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WPX investing $100 million in new 11-story downtown Tulsa headquarters

WPX Energy unveiled plans to build a new headquarters in downtown Tulsa on Friday.

The 11-story, 260,000-square-foot tower will be built on the block of property where the old Spaghetti Warehouse is located.

Construction is expected to begin in 2020 and wrap up in 2022.

WPX is an exploration and production company that became an independent in 2011 after it spun off from Williams Cos. It employs 450 people in Tulsa with a local payroll of $55 million.

As an exploration and production company, WPX doesn’t operate in Oklahoma. Its major land holdings are in the Permian Basin in west Texas and New Mexico and the Williston Basin in North Dakota.

Company officials at times in the past, and just prior to purchasing the land for this project, have looked at other areas to relocate that might have made more sense, including Denver, Dallas and Houston.

“At the end of the day we decided the best action is to stay in Tulsa. We have a great team in place, and this allows us to do something for the community that is very positive,” said Rick Muncrief, WPX CEO. “We are betting on the team we have and the assets we’ve put together, and part of that strategy is staying in Tulsa and growing from where we are today.”

The company currently occupies seven floors of the BOK Tower, and the new campus will allow the company to grow by 25%.

The building will be located on the square block bounded by Detroit Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the east and west and Cameron Street and Reconciliation Way to the north and south.

The project includes 245,000 square feet of office space for WPX, 15,000 square feet of commercial space and nearly 700 parking spaces.

The development features plans for a public plaza to the west and a public pathway through the middle of the campus connecting Guthrie Green in the Arts District and John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.

The campus and its front door will face east toward Reconciliation Park as a symbolic tribute to the importance of Tulsa remembering its past.

“If you look at the design, it really honors the tradition of the past with a brick facade that fits well in the neighborhood,” Muncrief said. “If you think about the passageway from Greenwood into the Arts District, it tells you two things: No. 1, we want to be a conduit for positive change. No. 2, we want to be a healthy passageway from the past into the future.”

The energy company purchased the property — including the Spaghetti Warehouse building, another warehouse and two parking lots — for a total of $6.5 million.

Officials with the company wouldn’t say what the projected cost for the project is, other than that it is a “significant investment.”

According to information distributed by the company, the project will be a total investment of more than $100 million in downtown.

Several local officials were on hand Friday afternoon at City Hall to celebrate the announcement of the project.

“WPX has operations across the United States and could have built elsewhere, so the very intentional decision to locate a new corporate headquarters in the Greenwood District shows a deep commitment to Tulsa and the company’s 450 area employees,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “This investment in one of Tulsa’s most historic neighborhoods will have a positive economic impact on our community for decades to come.”

Utility work is already under way at the site, with surface preparation, concrete work and development for the underground portion of parking scheduled for the balance of the year.

The project also incorporates green space, trees, lighting, benches, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and streetscaping consistent with Tulsa’s Downtown Master Plan.

“When you look at Tulsa and its history, each era is really defined by the architecture of the buildings that were built in that time,” said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. “You can see landmark moments in our history. When we became the oil capital of the world and Waite Phillips built the Philtower; when John Williams decided they were not going to move Williams to Houston and instead built the BOK Tower … . We have another important announcement today about an important era in Tulsa history.”

Tulsa County prepares for Rapid DNA tech that's 'solving cases left and right' for others, sheriff says

While some other states may be using the relatively new Rapid DNA technology, Oklahoma is touted as the first to enshrine its use into law.

Gov. Kevin Stitt in May signed Senate Bill 184, which allows law enforcement to use Rapid DNA in lieu of sending samples to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for testing. State law already allows for DNA samples to be taken upon a felony arrest.

Rusty Byers, a senior director of the company that owns the technology, said Friday he’s receiving several requests each week for copies of Oklahoma’s original legislation.

“What has happened in Oklahoma is going to reverberate in public safety for years,” Byers said.

Colorado-based ANDE touts its Rapid DNA technology as mobile, rugged and able to be operated by a nontechnical user to obtain a DNA profile within two hours. Forensic laboratories may take weeks or months, the company says.

Byers gave a presentation about ANDE Rapid DNA on Friday in downtown Tulsa to a gathering of Oklahoma criminal justice officials. Among them was Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, who sees applications for the technology outside of the jail.

But first, Regalado said the Sheriff’s Office must develop policies and procedures to govern proper use of Rapid DNA in a legal and ethical manner. He said he envisions its use in cold-case homicides and on backlogged rape kits before investigations in general.

“We want to avoid any type of invasion of privacy where it isn’t necessary,” Regalado said. “We don’t want to put out a blanket and say everybody needs to be tested. ... We certainly don’t want to create any new law because of something we screwed up, to put it plain and simple. We want to be No. 1 in implementing this legislation; we don’t want to be No. 1 in bringing it down.”

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s size would equate to a subscription cost of about $315,000 for access to the technology over a three-year period. Each single-use chip carries a price tag of $1,000 and holds five samples.

Regalado said he will explore local partnerships and federal grants to develop a program that is sustainable and a benefit to northeastern Oklahoma.

“As you’ve seen other states using this, they’re solving cases left and right,” he said. “And not necessarily all violent ones. Burglaries, possession of firearms and things like that, where there still are victims of these crimes and they’re finding closure much more efficiently through the old process.”

Rapid DNA is approved for use with the National DNA Index System (NDIS), but not the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). NDIS is considered one part of CODIS — the national level — containing DNA profiles contributed by federal, state and local forensic labs, according to the FBI.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the Oklahoma affiliate of the ACLU, previously questioned the Rapid DNA legislation.

“It represents another move away from the bedrock American principle that you are innocent until proven guilty,” Kiesel said. “The state of Oklahoma is increasingly treating people as though they are guilty upon arrest.”

President Donald Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act of 2017, which directed the FBI to develop standards and procedures for Rapid DNA instruments. ANDE’s technology first was used by the U.S. military in 2013.

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Committee to recommend John Hope Franklin Elementary for Gilcrease/ECDC-Bunche school's new name

A Tulsa Public Schools committee responsible for selecting recommendations for the name of the combined Gilcrease/ECDC-Bunche school has narrowed its list to one: John Hope Franklin Elementary.

The Ad Hoc School Naming Committee will present its recommendation to the Tulsa school board on Monday evening. Board members are expected to vote on the name in July.

District officials created the committee in May to come up with suggestions for what to call the new school, which will serve students from prekindergarten through fifth grade and be located in the Bunche building near 56th Street North and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The committee received about 80 names during a community-feedback period and picked out five possibilities: Maya Angelou, John Hope Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

From there, the group hosted a community meeting to receive further input about the shortened list. The majority of people favored the name John Hope Franklin, said Ebony Johnson, executive director of student and family support services at TPS and chairwoman of the committee.

Although Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King Jr. were tied for second favorite, Johnson said the community as well as committee members made it clear they wanted the school to be named for a Tulsan.

“I’ll be honest and say that with the final five, it was pretty tough when it came to making a recommendation,” she said. “But basically, the community’s suggestions drove the decision. They wanted John Hope Franklin. We wanted to be very responsive to what the community has asked for.

“And then secondly, there was just a lot of conversation in the ad hoc committee around the importance of it being someone from Tulsa and Oklahoma.”

Franklin, a famed historian and educator, was born in rural McIntosh County in 1915 but graduated from Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School. He earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in history from Harvard University.

From there, Franklin began teaching at a number of colleges. These included Howard University, the University of Chicago and Duke University — which opened the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies in 2001.

He achieved international fame in 1947 with the publication of his book “From Slavery to Freedom,” an influential study of the black experience in America.

In the ‘90s, President Bill Clinton named Franklin chairman of the Advisory Board to the President’s Initiative on Race and awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

One of his final public appearances before his death in 2009 was in Tulsa for the dedication of John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, which serves as a memorial to the Tulsa Race Massacre.

In a letter sent to TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist explaining the name recommendation, Johnson said the committee believes “the life and legacy of John Hope Franklin is one that represents our aspirations for the children of the school.”

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Tulsa World Magazine comes out Saturday; look for it in stands across Tulsa

The Street by Street issue of Tulsa World Magazine will be in home-delivered newspapers Saturday, June 29.

You will also be able to find it at more than 100 locations across Tulsa, including Boomtown Tees, 114 S. Elgin Ave.; Mother Road Market, 1124 S. Lewis Ave.; and Mecca Coffee, 1330 E. 41st St.

In this issue, we tell Tulsa’s stories through its main thoroughfares, from their histories and unique attractions to the oldest restaurant on each street.

Look for Tulsa World Magazine in your home-delivered Tulsa World on Saturday. To subscribe to the Tulsa World or to Tulsa World Magazine, go to or call 918-582-0921 or toll free at 800-444-6552.

Copies of the magazine can also be mailed to you for $4.95 by calling 918-581-8584.

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