Firm helps potential developers reimagine downtown building.
Brian Freese, part-owner of the former Abundant Life building, says he hopes a developer might save the structure’s steel frame, which is in good condition.
The Abundant Life Building at 1720 S. Boulder Ave. is among Tulsa’s most unusual buildings for one simple reason:
The seven-story structure has no windows.
Designed by Cecil Stanfield and built in 1957 to house the world headquarters for Oral Roberts Ministries, it contained a TV sound stage, offices and even a sanctuary on the top two floors. After Oral Roberts University opened on South Lewis Avenue in 1965, the building’s functions were transferred to the campus.
Southwestern Bell briefly officed there in the late 1970s, but since then the building has remained virtually empty. The building has changed hands several times; the current owner is Boulder Green LLC.
Several concepts for future use of the building have been discussed.
This is according to Brian Freese, a Boulder Green partner and principal of Freese Architecture of Tulsa. In fact, the firm recently posted a sign in front of the building with a rendering of The Riverview, a hypothetical mixed-use concept with upscale condominiums or apartments, ground-level retail and a restaurant, and a rooftop restaurant/bar or community space. Freese says the rendering’s purpose is to illustrate one viable solution for the building, which is to remove, and possibly reuse, the exterior marble.
“It’s a great location with major advantages: being close to A Gathering Place, the gateway to downtown, Maple Ridge and Utica Square, adjacent to the river, with easy access to freeways,” Freese says.
A building that has been empty for three decades presents challenges, however.
Asbestos remediation is a major investment, along with damage resulting from exposure to the elements and the passage of time.
But why a windowless building?
“Oral Roberts always wanted his buildings to look the most futuristic with the newest technology available,” Freese says. “The mid-1950s brought wider use of air-conditioning and fluorescent lighting. This building was Roberts’ first opportunity to incorporate those elements. With the ventilation system and superior lighting, there was simply no need to have windows for cooling or to provide light.”