B.A. Main Street Undergoing Facelift
By DAVID LLOYD JONES
LOOKING AHEAD: Broken Arrow resident Roy Sturgeon hopes to revive Broken Arrow’s Main Street by renovating several buildings for upscale restaurants, shops, live entertainment, office and professional space, among other uses.
ALICIA SHRUM for GTR Newspapers
Back a hundred years or so there was a quaint little farming community called Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
It was a nice place to bring up a family, a more-or-less self-contained little town that grew to have banks and movie theaters and a thriving downtown, but it was next to an even more thriving community called Tulsa.
In time an expressway was built and the greater variety of goods Tulsa offered became easier to reach and the main street of Broken Arrow began to lose its character. Shop after shop closed on Main Street while within a couple of miles strip centers and shopping malls took hold. Broken Arrow began to thrive and boom and get national attention as Bass Pro Shop decided to set down roots there and around it swarmed dozens of businesses. Meanwhile, in the center of the bustle but seeming unaffected by it, sat Main Street, its boarded-up brick buildings the sad remainder of what had been.
Then along came Roy Sturgeon.
Sturgeon is a life-long resident of Broken Arrow. Now in his mid-60s, he remembers when the height of excitement was going to the movies on a Saturday afternoon. There were two theaters to choose from although the choice was limited, Roy recalls, because one of the theaters showed only westerns. Still, it was the heyday of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy not to mention Hollywood royalty like John Wayne and Randolph Scott and Gary Cooper and James Stewart. There was always something to do on Main Street.
Now Roy looks down Main Street and is dismayed by what he sees. Unlike some of his nostalgic companions, however, he is trying to do something about it.
“I’ve bought five buildings,” he said recently, “and I’m working hard to renovate them. There are actually ten areas, five on the ground floor and five on the second floor. “The ceilings are about 12 feet. They were built around 1902 and I want to keep that look.
“Each ‘area’ has about 1,800 square feet. I figure the downstairs areas will be used for commercial establishments and the second floor for professional offices such as doctors or lawyers or architects. I don’t have any tenants signed up yet, but the possibilities are certainly there.”
Much of Main Street is residential. Look down where the businesses start and you see the faint beginnings of a renaissance. There is a steak house, so the first eating establishment is going strong. There is a candy store run by a delightful lady from Belgium whose delicacies are all made on the premises. Past a couple of empty stores is a coffee shop that serves up a mean cappuccino. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
“When I bought the buildings I had to peel off about five layers of paint to get back to the original brickwork,” says Sturgeon. “The big problem was the roof. Apparently every time the roof started to leak the previous owners would just lay down another layer of tarpaper. When I bought the building the weight of the roof weighed about 35 pounds per square foot and I was afraid if we got a heavy rain the roof would come crashing down through the second floor into the first. Now we’ve corrected it and the roof is back to about two pounds a square foot.”
How neglected were the buildings? In one Sturgeon found the remains of a 1957 Chevrolet pick-up truck. How it got up there nobody knows.
Sturgeon is the owner of RDS, a firm that manufactures engine parts. His clients include one in California that buys over 500 kinds of parts from him annually. He has the money to make his dream come true.
“The buildings have cost me about $600,000 to buy and I’ll put another $750,000 or so into fixing them up before I’m through.”
The whole project has Broken Arrow Mayor Richard Carter excited. “Broken Arrow is a very safe community. You have no sense of uneasiness walking down the street. It’s wonderful to have all the new businesses in the new shopping areas, but we want to make Main Street some place special.
“We want some unique shops that simply aren’t available elsewhere. We want specialty shops, unusual restaurants and live entertainment. We’re putting in a plaza and a farmer’s market.
“We changing zoning ordinances so more dense housing units such as condos and apartments can be brought downtown. We’re only 23 minutes from downtown Tulsa. A lot of newcomers to Broken Arrow have never been to Main Street. We want to entice them to come.”
Can such a plan work? Who knows? Just remember, in Tulsa once upon a time there were some tiny shops and crumbling buildings on 15th Street between Peoria and Utica Avenues. Now everyone has heard of Cherry Street.