Friday, November 6, 2009

Site has moved

This is the old, archived version of our site, but it still might be reachable through old links or web searches. A lot has happened since 2007! Please go directly to for the latest.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Forum and Panel Discussion October 16

Preserve Midtown, in association with the Coalition of Historic Neighborhoods of Tulsa, is pleased to announce our first forum and panel discussion, "Taming the Teardown: A Moratorium to Save our Heritage". The forum will be Tuesday, October 16 at 7:00 pm, at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 S. Peoria in Tulsa. Guest presenters Amanda De Cort, Guy De Verges and Steve Novick will speak on the economics of teardowns, environmental consequences, and conservation districting. Stephanie De Verges, MPA will moderate. Additional panelists and guests will include Michelle Cantrell of TMAPC, District 9 City Councilor Cason Carter and District 4 City Councilor Maria Barnes. Please join us, listen, learn, express your views. And if you haven't yet, please sign our petition!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lessons I Have Learned in Infill Building

By Phil Marshall, Longtime Tulsa Builder and Current TMAPC Board Member 1. The number one challenge is "Getting Along With The Neighbors." Ask your workers to: * Be courteous to the neighbors of your project. * Bring all problems to you. * Keep on-site music low. * Park trucks and cars on one side of the street. * Keep work site reasonably quiet. * Keep the building site clean and pick up trash. * Ask to enter a neighbor's yard when necessary to do so. * Be mindful that we are interrupting the neighbors "Quality of Life." 2. Communication with your neighbors is especially important in the building industry. * Introduce yourself to the neighbors and give them your business card. * Let them know you want to know about any problems and will try to solve them. * Discuss the demolition process with them. * Discuss the new house plans including square footage, style, scale, height, setbacks and number of stories. * Share your understanding of the inconveniences they will endure. * You are required to have a port-a-john on-site and know it is unsightly. * A good attitude will go a long way in keeping a good relationship with the neighborhood. 3. Other challenges that are unique to Infill building: * With smaller lots available, it takes longer to build an infill house. * Walk the site and confirm if additional site work needs to be done. * Check the Floodplain Map Atlas for this property. If this property is in a floodplain, the City will have rules to be followed. * Existing overhead electric lines may be a problem. * Locate water and sewer connections. * It is very important to consider drainage. You must not discharge more water onto the neighbors yard than was previously discharged. * Research the property carefully for existing recorded and unrecorded easements, restrictive covenants and zoning. Midtown Infill building used to be a niche market, but not anymore. There were 4-5 builders not too long ago. Now there are 25! Infill building is very satisfying when you build a house from the ground up and customers cannot tell whether it is new or been there for 50 years. That is when you did your job by fitting the house into the neighborhood. This article was adapted from a presentation Phil Marshall gave at a Builder's Conference in Spring, 2007 at OSU/Tulsa campus. This is an important example of how neighborhoods and builders can work together.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Channel 8 reports on spreading campaign

NewsChannel 8 reporter Jerry Giordano interviewed Preserve Midtown founder Barbara VanHanken on the campaign, which is growing in momentum. Over 200 people have so far signed the petition. Click to play.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tulsa World takes notice

Preserve Midtown founders Patty Southmayd, Barbara VanHanken and Melissa Waller discussed the campaign with the Tulsa World today. Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Warning Signs of a Neighborhood At Risk

Don't get caught by surprise. Some things to look out for: 1. A home is put up for sale. 2. A builder buys the home. 3. A home is needing some maintenance or looks unkept. 4. There is an empty lot. 5. After a builder buys a home, he puts it up for rent. All of these events can lead to teardowns and inappropriate infill. Sometimes, it will include a lot split: two homes are built where one once stood. Join your neighborhood association, draft a covenant with your neighbors and keep vigilant!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lively discussion about at TulsaNow's website

TulsaNow's website is hosting a robust discussion about the Preserve Midtown campaign. We encourage you to join the debate and comment on our efforts here.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Channel 6 covers clash on 38th St

The News on 6 at 9 on CW 12/19's anchor Jennifer Loren reported on the controversy in the Peaceful Terwilleger Acres neighborhood.

Friday, June 22, 2007

National Trust to hold 2008 conference in Tulsa

Tulsa will be the site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual conference, October 21-25, 2008. Tulsa realtor Martin L. J. Newman has served on the National Trust's Board of Advisors for the last nine years, and he will be Co-chair of the 2008 conference. To get a sense of what to expect in 2008, you can visit the website for the 2007 conference in Minneapolis at

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lortondale, a Mid-century Modern neighborhood

Lortondale neighbors are working to get their neighborhood of midcentury modern homes placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The futurist homes were created in the 1950s by Tulsa architect Donald Honn and builder Howard Grubb. The neighborhood is between Yale and Hudson avenues and 26th Street to 27th Place. The neighborhood was the first in the nation where every home featured central air and heat. It was also the first in Tulsa with a neighborhood pool. Homes feature large expanses of glass, open-space planning, and flagstone. Preservation-minded residents and new home buyers have been restoring the houses and seeing their property values rise faster than the Tulsa average. For more information, you can visit their website at

Friday, June 15, 2007

Conservation Districting can help Tulsa neighborhoods

Until recently, Historic Preservation zoning was the only way to preserve a neighborhood's buildings and character. It comes with big responsibilities, and is rarely appropriate. But there are other ways to maintain a neighborhood's buildings and character. In Conservation Districts, mass and scale (not architectural style) is at issue, and guidelines are created by the neighborhood itself, instead of a city committee. In other cities, factors for conservation might include:
  • Mass and Scale--The traditional mass and scale of the area shall be maintained
  • Building Form--A building shall have basic roof and building forms that are similar to those seen traditional in the neighborhood
  • Construction Materials--Building materials shall contribute to the visual continuity of the neighborhood.
  • Building Orientation--The traditional patterns of building orientation shall be maintained.
  • Building Alignment--The distance from the street or property line to the front of the building shall be similar to that seen traditionally in the neighborhood.
  • Project Context--The project shall be compatible with those neighborhood characteristics that result from common ways of building. This sense of setting shall be preserved.
  • Character-Defining Features--Major character-defining features of the property under review shall not be destroyed."

Conservation districting "offers residents a useful tool to protect older, established neighborhoods that have a distinctive or cohesive character, have some historic resources within its boundaries, lack sufficient support for designation as historic district, but desire protection from teardowns, incompatible development, or commercial encroachment." Instead of a city committee of historians and architects, a conservation district "enables residents to take an active role in identifying their concerns and determining what level or type of protection they want for their neighborhood (and) to protect existing neighborhood commercial centers or encourage new investment when desired...through the adoption of both development and design-related controls." — Miller, Julia. Protecting Older Neighborhoods Through Conservation District Programs. National Trust for Historic Preservation (2004) UPDATE: Bad infill is not unique to Tulsa. The photograph above is from the National Trust of Historic Preservation, and it is of a house in Dallas.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Is Historic Preservation a burden?

The most restrictive protection that the City can grant a neighborhood is a Historic Preservation overlay. For the vast majority of Midtown, this is overkill. But what does it actually involve? Are residents required to paint their houses an approved color, get permission for remodeling, or keep satellite dishes off their roofs? No. An HP overlay codifies a list of common-sense guidelines tailored to protect the architectural distinctiveness of a notable neighborhood. Tulsa's first HP overlay was the Brady Heights district of 1904-1930 homes. Among other regulations, residents are strongly discouraged from installing vinyl siding, enclosing their front porches to make new rooms, and installing replacement windows with bare aluminum framing. Maintenance costs are higher, but the growth of property values outpaces similar unprotected neighborhoods.
Photo courtesy Tulsa Preservation Commission

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

High-quality curb numbering available with donation

Instead of settling for a hit-or-miss stencil job every other year, show your support with a curb number that will last decades. For residents who donate $25 $125 or more to Preserve Midtown, Tulsa contractor Prime Painting will professionally apply Clearview style numbers, in retroreflective 3M road paint, as pictured, with sharp edges and no stencil lines. The special paint, designed to shine brightly and withstand the extremes of highway traffic, will look good for years. Curb numbering isn't just a cosmetic issue, it's a safety concern; every second counts when an emergency vehicle is looking for your house.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Donations are needed is an effort to encourage appropriate infill in Tulsa. Donations are needed for website maintenance, printing yard signs, bumper stickers, and more. To donate, please make check to: Preserve Midtown 1611 S Utica Ave PMB 274 Tulsa, OK 74104-4909 Or, you can donate with your credit card:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Developer, neighbors clash at 38th and Lewis

This quiet street, basically a long cul-de-sac, is populated with houses that have 50-foot setbacks, wide front yards, and distinctive homes that merit historic preservation or conservation. Fifty years ago, in response to a lot split, area neighbors joined in a covenant agreement to preserve the neighborhood's character by providing that only single family homes would be permitted on the then-existing lots. Unfortunately, the neighborhood was inappropriately zoned RS-2 in the 1970's, and this zoning opened the door for lot splits. Last year, a developer bought two houses in the neighborhood, tore them down, and to exploit the zoning mistake, applied for and received a lot split from the INCOG and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC). Neighbors, alarmed at the developments, petitioned INCOG to down-zone the neighborhood to its proper RS-1 density. Under current zoning regulations, however, TMAPC excluded the properties with pending development - turning the neighborhood into a checkerboard of RS-1 and RS-2 zoned lots. The neighborhood plat is now a mockery of urban planning. The neighborhood has united against the development company in the neighborhood’s effort to prevent the lot split and ensure adherence to a 50 foot building line. Part of the neighborhood’s advocacy was to erect signs to call public attention to its plight. The developer, however, has retaliated with two separate lawsuits against the homeowners, drowning the residents in legal costs and seeking to stifle their First Amendment right of free speech. Many are widowed retirees on fixed incomes. This is a worst-case scenario, but one that is typical of current development practices in midtown Tulsa, and we will be watching this one closely.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Ranch Acres an early suburban success

When everything south of 41st Street was still farmland, and Tulsa was growing fast in the post-war baby boom, Ranch Acres was born. Created in 1950 by I.A. “Jake” Jacobson, the innovative developer of Southland and Northland shopping malls, Ranch Acres was one of the first suburban tract developments in the United States. It initially stretched from Harvard to Florence, but by 1958, the development had spread to Delaware. Residents of this neighborhood should be aware of its historical significance, and should know that there are ways to protect its character. Historical preservation may be too extreme for this neighborhood, but certainly some action is in order to restrict the oversized, out-of-place houses that have been built in the last few years.

A Midtown McMansion looms over neighbors

Here, at 3129 E 27th St, a modest 50s/60s ranch-style house was leveled and replaced. The new house dwarfs its neighbors: the roofline is more than twice as high as any of its neighbors. All the landscaping, except one single tree, was sacrificed to make room. Despite their grand appearance, homes like this are typically constructed with surprisingly fragile materials. Masonite siding is commonplace, and when water finds a seam, the material swells and rots rapidly. New homeowners are typically surprised by the maintenance required to keep their houses from deteriorating.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Fine Print

Preserve Midtown is a community based effort to provide information and advocacy for midtown homeowners concerning the issues of infill, teardowns and inappropriate existing zoning. This site contains previously copyrighted material and other intellectual property, the use of which may not have been specifically authorized. We believe the manner in which we use it constitutes a 'fair use' as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Section 107 can be read here. Our use of this material does not imply that it is in the public domain; if you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sign change at City Veterinary Hospital raises concern

The small veterinary clinic at 3550 S Peoria Ave has lost the word 'City' from its sign. Not a big deal by itself, but this is an indication that ownership may have changed hands. If so, we hope the new owners keep it the way it is. It's a Joseph Koberling, Jr. design from 1942, adjacent to a residential neighborhood. There was not a lot of construction during WWII, making the Streamline Moderne style rare in Tulsa. (Another example of this style was the old Red Cross building on Harvard, whose distinctive features were all destroyed in a 1980s renovation.) One of the last intact, it's architecturally significant (and in perfect scale with the residences that surround it). This is one to protect. UPDATE: The building is in safe hands. The 35-year-old sign was simply vandalized, and it is now restored. It took an ironworker several weeks to make a new 'City'; we commend the longtime owners for making the extra effort to get it right.

Midtown treasure: Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Westhope'

At 3704 S Birming- ham Ave, architect Frank Lloyd Wright built his 'Westhope' home for cousin Richard Lloyd Jones in 1929. (Click link for an outside link to its fascinating history.) The house is one of many of Tulsa's Art Deco treasures, but nestled in a residential neighborhood, it is often overlooked. Although the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Tulsa has not given the area any protection beyond a routine RS-1 zoning. The house itself is safe, but we should be wary of encroachment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is a Green Alert?

Low risk of inappropriate development. Zoning properly reflects residential density, and the neighbors have likely joined in a covenant to further protect the neighborhood's character. Historic preservation zoning or conservation districting will also make a neighborhood 'green'. Property values are preserved and will continue to grow as the housing market recognizes that this is a healthy community, with neighbors that respect each other and protect each other's interests.

What is a Blue Alert?

Guarded risk of inappropriate development. Although properly zoned, and lot splits are unlikely, more needs to be done to protect the neighborhood. Original houses may be replaced with oversized, unattractive, or lesser-quality construction. Even when houses are not torn down, budget remodeling jobs can add out-of-character touches like unpainted aluminum window frames and vinyl siding. In some cases, front yards have been replaced with 50-foot-wide driveways.

What is a Yellow Alert?

Elevated risk of inappropriate development. The neighborhood may be zoned inappropriately, allowing developers to split lots in half and build oversized structures over the objections of the community. INCOG and the City Council both have mechanisms to prevent this, but neighbors must be organized, and the best chance to fix the problem is BEFORE a developer moves in.

What is an Orange Alert?

High risk of inappropriate development. In addition to the yellow alert conditions, a house may be up for sale. Often, midtown houses are actively marketed as good candidates to be torn down and re-developed.

What is a Red Alert?

Severe risk of inappropriate development. Usually, a home in the neighborhood has been sold to a teardown artist, a developer, a profiteer, or anyone who intends to exploit the zoning problem, tear the house down, split the lot in half, and build too densely for the neighborhood. Neighbors need to organize, contact INCOG or their city councilor, and consider hiring an attorney in order to preserve their property values. But once the foundation is poured, it may be too late.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What is the teardown trend?

    "The damage caused by teardowns in historic neighborhoods only begins with the demolition of historic houses. What comes next can be even more destructive: the construction of new, oversized structures that disrupt architectural character, diminish livability, and reduce economic and social diversity throughout the neighborhood. "A teardown is the demolition of an existing home structure. This trend is devastating older neighborhoods across the nation. "Evidence of the teardown trend can be found among the older, inner-ring suburbs surrounding Chicago and Boston, in desirable urban neighborhoods in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver, in the "techno-boom" towns around San Francisco and Seattle, in conveniently located commuter suburbs in New Jersey and Maryland and in historic resort towns from Palm Beach to Palm Springs. "It is common to find Teardowns concentrated in areas where the homes are relatively small, typically two or three bedrooms and ranging from 1,000 to 1,800 square feet. Many of the homes were built in the early 20th century, when a growing economy and more accessible lending policies allowed large numbers of city-dwellers to buy private homes for the first time. Lot sizes vary from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet with the house covering only 20 % of the lot. Here is how the teardown practice typically works:
    1. Developers look for properties in established neighborhoods where there is a potential to build far more square footage than is contained in the existing home.
    2. The existing house is purchased and bulldozed.
    3. The lot is scraped clean.
    4. A much larger house is erected and the completed project offered for sale.
    "Today's teardown trend is another example of how we sometimes carelessly throw away our valuable heritage in the name of progress and change. Dozens of economic studies have shown that property values in historic districts consistently increase — and moreover, they rise at a faster rate than properties in similar, but unprotected, neighborhoods nearby."
— Protecting America's Historic Neighborhoods: Taming the Teardown Trend, National Trust for Historic Preservation

What is INCOG?

INCOG describes itself as "a voluntary association of local governments serving Creek, Osage, Tulsa, Rogers, and Wagoner counties." Why is it needed? "Today’s communities face problems whose solutions often exceed the reach of a single local government." So, to fill the gap between our City Councilors' stubby limbs in City Hall and the neighborhood plats across the plaza, INCOG "provides local and regional planning, information, coordination, communications, implementation and management services...The council of governments is not a unit of government, but a voluntary association that comes together to build consensus in solutions to regional problems." So, "requests for zoning and land division changes for Tulsa and unincorporated areas of Tulsa County are handled by the Land Development Services Division...The staff makes recommendations to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, an advisory board to the Tulsa City Council and Tulsa County Commission. After proper zoning is acquired, Land Development Services staff processes the platting of the tract, if necessary. "These two services help ensure that the area develops according to approved guidelines. The staff also processes requests for zoning variances and special exceptions for the Tulsa City and County Boards of Adjustment." Makes sense. In theory, INCOG would be better insulated from special interest group pressure. Lest we think they are too removed, too undemocratic, unaccountable: "Citizens have a voice in the planning process through the Public Participation Program. For example, neighborhood associations are notified of rezoning and board of adjustment issues in their areas. Planning teams composed of members of neighborhood associations provide advice to the TMAPC on the Comprehensive Plan, zoning applications related to the plan and the capital improvements process." Their agendas are posted on their website here. Members are below; Executive Committee members are marked with an asterisk.
Maria BarnesCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa
Tex BayouthCity ManagerCity of Hominy
Roger BoomerCommissionerCreek County
Ray BowenMayorCity of Bixby
Clarence BrantleyCommissioner Osage County
Robert F. BreuningCitizen Tulsa County Towns
Shayne BuchananMayorCity of Glenpool
Mike BurdgeCity Council MemberCity of Sand Springs
Johnny BurkeCommissionerCreek County
Cason CarterCity Council Member City of Tulsa
Richard Carter, Vice Chair*City Council MemberCity of Broken Arrow
Bill ChristiansenCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa
Jim ClarkCommissionerOsage County
Dan DelozierCommissioner Rogers County
Magan DelozierRogers Co. Plan. Comm.Tulsa County
Stanley GlanzSheriff Tulsa County
Jim HargroveCommissionerWagoner County
Doug HaughtMayorCity of Sapulpa
Jerry HefnerCommissionerWagoner County
Mike HelmCommissionerRogers County
Jack HendersonCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa
Scott Hilton*CommissionerOsage County
Dana HudginsCommissioner Creek County
Richard KeckCitizenWagoner County Towns
Susan KimballCity Council MemberCity of Owasso
Rita LamkinMayorCity of Catoosa
Jon M. McGrathCitizenTulsa County
Randi Miller*CommissionerTulsa County
Robert MortonMayorCity of Coweta
Mike Nunneley*CitizenCreek County Towns
Fred PerryCommissionerTulsa County
John PippinCitizenOsage County Towns
Bud RickettsCity Council MemberTown of Skiatook
Stan SalleeMayorCity of Collinsville
John Selph, Chairman*CitizenTulsa County
Brant ShallenburgerMayorCity of Claremore
Ed SlymanCity Council Member City of Bristow
John SmaligoCommissionerTulsa County
Wes SmithwickCitizenTulsa County
Kathy Taylor*MayorCity of Tulsa
Kirt ThackerCommissionerRogers County
Craig ThurmondVice MayorCity of Broken Arrow
Roscoe TurnerCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa
Tom VincentCommissionerWagoner County
Vic Vreeland, Treasurer*MayorCity of Jenks
Rick WestcottCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa
Phil WoodAuditorCity of Tulsa
Cathy WortenCity Council MemberCity of Pawhuska
Ken Yazel Tulsa County AssessorTulsa County
John EagletonCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa
William MartinsonCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa
Dennis TroyerCity Council MemberCity of Tulsa

What is infill?

Infill is new construction that 'fills in' empty lots in areas that are already established. Good infill should "develop seamlessly within an existing urban fabric, balancing, completing, and/or repairing the surrounding sectors." Key considerations are:
    "Setback is the distance from the front facade of the house to the steet and should be the same distance as other houses on the street. Height should be compatible with the height of buildings surrounding the lot. Mass pertains to the bulk of the house. It should be similar, rather than wider or longer than its neighbors. Scale of the house's height and width should be compatible with the proportions of other homes in the block. Facade, the face of the house, should not appear flat, nor should it be dominated by a garage. Windows and Doors should emphasize the vertical, taller rather than wider. Roofs should have a pitch, or angle of roof, that is similar to others in the neighborhood."
Glossary of Terms (The Lexicon of the New Urbanism: MCDA, Minneapolis, MN)