The rekindled beacon atop the First National Center may be the
most visible sign of the new life breathed into the historic
property by its new owners, but a proposal for its most stunning
asset could outshine that light.
Finding sources for about $8 million in public and private
funds could turn the landmark building's "Great Banking Room" on
the second floor into the Oklahoma City Art Museum's new home.
John Kennedy, who along with Mike Samis purchased the building
in July, said turning the marbled lobby into a museum would
provide great benefits for the city as well as the Oklahoma City
Art Museum and the building.
"If they can put in $7 million into what is already a $20
million facility, Oklahoma City would be the beneficiary of a $27
million museum. And the museum would still save a lot from what
He referred to a $20 million museum construction plan which
was part of the original Metropolitan Area Projects package but
that got bumped into a second stage to be funded by money left
over from first-phase projects.
"It's a matter of money _ not between us and them but of them
obtaining outside capital from public and private sources,"
Kennedy told the Tuesday meeting of the civic group Downtown
"We will do everything we can to make it happen for them. We
think it's such a perfect match. They are very committed and have
worked very hard to make it happen, but pulling resources
together always takes time."
The center has offered the art museum about 71,000 square feet
of space on a 50-year lease, which Kennedy said gives the museum
the "essence of ownership."
Finding a public use for the landmark lobby is a high priority
of new the owners, and having the art museum in its key space
would accomplish that goal.
Kennedy said he wants to preserve the beauty and history of
the building in such a way that "30 years from now people will
say, `I can't believe this was ever a bank building.' "
Kennedy and Samis, boyhood friends who have been partners for
years, bought the 1-million-square-foot, 33-story complex from
First Oklahoma Corp. and the 30 financial institutions that held
interests in it.
Kennedy said the number and interests of investors made the
sale the "strangest" he and Samis have encountered in their 17
years of partnership.
He noted that purchasing the Baptist Children's Home, and
dealing with 50 board members from across the state, was much
more simple because those members had a unified purpose.
"This group of 30 financial institutions was a very disparate
group. They had different interests, leaders, boards and ideas
about what to do with this asset none of them wanted to own."
Kennedy said the purchase of the building required more than
20 contract drafts.
"It was a process of consensus building among the owners."
The building became the primary asset of First Oklahoma after
the failure of the First National Bank and Trust Co. …