Part of the last “intact” block of historic Main Street, a 93-year-old building in the heart of the Tulsa Arts District will face demolition with or without the city’s permission for a manufacturing company to expand onto the property, officials said Monday.
Dating back to the mid-1920s, an old Texaco gas station has become so derelict that it is no longer safe, and renovations would be cost-prohibitive, said David Wilson, manager of Baird Valve and Regulator.
The building next door has been used for manufacturing oil-field parts since the 1930s, Wilson said. And now the Baird company wants to expand onto the northwest corner of Main and M.B. Brady streets, one of the busiest intersections in the trendy Arts District.
The Tulsa Board of Adjustment will vote Tuesday on whether to grant a zoning exception to allow light manufacturing on the site. Without the exception, Wilson said, the land probably will become a parking lot.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “the current structure isn’t safe and will have to come down.”
The Board of Adjustment has already received a wave of complaints urging members to reject the zoning exception in hopes of saving the building, with one resident saying the demolition would cause “irreparable harm to the historic fabric of Tulsa.”
The Tulsa Foundation for Architecture describes the area as “the last intact block of historic Main Street,” with buildings along both sides of Main dating back to the Prohibition era or before. Every other stretch of Main has already seen demolitions or redevelopment, said Amanda DeCort, the foundation’s executive director.
“You can’t build a new historic building,” DeCort said. “That’s not how historic buildings work. Once you tear it down, it can never be replaced.”
With significant real estate holdings in the Arts District, the Baird company has played a major role in preserving historic buildings and promoting downtown revitalization, officials said. The old gas station, however, is too small to bring enough rent to justify the costly repairs that would be necessary to make it structurally sound again, said Wilson, the company manager.
The new building, while used for light manufacturing at first, would be designed to be easily converted into three separate “storefronts,” Wilson said. Rents in the Arts District are not currently high enough to justify the cost of new construction, but in a few years, as redevelopment continues and rents increase, the Baird company wants to relocate the manufacturing operation and convert the new building into retail spaces, Wilson said.
“Manufacturing will literally pay for the development,” he said. “Believe me, what we’re going to put there is going to add a lot of value to the whole area.”