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Revisiting the "lost city"

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A couple of years ago The Oklahoman switched from Word Press to an internal blogging platform to improve functions in the world of NewsOK. As a result we have a much better blogging module, but the downside was it killed the great conversations by switching to Facebook comments (which ended up being ongoing commentary from a retired 1980s-era KTOK show host). And we also lost some archived blog posts.

Usually those old posts are gone for good. But in a twist, while trying to answer questions from reader Kevin Motto, I recovered the contents of one post that I'm able to repost today. And then I found a part two still available online, which can see here.

The reason for this conversation is confusion that may arise over my story from Friday about the clearance of an old neighborhood once known as Orndale. The area is being bought up and cleared by Strawberry Fields LLC. Read more here.

On Twitter, Motto asked if the buildings in the area I've referred to in the past are doomed and in the Strawberry Fields area. My answer is "no." But, with a caveat: to this day I have seen no interest by the city in saving what I call the "lost city" (I stand by my 2012 remarks that any use of the phrase "Core to Shore" seems to automatically translate into certain destruction for buildings in such area). These buildings have character, are mostly one- and two-story structures, and the area has enough original urban fabric to become something great - if they are not done in by owners' and brokers' greed, elimination of state historic tax credits or negligence by City Hall.

But why is this area worth saving? Let's revisit the 2012 tour I took with frequent OKC Central contributor and friend Will Hider:

"Lost City," February 27, 2012:

I realize that the area between the old alignment of Interstate 40 and the new highway has been dubbed “Core to Shore” by Mayor Mick Cornett.  And I’ve accepted that branding effort, using it as has every other reporter in town. But I think I’m going to stop playing that game now. Because this branding, for so long, has had the subtle implication that every building in this area is not worth saving – that the area should be clear cut.

And as those of us who have followed history so well know, that very same mentality was what drove implementation of the I.M. Pei Plan so long ago, causing the needless destruction of landmark buildings like the Criterion Theater and the Bauum Building. On this blog at least, Core to Shore is BANNED from further use when it comes to an area I hope can survive and be restored. I’m going with a different name – “the lost city” – in hopes that maybe, just maybe, we can learn from our past and take a fresh look at the area that is presumed to be not worth saving.

This post is dedicated to Mary Jo Nelson, whose early writings on city history, architecture and preservation kept me reading The Oklahoman everyday when I was still a kid.

Let’s start with a tour of a portion of the lost city that even

caught me by surprise. I toured the area between Classen Boulevard, Walker Avenue, the old I-40 (now closed) and the new highway over the weekend with frequent OKC Central contributor (and friend) Will Hider.  What we discovered left me shocked and amazed – we found stunning buildings I never knew existed. It’s truly a lost city, waiting to be rediscovered (and hopefully not exploited and left to rot by delusional, greedy real estate brokers and owners).

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›

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