Vacant buildings targets for trouble in Tulsa

Posted at 8:59 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 23:31:38-05

Fires at vacant homes and buildings are an increasing problem in the winter months and often municipalities face limitations in dealing with them.

The increase in fires is often due to people trespassing and starting fires to keep warm, according to law enforcement.

The Tulsa Club Building downtown, vacant for about 20 years now, has been set on fire multiple times. Outside the building, scorch marks and graffiti are visible at the busy intersection of Fifth and Cincinnati.

David Linde, a photographer who contributes to Abandoned Oklahoma has photographed many vacant buildings and has a lot of stories of encountering squatters inside.

"A lot of times the front doors are wide-open some of these places, which makes it really easy for arsonists, vagrants, whoever to walk right in the front door," he said.

Representatives with the City of Tulsa said they do what they can when they are notified of a problem. The first step is to issue a written notice to the property owner giving them ten days to secure the location. If that doesn't work, the city will bid out the project to a contractor to board up the property.

If the situation escalates to a possible demolition project, there's a much longer process including public hearings. It lasts nine months on average, according to city officials.

However, boarding a place up alone is sometimes not enough to keep people out. Back in 2012, a man died falling down an elevator shaft in the abandoned Abundant Life Building downtown.

Some, like Linde, hope to bring attention to what these places could become for the area.

"I like to take pictures of places and say 'you know, this place is still here,' he said. "A developer can come along and buy this property."

That is exactly what happened with the historic Tulsa Club Building. The Ross Group bought it late last year with hopes of turning the piece of Tulsa history into a new attraction for downtown instead of an eyesore and target for trouble.

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