BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
3/08/11 at 1:47 PM
Workers unboarded the windows Monday afternoon, letting sunlight into the old Mathews Warehouse for the first time in decades.
A thick layer of dust covered the floor. Cracks scarred the walls and the ceiling was pockmarked with hundreds of tiny holes where the plaster has chipped away.
"It's a pretty rough place right now," said Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. "But it will ultimately be a very beautiful place."
The same could be said for the whole Brady District, where the Kaiser foundation broke ground Monday on an $18 million renovation that will make the Mathews Warehouse the centerpiece of a massive revitalization effort.
Within a three-block radius, at least half a dozen construction projects have either started already this year or are scheduled to begin within months. Among these are lofts, townhomes and a new Fairfield Inn.
The Kaiser foundation is also funding an $8 million public park across the street from the Mathews site, along with several blocks of "streetscaping" that will include new sidewalks, lighting and trees throughout the district.
That's not counting ONEOK Field - home of the Tulsa Drillers - which opened last season a few blocks east of the Mathews.
All together, the projects might finally fulfill one of the city's oldest dreams - that the Brady District could be Tulsa's version of the West End in Dallas or Bricktown in Oklahoma City.
"I remember driving around this area 20 or 30 years ago," Mayor Dewey Bartlett told the Tulsa World. "And I was thinking, 'Someday, this part of town is going to really take off.' "
He just didn't think it would take so long.
"It's taken awhile for all the pieces to fall in place," Bartlett said. "But now everything is moving very rapidly and, a year or two from now, this whole area is going to look and feel very different."
In a way, the Brady area has been "the next big thing" since the 1980s, when the city used urban renewal funds to buy up property for what is now Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, just north of the district.
Revitalization seemed imminent when Spaghetti Warehouse opened in the early 1990s, joining a handful of other restaurants and night spots in the vicinity.
Then the area seemed sure to take off when the Tribune Lofts opened in the early 2000s.
But only now does the boom finally seem to be happening.
"We've been here for a long time," said OSU-Tulsa President Howard Barnett.
"But now, suddenly, we're in an area that's cool. People used to ask me, 'Where's your campus?' Now everybody knows the Brady District."
He means "everybody" in Tulsa, of course. But the area might soon become a national destination for art lovers.
When construction is finished early next year, the renovated Mathews building will include exhibit space, studios and classrooms - with the space being shared by the University of Tulsa and both the Gilcrease and Philbrook museums.
The Philbrook will use its share of the space for two of the museum's most recent acquisitions - the Eugene B. Adkins collection of Southwestern art and the George R. Kravis collection of contemporary design.
Both will draw tens of thousands of visitors a year, officials said.
"It's a very big step toward having a district that will basically be 24-7," said Scott Moore, who was hosting a post-groundbreaking reception Monday at his nearby restaurant, Hey Mambo.
"We're going to have crowds here during the day and after dark, during the week and on the weekends. That's been the goal for Brady for a long time, and now it's happening."
The Mathews Warehouse Complex
Location: 116-124 E. Brady St. (along Brady Street between Boston and Cincinnati Avenues).
Total cost: $18 million (to renovate three of the complex's four buildings for use by Philbrook Museum of Art and the University of Tulsa/Gilcrease Museum)
Projected completion: Late spring of 2012
Funding: Site is owned by the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Funds for the renovation come from a mixture of local and federal public funding (including tax credits from the area being designated a "Certified Historic Structure") and donations from private individuals and foundations.
Overview: The easternmost part of the Mathews Warehouse Complex will become the University of Tulsa's Zarrow Center for Arts and Education, a three-story, 18,000-square-foot space that will include exhibit space for regular art shows by student, faculty and professional artists; studio spaces for graduate students in the TU art program; and classroom space for education programs from Gilcrease Museum.
The central portion of the complex, about 30,000 square feet, will be used by the Philbrook Museum of Art to house the Eugene B. Adkins Collection and Study Center of American Indian Art, and the George R. Kravis II Contemporary Design Collection.
The western portion of the complex is as yet undeveloped. Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, said that plans for that section should be made final within six months. "It will be very much in keeping with the rest of complex, with an arts and cultural emphasis," he said.
Michael Overall 918-581-8383
Tim Beavers of Manhattan Construction removes boards Monday from the windows of the Mathews Warehouse, beginning an $18 million renovation that will make the historic building the centerpiece of revitalization in downtown's Brady District. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
A view of a room Monday at the Mathews Warehouse complex which will be The University of Tulsa's Zarrow Center for Arts and Education and Philbrook Museum of Art. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Jeff Martin of Philbrook carries in easels shortly before a launch Monday for the Mathews Warehouse complex which will be The University of Tulsa's Zarrow Center for Arts and Education and Philbrook Museum of Art. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
The Mathews Warehouse complex, as seen through a window Monday at the Brady Artists Studio, will be The University of Tulsa's Zarrow Center for Arts and Education and Philbrook Museum of Art. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Henry Zarrow and his daughter Judy Kishner take a tour shortly before a launch for the Mathews Warehouse complex which will be The University of Tulsa's Zarrow Center for Arts and Education and Philbrook Museum of Art on Monday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World