Endangered Buildings & Places

Downtown Tulsa

Since the 1960s, Downtown Tulsa’s buildings have been disappearing as surface parking lots have mushroomed. Recently, Tulsans have been saying that enough is enough: downtown Tulsa had the dubious distinction of back-to-back designation as one of Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Places in 2005 and 2006. The loss of historic urban fabric is striking.

Boston Avenue in 1978Boston Avenue in 2005
Boston Avenue as seen in 1978 (left) and 2005 (right).

Without the buildings, there can be no loft conversion projects or upstart small businesses. In recent years, Tulsa has experienced adaptive reuse success stories as buildings in the heart of our community are brought back to life or converted to new uses. However, careful monitoring and community education is more important than ever if we are to take to full advantage of the economic opportunities our historic buildings offer, and improve the vitality of Downtown Tulsa.

“I do not know of a single sustained success story in downtown revitalization… where historic preservation was not a key component of the effort.”
Donovan Rypkema
The Economics of Historic Preservation

Philtower decorative roof tileCains’s BallroomMcNellie’s
Decorative roof tile of the Philtower Building, upper 7 floors converted to loft apartments in 2005 (left); Cain’s Ballroom, live music venue restored in 2004 (middle); McNellie’s Public House, adaptive reuse of circa 1910 warehouse (right).

In 2009, the TPC commissioned the Downtown Tulsa Intensive-Level Historic Resources Survey as the basis of renewed preservation planning and policy efforts. Since then, multiple downtown historic districts have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, with more district listings in process. Numerous successful projects — the Mayo Hotel, the Mayo 420 Lofts, and the Atlas Life Courtyard by Marriot, to name a few — have taken advantage of the Certified Rehabilitation Tax Credit program for historic buildings. More Tax Credit projects are already underway.