Councilman says church leaders worked together on agreement that could preserve iconic sanctuary
Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher says leaders of First Christian and Crossings Community churches worked together on a deal that could lead to preservation of First Christian's iconic domed sanctuary.
The Oklahoma City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday in favor of an agreement that amounts to a reprieve from the threat of demolition while Crossings evaluates whether to buy First Christian's property at 3700 N Walker Ave.
Historic preservation advocates and neighborhood residents have rallied to protect First Christian from destruction as its dwindling congregation seeks a buyer.
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Located on 31.8 acres at Interstate 235 and NW 36 Street, First Christian could be a prime candidate for commercial development.
Crossings is considering acquisition of the sanctuary, Jewel Box Theatre and Education Building for a satellite campus near downtown.
Stonecipher, whose high school graduation was in First Christian's sanctuary, said he helped arrange meetings of church leaders to explore whether a sale to Crossings could achieve both churches' objectives.
"I thought it was best to keep lawyers, the real estate agents and the city staff out of the room," Stonecipher said. "We now as a result of people sitting down and talking have a purchase and sale agreement."
He said the agreement was "something everyone can live with, that will work well for everyone."
"When you come up with a compromise," Stonecipher said, "sometimes you meet in the middle. Everybody worked hard here."
Under the agreement, the Historic Preservation Commission's decision to review First Christian's property for designation as a historic landmark overlay district, a restrictive zoning classification, will be withdrawn.
That step was required by Crossings as a condition of closing a sale, should a deal be worked out, Stonecipher said.
Crossings is moving ahead with its due diligence, he said.
The churches agreed First Christian’s sanctuary, Jewel Box Theatre and Education Center will not be demolished as long as First Christian and Crossings are in negotiations.
If a sale goes through, the buildings are protected from demolition as long as Crossings owns the property.
The agreement applies to about 12 acres of the First Christian tract, which was once part of a golf course.
Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell said he opposed the agreement, and voted against it.
"The best thing we can do is to stay completely out of this process, let one church sell its facility to another church," Greenwell said.