An OKC landmark returns to life
It was a normal workday for folks at Oklahoma City’s Journal Record building. The bustle of downtown was well underway, and the sun was exceptionally bright on that April morning. But a few minutes past 9 a.m., everything went dark.
Volumes have been written about the Oklahoma City bombing, and the lives that were lost and those that were forever changed. The city itself underwent a metamorphosis, and today, large sections of it bear little resemblance to the way things were in 1995.
Here in 2018, one of the last remnants of the bombing has finally come back to life. The Journal Record building, vacant since the bombing, has emerged from the ashes as the newly renamed Heritage Building.
“We are thrilled to have Heritage Trust and other neighbors in the east portion of the building,” says Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. “When we built and opened the Memorial on April 19, 2000, and then the Museum in 2001, we knew [that] even if we built the most beautiful memorial and powerful museum experience, we also had to help bring people back to this area of downtown Oklahoma City. Today, this sacred site connects the downtown business district to the redeveloped Midtown. The Memorial and Museum and the Heritage play a critical role in keeping this section of downtown vibrant and alive.”
The Heritage Building was built in 1923 and designed by architect Solomon Layton, who also designed the Oklahoma State Capitol. It is the largest non-governmental building in the neoclassical architectural style in downtown Oklahoma City, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Its proximity to the Murrah Building, and to the massive explosion, caused significant structural damage. After the bombing, the city of Oklahoma City took ownership of the site and made the necessary repairs to ensure it was structurally sound. Still, the building remained vacant for more than 20 years until Bond Payne and a group of investors brought it back.
“Their team has done a first-class job of redeveloping the east section,” Watkins says. “Much credit goes to the city of Oklahoma City, who helped us save the building after the bombing and were patient and helped us find just the right neighbors. The Heritage and their tenants appear to be just the right fit and complement what we have done – and added even more beauty to this site.”
A sixth floor was added to the original structure; today it is the new home of Saxum Strategic Communications.
“Saxum occupies the fifth and sixth floor penthouse overlooking the Oklahoma City National Memorial,” says C. Renzi Stone, Saxum chairman and CEO. “Once a rooftop, the newly added penthouse serves as the main entrance, with expansive 360-degree views. Prior to the renovation, the fifth floor was a dark, non-tenant space housing the building’s mechanical units and plumbing lines. It now encompasses open offices, phone rooms, multiple types of collaborative spaces and the family room.”
Besides the emotional challenge of filling the space, Stone says the other big issue was parking. In 2012, Bond Payne began negotiations with the city of Oklahoma City to purchase and redevelop the space, while also adding a much-needed parking deck. Following a $31 million renovation, the Heritage now has 100,000 square feet of Class A office space for lease, and is 60-percent full.
“This building represents the past and how much Oklahoma City has changed over many decades,” Stone adds. “The new Saxum space that overlooks the Memorial and downtown represents what’s possible when smart, creative people come together to serve others.”