Rehabilitation Tax Credits at Work in Oklahoma

As of July 1, 2016, 1,298 Oklahoma buildings, structures, sites, districts, and objects are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. With the financial incentives of the federal and state rehabilitation tax credits programs, dozens of these buildings have been returned to productive uses across the state. Certified rehabilitations are found in small cities like Anadarko and Pawhuska, as well as the urban centers of Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The certified historic structures include small drug stores on Main Streets, landmark hotels, mid-century modern buildings, and churches. Some of the projects returned long-vacant buildings to their original use, while others adapted them for something new. Regardless of their location, size, or use, these projects contribute to the economic and social vitality of each community.

The financial benefits are documented in two studies. First, Preservation Oklahoma, Inc. and its partners retained the Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University, to prepare the 2009 study, Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation. Then, in May 2016, the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture announced the release of a study by Place Economics with a focus on the Oklahoma state credits. Below are examples of the rehabilitation projects that the tax incentives encourage.


DeVaughn Drug
Built in 1904, the DeVaughn Drug is located at 103 West Broadway in Anadarko, and it functioned as a pharmacy for over a hundred years. O. E. Stevenson moved his pharmacy business into the building in 1904. The DeVaughn family acquired the business in 1959, changed its name from Rexall to DeVaughn’s Drug Store, and operated their pharmacy at this location through 2005. Then, Dr. Kathleen Lacey, a licensed psychologist, purchased the building in 2009 and began its rehabilitation. Completed in 2011, the certified rehabilitation project included repair of the building’s exterior walls, windows, storefront, and extensive interior work. The historic building, a contributing resource to the National Register-listed Anadarko Downtown Historic District, was adapted to house a number of mental health and social services programs serving a multi-county area and the several tribal governments located in the region.


Rawlins Furniture Company Building
The historic facade of the Rawlins Furniture Building had been obscured through time and was identified as a noncontributing resource in the National Register nomination for the Downtown Ardmore Historic District. The building sat vacant until the Romo Family decided to move their Mexican restaurant from across Main Street into the old furniture building. The Romo Company, with design services from Corner Greer & Associates, Inc., completed an extensive rehabilitation of the building, and its grand two-story high interior volume was adapted for the new use. Casa Romo is now a favorite place for diners in Ardmore, and the building is now classified as a contributing resource to the historic district.


Union National Bank Building (Arvest Bank)
Arvest Bank and Ambler Architects accomplished the $1.5 million certified rehabilitation of the historic Union National Bank Building. In 1976 vertical tinted ribbon windows and aggregate panels were installed covering the entire 1924 red brick building. After experiencing water and air infiltration, the owner, Arvest Bank, knew that the 1976 modifications had to be addressed. After the owner removed enough of the modern materials to demonstrate that the original building still retained its overall historic character, the SHPO revised the Bartlesville Historic District National Register nomination to include the bank as a contributing resource which made it eligible for the 20 percent federal rehabilitation tax credits.


Firestone Service Station (Bristow Body Shop)
Originally known as the Firestone Service Station, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 for its association with the “Mother Road.” Designed in the Art Deco style, the building was constructed in 1930, just four years after the designation of US Highway 66 to fuel and service the rapidly growing numbers of vehicles crossing the country. When Jack Longacre needed a new location for his body shop, he settled on the old Firestone Station. He applied for and received a matching grant from the National Park Service’s Historic Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and utilized the federal and state rehabilitation tax credits.


Chickasha Hotel
Chickasha Housing Partners Limited Partnership completed the certified rehabilitation of the Chickasha Hotel. The hotel is a contributing resource to the Chickasha Downtown Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The project is the result of a collaboration among the former Chickasha Main Street Office, members of the local banking community, the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, and the SHPO. The Chickasha Hotel was pieced together over the decades from a series of adjoining hotels, and today it serves the senior community as an urban apartment building. The unique exterior stylistic and construction details of each individual hotel and their interior common areas were preserved, and the utilities were upgraded.


Clay Hall
Cohen-Esrey Communities, LLC, transformed Enid’s Clay Hall, a long-shuttered women’s dormitory at former Phillips University, into thirty units of affordable senior housing. Built in phases between 1946 and 1959, it contained 200 dorm rooms and shared bathrooms. There was a large reception room on the first floor and smaller common spaces on the upper floors. During the thirty years it sat vacant, a leaking roof and pipes deteriorated surfaces, leaving heavy mold infestation. But, with careful planning, masonry and terracotta were repaired; wood windows were restored and protected with exterior storms. Small dorm rooms were combined to create functional living units, retaining many historic closets and doors and most wood trim. The apartments have high ceilings that drop only at kitchens and bathrooms to conceal mechanical equipment.


Manhattan Building
Forty-two critically needed housing units recently became available in downtown Muskogee as a result of the Phoenix Manhattan Building’s rehabilitation that qualified for federal and state rehabilitation tax credits. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the 45,000 square foot building is eight stories tall and, when constructed in 1911 for the Phoenix Clothing Company, was one of the state of Oklahoma’s first skyscrapers. The building benefited from both the design influence of Chicago architect Louis Sullivan and from use of state-of-the-art technology, a reinforced concrete building frame. The building also served as home to Manhattan Construction Company, one of its builders and one of the largest privately-held construction companies in the world today. The Garrison Companies, with Sikes Abernathie Architects, have demonstrated how historic buildings can be adapted for new uses and meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Surety Building
Muskogee Housing Partners, LP, and Sikes Abernathie Architects completed the certified rehabilitation of the Surety Building in Muskogee. Originally designed and used for offices, this 1910, eight-story building has new life as thirty-seven units and 48-thousand square feet of affordable housing for seniors. The building is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the $2.5 million project demonstrates the importance of the federal and state tax credits in community revitalization efforts across Oklahoma.


Logan Apartments
The Logan Apartments at 720 West Boyd Street, Norman, are located near The University of Oklahoma. Erected in 1929 by local businessman David Logan, and designed by Thomas Lester Sorey to serve students and faculty, the building represents a change in the patterns of community development and growth in the surrounding Chautauqua neighborhood as the university campus expanded. Though the building was abandoned in the 1990s and left to deteriorate, a new owner and architect looked beyond the ill-conceived modifications and the dilapidation to bring the building back to life. Brent Swift Design Build, with the services of Butzer Gardner Architects, completed a certified rehabilitation of the building.

Oklahoma City

Calvary Baptist Church
Calvary Baptist Church is located at 300 North Walnut in Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce. The church is significant to the city’s African American community and was prominent in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It served as headquarters for “protests” that led to the desegregation of local businesses and hosted guest pastor Martin Luther King Jr. The church is listed in the National Register and the City of Oklahoma City designated it a local landmark. The Dan Davis Law Firm acquired the historic church, and with the services of MODA Architecture, Preservation and Design Studio, and Titus Construction completed its rehabilitation. Adapted for law offices, project work included restoration of historic features and spaces, re-creation of a historic neon sign, and rehabilitation of the sanctuary, now available for community events. The certified rehabilitation rejuvenated a true downtown Oklahoma City landmark and an important piece of Oklahoma history.

Citizens Bank Tower (The Classen)
Gardner Tanenbaum Group and BDR Architects were responsible for the certified rehabilitation of the Citizens Bank Tower. Located immediately south of the Gold Dome at NW 23rd and Classen, the building is Mid-Century Modern at its best in Oklahoma City. The building stands apart from all other tall, post-war era buildings in the community. It remains a distinct reminder of the end of the period of custom-built, architecturally distinctive construction in speculative building in the city. At the same time, its unique geometry and construction method pay homage to Frank Lloyd Wright and his Price Tower. The original office use was seamlessly converted to luxury mid-rise residences on floors above ground level. Sixty-six units share the interior space which totals over 140,000 square feet.

Marion Hotel
The 1904 Marion Hotel is situated at the north edge of downtown Oklahoma City within the Automobile Alley Historic District. By 2010 the hotel had been vacant and deteriorating for decades. The exterior brick walls were separating at the corners, and the roof was failing. Despite these conditions, the SHPO often received inquiries from prospective developers searching for a way to reuse the building. But, it was Midtown Renaissance that ultimately had the vision and the commitment to the Marion's rehabilitation. With the consulting services of David L. Kraszewski Architect, and Preservation and Design Studio, Midtown Renaissance completed a five-year, certified rehabilitation of the hotel, adapting it for apartments.

Skirvin Hilton Hotel
On Monday, February 26, 2007, Oklahoma City celebrated the opening of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel, and it was very clear how important the landmark building is to the community and its public officials. The historic Skirvin Hotel sat vacant for almost twenty years while one development scheme after another was proposed. Demolition was even suggested, and the hotel was included on Preservation Oklahoma’s first Most Endangered Places list. Then the City of Oklahoma City stepped up, purchased the National Register-listed hotel, and conducted a competitive selection process to choose a developer. The Skirvin Partners, led by John Weeman, was selected. Under the management of Marcus Hotels and Resorts, the Skirvin is once again the heart of the city’s downtown. The $55 million project was the largest certified rehabilitation for federal and state tax credits completed in Oklahoma to that date.


Pawhuska Drug Store
The Pawhuska Downtown Historic District was listed in the National Register in 1986, and the 1912 Pawhuska Drug Store was identified as a contributing resource to the district. For a time, the building housed an OTASCO store, and then it sat vacant. In 2013 Bruce and Kekar Properties purchased the building and adapted it for a branch office of Ameriprise Financial Services. Bruce met once with SHPO staff to learn about the rehabilitation standards and the preservation tax incentives program. He was careful to protect the character-defining features that reflected more than a century of local history, and the National Park Service certified the project in 2015.


Wells Building
Built in 1917, the five-story building now commonly known as the Wells Building stands adjacent to the Creek County Court House and is the largest building in downtown Sapulpa. Through time, changes to the building occurred, including the 1960s addition of a metal screen that completely obscured the historic facade. When the Sapulpa Downtown Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, the Wells Building was identified as a noncontributing resource due to this alteration. A few years later, Sapulpa Main Street recognized the potential of this underutilized property and Partnered with Metro Plains Development to qualify the project for HOME funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. As the rehabilitation tax credits were important to the financial feasibility of the project, it was necessary to complete a certified rehabilitation. Sikes Abernathie Architects designed the rehabilitation work, and the major challenge they faced was the careful removal of the metal facade screen to confirm that the building could be reclassified as a contributing resource to the district. Today, the Wells Building is a vibrant part of downtown Sapulpa with retail space on the first floor and four floors of affordable rate housing for seniors, as well as a landmark for travelers on Historic Route 66 which passes through Sapulpa’s commercial district.


Aldridge Hotel
ERC Development Group and The Hill Firm carried out the certified rehabilitation of Shawnee’s Aldridge Hotel. This project was the developer and the architect’s inaugural experience completing a certified rehabilitation project under the federal and state preservation tax incentives program, and the result is exemplary. The design and construction team demonstrated sincere interest and dedication to retaining the historic character and authenticity of the primary public spaces of the hotel, while also providing attractive and comfortable living spaces for residents. The Aldridge Hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and there was concern that the long-vacant building might be demolished. However, the tax credits helped ensure a new, productive use for the local landmark.


Mayo Building
The ten-story Mayo Building served as the home of the prominent Mayo family’s businesses and many other tenants over the years. But, as tastes changed and Urban Renewal rolled through downtown Tulsa, the Mayo Building began to look tired and old compared to its shiny new neighbors. By 1994 the building had closed. Then, fourteen years later, Wiggin Properties, with design services from Kinslow, Keith, & Todd, Inc., began a two-year certified rehabilitation of the National Register-listed building. The new YMCA and the Mayo 420 Lofts, which now occupy the building, are vibrant additions to downtown Tulsa and demonstrate the economic impacts of the federal and state rehabilitation tax credits.

Mayo Hotel
The Snyder Family and Phillips Slaughter Rose Architects completed the certified rehabilitation of Tulsa’s Mayo Hotel. No one would argue that it is a Tulsa landmark. Designed by George Winkler, the Mayo was built in 1925 and welcomed a multitude of celebrity guests and was Tulsa’s place to go for special events. Sadly, the Mayo Hotel became a symbol of downtown Tulsa’s decline when it closed in 1980 for repairs and then remained vacant for almost thirty years. The building was once included on Preservation Oklahoma, Inc’s Most Endangered Places list and preservationists in Tulsa and across the state feared the worst. But, on December 3, 2009, the Mayo officially reopened to an enthusiastic crowd of dignitaries and other special guests in a scene reminiscent of the time when it was new.