Homeless man killed in fall in vacant Abundant Life Building
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Friday, December 21, 2012
12/21/12 at 7:27 AM
A man who reportedly was homeless fell to his death Thursday in the elevator shaft of an abandoned and derelict building that city officials and the building's owner have been working to make secure from vagrants.
The asbestos-laden Abundant Life Building, at 1720 S. Boulder Ave., is one of several buildings and homes across the city that officials are working with owners to secure.
The building owner said Thursday that more steps will be taken soon to create a permanent solution, including moving forward with plans to renovate the structure.
The victim and another person were in the building to seek shelter from the cold when the victim fell two stories down an elevator shaft Thursday morning, police said.
The witness went to a nearby convenience store and called the police about 5 a.m.
Temperatures dropped to near freezing early Thursday, and strong winds sent wind chills into the low 20s.
There were no indications that foul play was involved, police said, and they believe the death was accidental. The cause and manner of death of the man, whose identity has not been released, will be determined by the state Medical Examiner's Office in Tulsa.
The seven-story building, which was built in 1958, has no windows, making it difficult to see inside, even in the daytime, police said.
The building was the headquarters for the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association when it opened, but Roberts moved the ministry's operations to the Oral Roberts University campus in 1967. It was leased to various companies in the 1970s and sold to a Tulsa investment group in 1971.
The building has been vacant since the 1980s but was bought by David Horton Ministries in 1997 for $1.6 million, the Tulsa World has reported previously.
Earlier this year Horton announced plans to turn the building into high-end condominiums, a plan that is still on track, he said.
"We're working as fast as possible on that," Horton told the Tulsa World on Thursday. "There are just many steps involved in it."
He said he is "very remorseful" about the man's death.
"Obviously, we were horrified," Horton said. "He was a human being; he has value."
Horton, who now lives in Florida, where his ministry is based, said he has agents who regularly check to make sure the building is secure. When notified by city officials that it is not, they work to secure it, he said.
Greg Bledsoe, an attorney whose office is across an alley from the back side of the building, said he noticed that a back door was not secure last week and called the police. It still was not secure Monday, so he called the Mayor's Action Line.
"It has been repeatedly unsecure off and on for the past decade, at least," Bledsoe said.
Kevin Cox, field supervisor with the city's Working in Neighborhoods Department, said his office received the tip and notified the building supervisor, who said he was going to secure the building.
However, when inspectors went there Tuesday, it was unlocked, Cox said. The manager was again contacted and told officials the lock had been cut and that he was working on a more permanent solution, including welding shut the roll-up doors.
Cox said it is the property owners' responsibility to secure abandoned buildings but city inspectors regularly patrol to make sure the owners are following through on their obligations.
The man's death occurred during the same week that several groups gathered for a vigil to remember the homeless people in Tulsa who died during the past year.
"It's just so much grief," said Connie Cronley, executive director of Iron Gate, an organization that provides meals for area homeless people. "Here we start the tally again."
Including the man who died Thursday, 26 homeless people have died in Tulsa since last year's vigil.
The homeless shelter capacity in Tulsa is about 800, but that can vary based on circumstances. Then there are some who don't or can't go to a shelter, Cronley said. Often, that is the population Iron Gate serves, she said.
Taking shelter in abandoned buildings can be dangerous, she said.
"We certainly need to keep abandoned buildings secure," Cronley said.
World Staff Writer Amanda Bland contributed to this story.
History of the building
May 23, 1957: Construction begins on the Abundant Life Building, 1720 S. Boulder Ave. The building would serve as headquarters for Oral Roberts' ministries.
1967: The Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association begins moving operations to the campus of Oral Roberts University after part of the building is leased to Sunray DX Oil Co. The building is renamed the Diamond Tower Building.
1971: The building is sold by the Oral Roberts University Endowment Fund to a Tulsa investor. Southwestern Bell leases the building for office space.
1980s: The building sits abandoned and begins to deteriorate.
1997: The building is purchased by David Horton Ministries for $1.6 million.
2007: It is listed as one of 69 vacant downtown buildings targeted for abatement through either rehabilitation or demolition.
Source: Tulsa World archives
Original Print Headline: Fall in vacant building kills man
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Brian Homberger of Momentum Services, a contractor for the city of Tulsa, works to block an entrance to the former Abundant Life Building, 1720 S. Boulder Ave., after a homeless man died when he fell down an elevator shaft Thursday. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/Tulsa World
Police said a homeless man fell to his death Thursday in the elevator shaft of the former Abundant Life Building, a long-vacant structure at 1720 S. Boulder Ave. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/Tulsa World