Sooner Know-How Revives Small Towns in U.S

By Nichols, Max | THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 14, 2001 | Go to article overview

Sooner Know-How Revives Small Towns in U.S


Nichols, Max, THE JOURNAL RECORD


For two years, Ronald Frantz Jr. chaired the historic preservation program at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

In Savannah with Charleston, S.C., nearby, he was teaching his specialty as a preservation architect in the very heart of tremendously successful efforts to preserve America's historical properties. So what did he use for examples?

"I showed the students slides of what had been accomplished in Creek County, Washita County, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Automobile Alley in Oklahoma City," said Frantz. "They were amazed."

Now, Frantz, who helped cities and towns all over Oklahoma reclaim their past as the architect for the Oklahoma Main Street Program from 1986-97, now helps communities in all parts of the country. He and his wife Mary are back in Oklahoma City and operating The Frantz Alliance as a consulting firm for cities and towns trying to face the future by rediscovering their past.

He has led workshops and seminars and other presentations in 17 states over the years from Wisconsin to Texas and from Washington, D.C., to Wyoming and Oregon. He also chairs the governing board of the Automobile Alley Urban Main Street program in Oklahoma City.

Frantz will join Donovan Rypkema, a nationally known preservation economics expert from Washington, D.C., in presenting the two major addresses to Oklahoma's 13th annual Statewide Preservation Conference Thursday-Saturday in Enid. He will address the question of "Historic Preservation: Whose Job Is It." Rypkema will explain how preserving historical properties can be economically successful.

This is not the first time Frantz has joined Rypkema in major preservation conferences and meetings. They run across each other more and more often, with Frantz advising people on how to revive the historic design of downtown buildings and how to develop nonprofit organizations to raise funds. He also helps them make commitments to new development, and he speaks at conferences, workshops and seminars.

In the process, Frantz is showing people all over the country what we have accomplished in more than 40 Oklahoma cities and towns through the Main Street program, which encourages communities to help themselves by preserving their past. It is led by the National Main Street Center of the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation.

It may surprise people who think Oklahoma leads the nation only in football, but the Oklahoma Main Street program is one of the most successful in the nation. Downtown districts all over Oklahoma have been revived by combined efforts to restore the original appearance and dignity of historic buildings and to develop new uses for them.

"Five communities are selected each year as outstanding Main Street examples," he said. "One from Oklahoma has been selected each of the last three years, including Cordell, Newkirk and Enid. As a result, their leaders are being asked to speak in other states. Les Hall, director of the Oklahoma Main Street program, also is in demand."

Frantz, a graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans, joined the Oklahoma Main Street program in 1986, when the oil and real estate slumps had devastated our state economy. Downtown buildings were boarded up all over the state, and you could see through empty office buildings. …

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