View Full Version : Film Exchange District starts to come alive

12-16-2006, 07:53 AM
Beyond saving?
Businessmen call on pioneer spirit to breathe life into time-worn area
By Steve Lackmeyer Business Writer

Phillip Matthews and Gus Tietsort are urban pioneers, moving into a section of downtown that until now has been skipped over. The two recently moved their businesses to a section of downtown that until recently was discounted as beyond saving.

Their building at 614 W Sheridan had been empty for years, last occupied by a company that serviced pinball machines.

Matthews, who owns Raffine’ Interiors, was no stranger to urban life and had his office at NW 23 and Robinson. Tietsort, who specializes in granite and glass interior finishes, was working out of a barn in Norman.

And yet it was Tietsort who first looked at Sheridan Avenue on the west fringe of downtown.

“We had collaborated on projects before and saw the potential of working together,” Tietsort said. “He picks up often where I leave off.”

While working a job with architect David Wanzer, Tietsort learned of efforts to redevelop Sheridan Avenue, which was once an outpost for Hollywood movie studios. The Art Deco architecture of the area and wide open building layouts appealed to Tietsort.

“My first reaction was ‘I don’t know,’” Matthews said. “I’m one of those people who take a while to come around. But it’s really better than any of the other spaces we were looking at. It does what we want. We didn’t want to be in Nichols Hills – we wanted to be different.”

Their combined showroom opened last month, and the pair credit Wanzer and developer John “Chip” Fudge for making the move possible.

“They made it very attractive to do this deal, and they made us feel wanted,” Matthews said.

Wanzer said he and Fudge have plans to renovate a half-dozen other buildings along Sheridan, which is being promoted as the Film Exchange District.

Between the 1930s and 1960s, the strip was home to up to 40 regional film distribution centers representing studios including Columbia Pictures, RKO, Paramount, Universal, MGM, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox and United Arts.

“There is something sexy about the whole Hollywood connection,” Wanzer said.

Plans include conversion of the district’s landmark Film Exchange Building, 700 W Sheridan, into lofts, retail, restaurants, galleries and offices. A second building at 726 W Sheridan, known as the Hart Building, is set to be converted into offices and retail. Wanzer said his own firm, J3 Architecture, is preparing to renovate and move into a smaller property along the strip.

As Wanzer and Fudge proceed with redevelopment plans, they are also seeking the city’s help in replacing sidewalks, landscaping and rebuilding Sheridan Avenue.

Robbie Kienzle, an urban redevelopment specialist with the Oklahoma City Planning Department, praised the pair’s efforts, which include proposed “streetscape” designs and cost estimates.

“They’ve done some good homework,” said Kienzle, who has participated in a series of Film Exchange planning meetings earlier this year. “They’ve even had our urban design and parks department review their plans.”

Kienzle said timing is right to pursue grants for sidewalk improvements and landscaping.

She said the addition Tietsort and Matthews’ showroom will show city council members efforts to revive the area are serious as they ponder considering the street for public improvements. Matthews thinks it won’t be long before he has neighbors up and down Sheridan. “I’ve got a lot of faith this is just going to keep going,” Matthews said. “This is the last little quadrant of downtown Oklahoma City that isn’t done. But it’s not that big an area that we can’t get it done in a hurry.”

12-16-2006, 08:21 AM
Thanks for posting this, Malibu. There's just a lot of great things happening around this city!


12-16-2006, 11:08 AM
Yeah I posted these updates a few weeks back in the Official thread for the film district, obviously just not this article that was just written today or yesterday. For anyone curious I also took pictures of some of the development going on in film row. The pics are in my gallery.

12-16-2006, 11:12 AM
Here's that other thread:

12-16-2006, 12:07 PM
a section of downtown that until recently was discounted as beyond saving.

Given what has happened in so many major cities across America in the last 20 years or so, it's strange that anyone would start with that perspective.

12-16-2006, 04:12 PM
They need something in there film related. They need an art house theatre or two. Maybe some sort of outdoor display highlighting Oklahomans in Hollywood and maybe Oklahoma-shot films like Twister, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Outsiders, etc.

12-16-2006, 07:46 PM
jbrown, the oklahoma film society and casting office were the first tenants in the film district or "film row". Don't they count as film related??? Others will come with due time. I'm a movie and concert promoter and if I had the money I'd have an office down there in two seconds. Trust me they will come in time.. Even some movie studios.

12-18-2006, 12:05 PM
Sure they do. I had not heard that they had moved over there.

Athough things that are more available to the public would be better. It would be cool if the Oklahoma Film Society could open up a museum/art house theatre.

12-18-2006, 06:11 PM
jbrown the oklahoma film society IS available to the public. They are open and do have a few things to browse although it's not a museum. Also the 3rd Saturday of every month they hold meetings open to the general public to give an update with the latest going on in the district. The casting office is also open to the public for people looking to get casted for modeling or film shoots and offer to get them with an agent, etc.