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12-31-2004, 12:41 PM
Owner of historic Golden Dome set to lease

By Bryan Dean
The Oklahoman

The rattle and ruckus of construction is joyful noise to Irene Lam.
Through the sound of drills and hammers, she can hear the background noise -- the bustle of life that soon will return to an historic landmark in northwest Oklahoma City.

Lam, owner of the golden dome building at NW 23 and Classen Blvd., has put more than two years of work and millions of dollars into the geodesic structure based on a design by Buckminster Fuller. She plans to begin showing the renovated building to potential tenants next week, with construction scheduled to end in six weeks.

Lam's eyes brighten as she tells of her vision for the former home of Citizens State Bank and Bank One. Office space will be leased in the basement, first floor and second floor of the building. A restaurant and a multicultural center also are planned.

"We will be exhibiting art and showing some films," Lam said.

In 2002, the building was named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the country's 11 most endangered historic sites. Bank One, the building's then-owner, planned to tear down the structure to make way for a new Walgreens.

Preservationists lamented the loss of one of the city's most recognizable buildings and one of the few major geodesic domes remaining in the world. But no one would step forward to buy the building and save it from the wrecking ball.

Lam, an Oklahoma City optometrist, had been looking for an office building to buy along Classen Boulevard. Realtor Tom Waken said he remembers the day she asked him if the dome was for sale.

Lam made an offer in May 2002. He credited Lam for getting the deal done; it took almost a year for details to be worked out.

Lam paid $1.1 million for the building. She said she has spent at least that amount on the renovations. Workers are adding a new elevator and new rest rooms and have removed asbestos from the building. They also have preserved the building's historic interior -- the geodesic ceiling, teller counters and canopy and the railing along the second floor.

Lam said she is looking for an economically reasonable way to refurbish the gold luster of the dome's exterior. Estimates have been as high as $500,000, but the work was guaranteed for only five years, she said. For now, new lights and paint will brighten the exterior.

Waken will begin showing the building to potential tenants next week. Lam said she plans to lease 26,000 square feet of office space.

Bringing new life
Lam said she is most excited about the multicultural center. She envisions the building as a destination for tourists and school field trips, serving as an anchor for the booming Asian District along Classen.

When the city designated the boundaries of the Asian District, the golden dome was included along its south border. Lam said she hopes tenants will breathe new life into the building.

"We're looking for a diverse crowd." Lam said. "I hope I can get people in here who share my idea for the theme of the building."

01-03-2005, 09:49 PM
I'm glad to hear that this building has been saved and is being used for another purpose. I know how hard preservatonists faught to save this building. It's definitely a win for preservation in our city. I think this is a step in the right direction. Now, with the successful renovation of the Skirvin Hotel, we'll be well on our way to finally becoming a "preservation" city instead of an "urban renewal" city. If only we could've preserved some of the historic structures downtown.

It will be interesting to see what offices will locate in the Gold Dome!

Definitely glad to see the Gold Dome there instead of a WalGreens in its place.