The More Things Change ... Another old, underutilized building is one step closer to being used in a new way in the Owen Park neighborhood just west of downtown.
The transformation of the vacant Pershing School site into a 32-unit apartment building received support from planning commissioners at their April 17 meeting. The group voted unanimously in favor of a zoning change recommendation allowing the project -- which includes a community center and catering kitchen -- to move forward in a residential neighborhood.
Apartments will be "moderate-priced, small dwelling units, fairly spartan in design and layout," said Jim Beach of Wallace Engineering, telling commissioners the project will "accommodate artists and other craftspeople" who may live and work there.
Local entrepreneurs purchased the building on W. Easton Street in a $495,000 deal approved by the Tulsa Public Schools board in February. The ownership group includes Tom Wallace of Wallace Engineering, construction contractor Michael Payne, and restaurant entrepreneur Elliot Nelson.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, fundraising is moving forward to establish a residential high school for gifted young artists at the Roosevelt School building site. Also, the nonprofit Tulsa Children's Museum Discovery Lab plans to open in May in the vacant Owen Park Recreation Center.
One resident, Glenda Smedley, told commissioners she has a concern about who will live in the apartments and about parking. But other longtime residents expressed support for the project, including Richard Hill, president of the Owen Park Neighborhood Association.
He asked planning commissioners to "see this as part of a greater concern and vision that people have for the Owen Park area and neighborhood," describing how the recreation center would have been in danger of being vandalized without a new tenant.
Wallace said food truck operators could rent time at the facility to comply with requirements that they use a commercial kitchen.
"What is needed desperately in this community is a catering kitchen where someone who serves elsewhere can come to a clean, sophisticated commercial kitchen and make whatever they make and take it away," Wallace told commissioners.
Wallace told commissioners he plans to apply for historic tax credits to help fund work on the structure, built in 1918.
Beach said, "For all intents and purposes, this is going to look just like it looks today, except that it will be cleaned up."
Dentists Reading the News. Less than two percent of patients seen by W. Scott Harrington so far have a disease that health officials say could possibly have come from alleged unsanitary practices at Harrington's offices in midtown and Owasso, according to an April 18 statement from the Tulsa City-County Health Department.
"The next phase will include more in-depth interviews of persons who test positive to determine the likelihood that their exposure is associated with their dental surgical procedure at the Harrington practice," State Epidemiologist Kristy Bradley said in a statement.
One group has unsurprisingly complained about the tone of news coverage -- dental professionals in Oklahoma.
Trade publisher PennWell, based in Tulsa, reported that 54 percent of dental professionals surveyed described news coverage as "overblown" in the Harrington case.
Along with one survey comment that the media "totally overreacted and increased fear unnecessarily," another comment criticized dental authorities: "I believe that there were indeed some infection control violations in that particular office. However, I feel as though the spokesperson from the Oklahoma State Board of Dentistry could have minimized the alarm caused by the media coverage. Instead, I believe she caused greater concern by her comments."
Campaign Calls. Mayoral candidate Bill Christiansen didn't passionately defend every word of a robocall script that has roiled former mayor Kathy Taylor.
But he didn't back down from his criticism of Taylor's handling of a lawsuit settlement involving the city and Bank of Oklahoma.
A phone poll asking potential voters about candidate preferences included a question about Taylor's role in settling a lawsuit related to the bankruptcy of Great Plains Airlines.
"Are you aware that Kathy Taylor spent taxpayer money illegally by transferring public funds in the amount of $7.1 million to Great Plains Airlines and was forced to rescind this payment by the Oklahoma Supreme Court?" the script read, according to documents released by Christiansen at a news conference on Monday, April 22.
Christiansen's campaign manager, Josh McFarland, addressed the complaints by Taylor laid out in a letter sent by her attorneys describing the calls as "efforts to spread false information and create negative impressions."
"Could we have worded the one sentence in this complex situation more clearly? I suppose you can always figure out a way," McFarland said. He stated that the Christiansen campaign purchased the poll from D.W. Research, a firm headed by David Weston, the recently-elected chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court did rule in favor of a taxpayers' lawsuit seeking to halt the settlement, which involved payment to the bank that had made a complex loan deal involving the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust. Litigation remains ongoing.
Taylor had a legal expert on her side when she authorized the settlement -- though not the support of the city council, which included Christiansen at the time. A city attorney had also previously nixed the settlement idea, Christiansen said.
In an interview immediately after the news conference, Christiansen said he wasn't sure if his campaign will continue with robocalls.
"That particular script will not be used again. We will refine the wording," Christiansen said. But he also said the "bottom line" is that the lawsuit alleged an unlawful transaction, and the state's highest court sided with those filing the suit.
"So, I mean, I think we're mincing words here, to be honest with you," Christiansen said.
Taylor the same day announced she wants other candidates to sign a pledge to not make robocalls.
McFarland, in a phone interview, said Taylor doesn't make the rules. He wouldn't rule out future robocalls.
Taylor in an email referred to legal expert Robert Sartin, who provided independent counsel to the city at the time of the settlement. She wrote the settlement "included a requirement that if the trial court's ruling on the legality was successfully challenged, the city would be repaid -- which has happened."
All Samples Cleared. Local beer makers will soon be allowed to begin serving 12-ounce samples on site under a new law signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday, April 22.
Tulsa-based Marshall Brewing Company supported the reform, and the company on its Facebook change explained why.
"We are excited about this because it allows us the opportunity to show off what we have built and educate folks on our products and craft beer in general. We are proud of what we do and are excited to be able to offer tours with samples and gives people the opportunity to actually visit their local brewery," the statement said. The company wrote that the law takes effect Nov. 1.
Promoting Creativity. Ad agency Littlefield has promoted Cullen Koger to associate creative director.
The group has worked for a diverse client group on a wide range of projects, including billboards for the Hard Rock Casino, fundraising campaign videos for the Tulsa Area United Way and an informational campaign explaining Tulsa's expanded curbside recycling service.
Koger previously held the title of senior writer and will continue as a wordsmith, but now he will take on an expanded leadership role in developing projects to best communicate brands creatively.
"Cullen has been part of our team for over four years now, and we're excited to see him step into this leadership-oriented position in the creative department," Mike Rocco, Littlefield's vice president and creative director, said in a statement.
Share this article: