoned structures of America's Motor City. In reference to the former passenger depot, Michigan Central Station, Hemmerle says "It's staggering, that such a phenomenal piece of architecture could stand empty for twenty years." For all of the history of industrial superiority that many of these buildings represented for the city of Detroit (and indeed all of the US), they now wait patiently for their inevitable demolition. Makes me thankful to live in Tulsa. It truly could be much worse.

I've always been fascinated by Detroit's abandoned buildings since David Kohrman started Forgotten Detroit back in 1999. It's the closest thing we have to a post-apocalyptic large city in the United States. Ukraine has Chernobyl (Pripyat) and we have Detroit. Even though I've only briefly driven through the city once, I've spent many hours absorbing the images and history of a lost Detroit. BTW, I do realize that these only represent a portion of the city, and that it's not entirely this way. But the shots of the forgotten parts are ominously wonderful to me!

Above: The Michigan Theatre, a glorious 1926 performance venue was converted to a parking garage in 1976.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Eastgate Metroplex Metamorphosis

I'm sure lots of you wish I'd get off my Eastland Mall kick, but I'm still getting a thrill out of watching this dead mall go through a $55 million metamorphosis, springing back into a living, breathing space again. This week, as they near completion of the external renovation of the former Mervyn's, they put up the new University of Phoenix signage. I had to drop by and take some new pics.


The OK Dept of Public Safety's drivers license testing facility has successfully made their transfer from Jenks to the new location downstairs in the former food court / arcade area. Workforce OK is moving forward quickly with their new space next to UoP. Community Action Project has settled in well with their Early Childhood Education Center. Alorica is building out plenty of workstations for their new $2 million 45,000 sf call center, which will soon be home to about 700 employees currently working in the Citiplex towers. Coca-Cola Enterprises keeps filling their parking lots up more and more. There's even a cafe/coffee shop in the former Helzberg Diamonds space, if you're in the mood for some java and a bite to eat (free WiFi too). IBC Bank is building out a space, as is Weststar Mortgage and there's positive word on talks with a national food operation to lease there as well.


At just over 30% capacity, the developers are expecting to have close to 1000 employees working at Eastgate Metroplex by the end of this year. It will be interesting to watch as the number of employees working at this mixed-use facility finally reaches the point that new retail is desired. So far, I've been very impressed with Director of Development, Gerry Chauvin and Rob Phillips' ability to quickly bring his vision for this facility into reality. I'm sure that Tulsa (and Eastside in particular) will certainly appreciate the economic impact that this should have for the city.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lost Tulsa's Most Interesting Photos

Above is a slideshow of the most interesting Lost Tulsa photos, as chosen by Flickr's algorithm based on number of views, favorites and comments. It definitely picks some of my favorites. I can't wait to add even more photos soon.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Camelot Hotel Demolition Day

I'm still playing catch up, so I'm a year late with these. The Camelot Hotel photoset has been updated to include shots from last December on the first day of demolition.

The Google Street View crew captured the hotel around a month before it was torn down. Click the arrows on the yellow street lines to "drive" around the hotel. Grab the screen and drag or use the widget in the corner to adjust your view.
View Larger Map

It was still standing when Google's satellite provider snagged their last shot of Tulsa, too. Click the + to zoom in. You can even see the spade-shaped pool.

View Larger Map

On a final Camelot-related item. I was pleased to see that Alison Zarrow has posted her wonderful book, Abandoned Tulsa as a downloadable PDF (try the freeware PDF viewer Foxit, if you don't have Acrobat installed). I already own a hard copy of the book, but now anyone can enjoy her wonderful photos and well researched, inspired prose covering some of Tulsa's most interesting vacant places. It also includes some great shots from inside the Camelot Hotel as well as ephemera from the hotel's past. Thanks so much for sharing, Alison.