Meet our new Executive Director, Ed Sharrer

We are excited to announce the hiring of a new executive director, Ed Sharrer.

Sharrer brings a wealth of experience in historic preservation, city planning, marketing and promotions to Kendall Whittier Main Street.

“Ed has outstanding qualifications and a deep knowledge base to draw from as we pursue our goal of reviving the Kendall Whittier district to true economic vitality,” said Wendy Thomas, KWMS board president and executive director of Leadership Tulsa,, “His past experiences perfectly qualify him to find creative ways to build on the substantial assets already in the neighborhood and to attract others to live, to work and to play.”

As a Planner II with the City of Tulsa, he served as the co-lead planner for the update of the City of Tulsa Zoning Code, project manager for the Utica Midtown (North) small area plan, and project manager for the Mayor’s Institute on City Design Technical Institute.

An award-winning web designer before entering the planning field, Sharrer staffed the Tulsa Preservation Commission for five years, working with hundreds of homeowners on historic rehab projects.

His specialties include public speaking, event coordination, online marketing, and social media. He has a bachelor’s in marketing from The University of Tulsa and a master’s degree from the Urban Design Studio at The University of Oklahoma.

Sharrer is eager to jump in with the Main Street initiatives and help attract investment and development to the neighborhood.

“Kendall Whittier is on the cusp of a major transformation and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Sharrer, “There’s a creative energy in the neighborhood that’s already attracting renewed interest and vitality. Kendall Whittier has assets that no other part of Tulsa can offer, such as the Circle Cinema, Tulsa’s last remaining historic movie theater, and Fab Lab, an innovation facility connected to MIT’s global network of fabrication laboratories.”

Reach out to Ed by e-mailing historickwms@gmail.com.

Kendall Whittier Welcomes Leadership Tulsa Class 48

Leadership Tulsa logoKendall Whittier is proud to host Leadership Tulsa‘s Class 48 for Midtown Day. The class will hear from a panel of organizations working in Kendall Whittier, including Circle Cinema Foundation, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Community Action Project, Tulsa Preservation Commission, The University of Tulsa True Blue Neighbors, and Kendall Whittier Main Street.

After a morning of presentations and discussion at the Circle Cinema, the class will tour San Miguel School, the Hardesty Center for Fab Lab Tulsa, and Marshall Brewing Company to learn about just a few of the exciting developments happening in the neighborhood. Welcome to Kendall Whittier!

Tulsa World: Whittier Square is “Redeveloped”

Tulsa’s Whittier Square is ‘developed’ for a day

By MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer

Waiting to cross the street, a pedestrian nonchalantly leaned against a lamp pole, and the pole nearly fell over.

It was nothing but a prop, sitting on a plywood base, light enough to pick up and carry.

The crosswalk was made out of white tape, easy to pull up. And a bike lane was marked with cardboard signs, sure to disintegrate during the first rainstorm.

For one brief evening Wednesday, Whittier Square looked revitalized, complete with shops and landscaping and bustling crowds.

But it was all temporary.

“It’s a live rendering,” explained Andrew Howard, a construction director from a Dallas group called Team Better Block. “Instead of drawing a picture, we’re going to actually build it for a day to see what it could look like.”

First developed in the 1920s, Whittier Square was originally a thriving neighborhood east of downtown, where old Route 66 met Lewis Avenue.

In more recent decades, it’s been a block notorious for derelict buildings and seedy bookstores.

But the Circle Cinema and a few other projects have offered a glimpse of redevelopment. And two years ago, it was designated an “Oklahoma Main Street,” a statewide program to preserve and revitalize older shopping districts.

With Main Street coordinators coming to Tulsa from all over Oklahoma for some annual sessions, they decided to get out of the conference room and conduct an experiment.

“We could make a Power- Point presentation to show people what this area needs,” Howard said. “But what if we let people walk around in a revitalized Whittier Square for one night? People can see for themselves what’s possible with just a little investment.”

The improvements included angled parking and sidewalk lighting. And Lewis Avenue shrunk to two lanes to make traffic more pedestrian-friendly.

Vacant storefronts became a hardware shop, an art gallery and a wine and coffee bar with cafe seating outdoors.

But it will all disappear Thursday morning.

“It’s a shame,” said Stephanie LaFevers, executive director of the Circle Cinema Foundation and a member of the Kendall Whittier Main Street board. “But I really think it’s going to look like this again someday.”

Similar efforts have led to real, permanent revitalization in Fort Worth, Memphis, Dallas and other cities.

“It shows people what can be done,” LaFevers said. “Hopefully, it inspires people to make it real.”

See full story and more photos at TulsaWorld Online.

Building a Better Kendall Whittier Main Street

Main Street Revamped

50+ main street managers have been hard at work transforming Kendall Whittier Main Street and now, it’s time enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The team has built a “Better Block” in front of Circle Cinema. Join us tonight and enjoy pop up cafes and shops, our new bike lane, our reverse angle parking, and other innovations starting at 4 pm. Lone Wolf Banh Mi food truck will be open from 5 to 9 pm.

Here is a breakdown of additional happenings tonight:

5pm tour of Kendall Whittier better block with team better block founder Jason Roberts. Bring your bike and try out a European style cycle track on Lewis ave!

5pm to 9 pm lone wolf banh mi food truck opens, dine on the newly created street cafe or inside circle cinema.

6:30 to 7:30 pecha kucha 20×20 presentations at Circle Cinema

  • Andrew Howard, Team Better Block, streets for people
  • Wanna Dye, Team Better Block, art repurposed
  • Jason Roberts, Team Better Block, stop planning start acting
  • James Wagner, INCOG, a two lane Lewis
  • Tulsa’s Young Professionals Urbanists Crew Leaders

8pm to 9pm showing of the film Contested Streets at Circle Cinema

With the help of Better Block and Oklahoma Main Street Center, we are closer to fulfilling our mission “to promote and restore Kendall Whittier as a thriving, walkable and welcoming community for living and working.”

The Team Better Block, from Dallas, Texas,  temporarily re-engineers and re-programs auto-dominated, blighted, and underused urban areas into complete ones by working with cities, developers and stakeholders to create quick, inexpensive, high-impact changes. Watch this video to learn more and see the original Better Block project.

Since 1985, more than 60 towns have been a part of the Main Street Center family. There are currently 38 active Main Street programs across the state. Seminole became the newest addition in 2011.  For more information on the Oklahoma Main Street Center visit www.OKcommerce.gov/mainstreet.

More Progress Announced for Kendall Whittier

Shell Life–Home for architecture firm a $1.8 million resurrection of Tulsa Ice Company building

BY JAIME ADAME

The handsome bricks belong to an earlier time, when Tulsa Ice Company hummed with activity.

Never again will the cars pull up to the building on East 6th Street to be loaded with blocks of ice, as was common in 1930s Tulsa.

But the sleepy site just a few blocks east of South Utica Avenue now hums with activity, with work underway to transform the vacant structure into the new home for architecture firm Selser Schaefer.

Rebuilding Tulsa. Janet Selser and Bob Schaefer, principal architects of the fir Selser Schaefer.

Rebuilding Tulsa. Janet Selser and Bob Schaefer, principal architects of the fir Selser Schaefer.

“That building there is simply a shell,” said Bob Schaefer, one of the firm’s two founders. “It has no electricity, no heating and air conditioning.”

“No interior walls,” added his partner, Janet Selser.

“It has no doors,” continued Schaefer, with Selser laughing a bit. “No toilets,” he said.

Such a list might scare off others, but not the creators of what’s become an award-winning firm. The pair started out in 1993 with one employee and “no work,” as Schaefer put it.

Now, they design notable structures in Tulsa and elsewhere. Just recently, the firm designed the North Regional Health and Wellness Center, a major project for the Tulsa Health Department to integrate modern medicine with community rooms all in a park setting. The center on North Cincinnati Avenue opened in September. Even more visible will be the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa Hardesty Arts Center, an exhibit and community space in the Brady Arts District.

Schaefer and Selser are a husband and wife team who married shortly after founding their business. Their firm has always been housed close to downtown.

“We feel like it’s just a commitment to Tulsa,” Schaefer said. He added: “I just have always felt that way, that one should be in or near the central original central business district.”

BEFORE

BEFORE
AFTER

AFTER

Their current home is on the top floor of the International Plaza building. “The environment in our office now is good,” Schaefer said. “People have room to work. They have room to be creative and interact with each other and share thoughts and collaborate.” The firm now has 42 employees. Schaefer said the pair realized any growth would take away from that environment — so they began scouting for a new home.

“There’s some wonderful buildings in the Brady, but they’re currently, they’re just simply not for sale,” Schaefer said, referring to the Brady Arts District, which also includes another Selser Schaefer design, 200 East Brady, an award-winning transformation of an old warehouse into modern office space.

About to give up, the pair learned about the former Tulsa Ice Company building, which had last been used as an auto parts warehouse but had been sitting vacant for several years.

“It was really important to find a building with character, that had good bones, that had great day lighting in it,” Selser said. “And we wanted high ceilings.”

Their future home fulfills all of these wishes, Schaefer said — calling it “just breathtaking.”

“It has these enormous windows, they start at four feet off the floor and go to 16 feet off the floor,” Schaefer said. “They’re 12 feet tall, they’re 9 feet wide, they just completely surround the room.”

The property cost $900,000, and it’s a $1.8 million renovation project, but the pair plans to make few changes to the building’s exterior beyond turning a dock that runs alongside the building into an outdoor meeting space.

Inside, the focus will be on open space.

“We’ve always put our office together so basically everyone worked together,” Schaefer said. “It’s not a series of cubicles or closed off offices, everyone’s together sharing ideas. And this is going to allow that to happen better than it ever has, because we’ll be able to put virtually the entire office into that one room.”

Selser described how the location at South Xanthus Avenue — adjacent to the Urban Tulsa Weekly office — fits in with a commitment to central Tulsa.

“This is an extension of downtown, and I think that as development continues down here, it’s even going to become more of an extension of downtown, physically. Probably even a little bit emotionally as well,” she said.

Schaefer said the reuse of older buildings is catching on a bit.

“People talk about sustainability and green architecture and all that kind of stuff, and from a sustainability standpoint, it’s incredibly sustainable to reuse the building rather than create a new one or tear down the old one and create a new one,” Schaefer said.

In Tulsa, there are plenty more such potential projects, they said.

“There are quite a few buildings left to repurpose downtown, and hopefully that’s what will happen with most of them, because they are beautiful old buildings that deserve to be repurposed, that deserve to remain,” Selser said. “I think the fabric of the community will be much richer if they stay than if they get torn down.” Schaefer said he couldn’t fault property owners unwilling to sell quite yet. “It’s a very smart move on their part because the Brady is going to become a really important part of Tulsa,” he said. Selser added that while “we just wished it would go faster,” downtown is “going to be spectacular space.”

And they also see big potential for East 6th Street as well, with Selser and Schaefer pointing out several buildings that are ripe for renewal.

Some of the work has already happened. Marshall Brewing Company began operations after transforming an old warehouse on South Wheeling Avenue just a half-block south of East 6th Street. At the corner of East 6th Street and South Peoria Avenue, a warehouse is well on its way to conversion into The Phoenix Café, a project of local developer and City Councilor Blake Ewing. The business is set to open in about a month.

Such work can extend east to South Lewis Avenue, Schaefer said.

“Urban Tulsa and Selser Schaefer are right in the middle of that half-mile, and so, hopefully, between the two of us we’ll start something,” Schaefer said.

Their new home is two blocks east of the Pearl District, where some in the neighborhood have been pushing for adoption of a form-based code designed to reduce auto-centric development in favor of more pedestrian-friendly building designs. Some property owners have objected, however, with most citing concerns that such a code could keep them from altering their property the way they would like in the future.

Not surprisingly, the pair said the form-based code would work well in the neighborhood.

“I honestly do think that the form-based code is the correct way to approach this kind of stuff, especially in these kinds of areas. They place automobile in the right place, which is get them behind the building, don’t put them in front of the buildings,” Schaefer said, with the firm planning to install parking in the rear of their new home. They estimate the work will be finished by the end of January.

Send all comments and feedback regarding City to jadame@urbantulsa.com

Kendall Whittier Hosts Art Off the Square

Get Your Tickets for Art Off The Square October 11

Artists working in and near the historic Kendall Whittier neighborhood will exhibit their varied works for sale at an Art Off the Square fundraiser on Admiral Boulevard east of Lewis Avenue from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm Thursday Oct. 11.

Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit three area nonprofit agencies: Circle Cinema, Kendall Whittier, Inc., and Kendall Whittier Main Street. Proceeds from a silent auction and a portion of art sales will help support two Kendall Whittier Inc. activities: the Emergency Food Pantry Community GROW (Gardening to Reach out and Welcome).

The event will be near the Kendall Whittier square. Photographs, sculpture, paintings, pottery, silkscreen, jewelry, ink drawings, collages, macro photography, watercolors, wooden boxes, and clocks will be for sale. An exhibit of creations by some of the artists will be in the lobby of Circle Cinema, 12 S. Lewis Ave., from Sept. 27 through Oct. 11.

Participating artists include Tulsa Girls Art School students, Penni Gage, Rusty Johnson, Michael Benton, Caty Smith, Christopher Mantle, Bob Sober, Holt Pagano, Third Street Clayworks, Cassie Hamilton, Tommy Ball, Tahlia Roper, Heathyr Chenowith, Charles Thomas, University of Tulsa School of Art students, and FabLab Tulsa artisans.

Food and refreshments will be available from BurnCo, Grub Truck, Treat Street, Mario’s Chicken/Taco Truck, and Marshall Brewing Company. Performers will include the Raks Al-Hassana belly dancing troupe, which is moving its studio to the neighborhood, break- dancing from The Legacy Project s, and eclectic music band 4 Going Gravity.

Tina Hyner’s pottery studio, the Tulsa Girls Art School, the Loose Leaf Collective’s studio, and Ziegler’s Art Supply will all be open until 8:30 pm.

Offerings for a silent auction will include art lessons from Ross Myers, an overnight getaway at Cherokee Casino, four club level Thunder tickets (with parking pass and authentic “Thunder Pack”) for the Thunder’s Nov. 21 show down with Blake Griffin and the LA Clippers, a case of FineLine Monterey Chardonnay, artwork from Darshan Phillips and Linda Coward, a children’s bicycle and helmet from Lee’s Bicycles, a Firehouse Dinner for six prepared and served by Tulsa firefighters in a local fire station, and a Mexican dinner for up to 10 prepared by Father David Medina and served at the St. Francis Xavier rectory.

Tax-deductible tickets are $75.00 per person. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 918-633-1934 or purchase tickets online here.

Kendall-Whittier West Park Project Underway

George Kaiser Family Foundation Executive Director Ken Levit talks about the start of construction for the Kendall-Whittier West Park project on Tuesday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

George Kaiser Family Foundation Executive Director Ken Levit talks about the start of construction for the Kendall-Whittier West Park project on Tuesday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

By MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Published: 8/8/2012  2:24 AM
Last Modified: 8/8/2012  8:02 AM

Construction is under way on the Kendall-Whittier West Park project, part of a $36 million investment into the neighborhood.

The project includes 128 mixed-income housing units, 20 student housing units and 7,000 square feet of retail and management space as well as the renovation of the existing neighborhood park.

The project is funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the University of Tulsa, the City of Tulsa, state low-income tax credits and outside financing secured by McCormack Baron Salazar, a national developer that specializes in revitalizing economically distressed urban areas.

The city’s portion was $5.9 million for stormwater, water and sanitary infrastructure improvements.

Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, said the neighborhood is a vital part of Tulsa.

“In the ’60s ’70s and ’80s, it fell on difficult times. In the last several years, the community and its neighbors have worked block by block, house by house, to build it into a stronger neighborhood,” he said. “This is decades of planning and working together to improve, revitalize and strengthen the community.”

Levit said the project will provide affordable housing in a neighborhood with an Educare center, an elementary school and university that together create “a pipeline from birth to college to career.”

“One of the significant challenges we’ve identified in the area is a lack of safe, affordable, quality housing. The objective of the West Park master plan is to achieve this goal and continue to support the neighborhood revitalization in the Kendall-Whittier area,” he said.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett said West Park is an example of the city’s investment in urban development following the guidelines of PlaniTulsa.

“We as a city saw this area several years ago ripe for decay,” Bartlett said.

He said normally the area would most likely be taken over by the city and bulldozed and made into a park.

“It would become an island surrounded by bad things,” he said, adding that this approach creates a “life ring” for the neighborhood.

“This is an example I hope to see replicated throughout the city time after time after time,” he said.

Construction is going on between Lewis and Atlanta avenues across the street from Kendall-Whittier Park, 2645 E. Fifth Street.

The project includes 20 graduate-student apartments, a fitness room and a community hall.

“This is an enormously useful addition for TU,” said TU President Geoffrey Orsak. “This is a truly remarkable urban renewal project.”

The university will also handle park maintenance when the project is complete. The project is expected to be complete in late summer of 2013.

Whittier Square Historic District Added to National Register

Whittier Square Historic District Added to National Register; Circle Cinema Receives Route 66 Corridor Preservation Grant

The Whittier Square Historic District is Tulsa’s newest addition to the National Register of Historic Places, an honor administered through the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior. State historic preservation offices like the Oklahoma Historical Society, and certified local government entities like the Tulsa Preservation Commission, assist with nominations to the National Register.

Whittier Square joins seven other commercial districts, 14 residential districts and 55 buildings in Tulsa already listed on the National Register. Details about Tulsa places on the National Register are available at: http://www.tulsapreservationcommission.org/nationalregister/

“Whittier Square is an important piece of Tulsa’s history, with Route 66 passing right through the middle of the district,” said Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett. “It also was Tulsa’s first suburban shopping center dating back to the 1920s.”

Mayor Bartlett added: “The inclusion of Whittier Square on the National Register of Historic Places brings recognition and opportunities for economic development. The designation provides incentives for building owners who choose to restore their properties. It also makes this area an attraction for heritage tourism, especially for fans of Route 66.”

Whittier Square received this honorary designation in June through the efforts of Kendall-Whittier Main Street, the Whittier Square Improvement District, and the City of Tulsa Planning Department. Boundaries of the district are Lewis Avenue, Zunis Avenue, First Street and Interstate 244.

The historic district received more good news as the National Park Service also has announced the award of a Route 66 Corridor Preservation Grant to the Circle Cinema Theatre Façade Restoration project. The Circle Cinema Theatre Foundation will receive $23,261 and match the grant with an equal amount.
Kendall-Whittier Main Street is wasting no time to celebrate these developments, with its Red Hot Night in Kendall Whittier event scheduled July 14, at 7 p.m. This music and food festival will be at the old Fire Station No. 7, now the home of Howell & Vancuren Landscape Architecture, 601 S. Lewis Ave.

The Circle Cinema, located at 10 S. Lewis Ave. in Whittier Square, was built in 1928 on land east of Tulsa that would soon become Tulsa’s first suburban development. The original construction cost was $77,000, including a Robert Morton organ that would accompany vaudeville acts and silent movies. The Circle Cinema remained popular into the 1960s, when interstate construction brought decline to the area.

By the 1980s, the theater was in poor condition and condemned for demolition until it was purchased by the Circle Cinema Foundation in 2003 as part of a community development grant. As the only pre-1960s theater remaining in Tulsa, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The foundation has since undertaken extensive restoration work and reopened the theater. The grant project will complete façade restoration, including entry doors and ticket window.

The National Register of Historic Places is our country’s official list of buildings, districts, sites and structures that are significant to our past and worthy of preservation. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program provides funding assistance in the form of cost-share grants, to support the preservation of the most significant and representative historic Route 66 buildings, structures, road segments, and cultural landscapes in the eight states through which the route passes. Assistance is also provided to support research, planning, oral history, and education outreach projects related to the preservation of Route 66.

Kendall Whittier Funding Extended

Mayor Bartlett contracts with the Main Street program to provide $25,000.

By JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2012  4:21 AM
Last Modified: 2/19/2012  8:31 AM

The board of directors for the Kendall Whittier Main Street program had signed off on its last check with its last dollars going to the nonprofit organization’s payroll Tuesday.

“We were trying to come up with some creative ways to get from February to April,” when the organization could hold a large fundraiser, said board Chairwoman Elizabeth Howell.

But calls to City Councilor Blake Ewing and the mayor’s office led to a lifeline for the community-building organization last week, when the program’s leaders spoke to councilors about longer-term funding.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett was able to contract with the program to provide $25,000 to keep it running through June, when city officials will be able to look at more funding through the city budget.

“The Kendall Whittier Main Street program is a perfect example of dedicated Tulsans interested in revitalizing their neighborhood and promoting job growth in a historic part of our city,” Bartlett said. “The Main Street program has been successful in many cities across the state, and we look forward to working with the Kendall Whittier Main Street program to help spur economic development in the community and along historic Route 66.”

The mayor’s move potentially saved the program and was also the city’s first funding contribution to the nearly 2-year-old organization.

Kendall Whittier Main Street is the only program of its kind in Oklahoma that had never received funding from its host city, officials said.

“The commitment is there, which is great,” Howell said.

“We look forward to collaborating and working together … It’s a wonderful partnership that is beginning.”

The Oklahoma Main Street program is run through the state Department of Commerce and helps create local programs to nurture economic and community growth to failing historical areas.

Several dozen Main Street programs are operational in Oklahoma and thrive in small towns where a dilapidated and unused main street may need a framework to grow the community, said Linda Barnett, Oklahoma Main Street Center director.

The program was extended to reach urban areas that are in need of revitalization several years ago, she said.

Other successful programs in Oklahoma, such as Tulsa’s Red Fork Main Street and Oklahoma City’s Stockyards City, got about a third of their funding from host cities when they began, Howell said.

Most cities continue funding the program due to its level of reinvestment in the city, Howell said.

The city budget was tight in 2010 when Kendall Whittier Main Street began.

The program stayed afloat during its first two years through private funding, including a large anonymous donation, Howell said.

That money ran out last week, Howell said. The Kendall Whittier program helps an area from 11th Street to Independence Street and from just west of Lewis Avenue to the University of Tulsa.

Ewing, whose council district includes the Kendall Whittier area, said the Main Street officials approached him recently as they ran out of money and asked him for help.

Ewing then made an appeal to Bartlett, who made temporary funding available until the program can receive funding through the city’s official budget process for the next fiscal year, officials said.

“All of these entities working together to build a neighborhood is something special,” Ewing told councilors this week about the need to find funding for the program.

“From an economic standpoint, I don’t know what we could do that would be more bang for our buck.”

Howell credited Ewing for leading the charge to get the program’s first funding from the city and the mayor for finding an avenue to keep them going.

“It’s been a real positive turn of events,” she said.