Two Greenwood District historic buildings are being worked on after being cited for code violations

TULSA, Okla. — Two historic buildings in Tulsa’s Greenwood District are being worked on after they were cited for code violations. Some of the violations were serious.

Earlier this week, FOX23 reported that a tenant is suing over conditions of the buildings. Friday, the Chamber president gave Fox23 a tour of those 100 year old buildings to show the work it takes to keep them up to code.

The Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President Freeman Culver wants to preserve the history of both buildings, but not the 100 year problems that come with them.

“We want people to walk into these historic buildings and safely leave the buildings,” he said.

He said last month, the historic buildings had eight fire code violations, all of which he adds, are being repaired or already been fixed. Some of the violations are in Culver’s event space.

“The doors have to have a push bar to them so people can push out to get out of the buildings,” Culver added.

He said the violations come from aging equipment like the fire alarm system that’s nearly 30-years-old.

“They had to find all the wiring to fix the fire alarm and some of these spaces have not been renovated in the past 20 years, so it took them a long time to find the wires. The fire watch is very expensive. It was $45 an hour so that was an expense the Chamber had to pay,” Culver said.

Earlier this week, FOX23 spoke with former tenant, Devin Williams about some of the issues he had with the building when he owned D.W. Speakeasy.

“My space had dangers that other spaces didn’t. That was why I was forced to close. I had no A/C, and I had very serious fire issues,” Williams said.

Williams adds, he’s working on filing a lawsuit against the Greenwood Chamber because of the buildings’ conditions.

Culver said the Chamber is responsible for maintenance, like making sure smoke alarms and the A-C units are compliant.

“When it comes to restaurants, they have a different type of policy with the equipment and different type of upgrades they have. They’re responsible for their equipment,” Culver said.

The historic buildings were rebuilt in 1922, a year after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Culver said many of the issues are mechanical. For instance, he said the elevators are 40 years old and are in desperate need of replacement.

“The HVAC system was replaced in 1981, the elevators in 1983. We do need to replace our elevators and our HVAC system. Everything else is cosmetic upgrades,” he said.

In one of the buildings, there’s a new Women’s Business Center, many conference rooms, and they’re hoping to bring in an anchor business. Culver said renovations and upgrades like these are happening slowly.

“People don’t realize that they think, ‘the Chamber is getting money from the city.’ We get no city funding, none. We get no state funds and the rent we do get has to pay all the utilities and maintenance. The rent we get is not for the Chamber. We’re a nonprofit,” he said.

Minor cosmetic upgrades like doorways and sprinklers the Chamber can handle, Culver said. However, the 40 year old HVAC system is expected to cost $2.9 million to replace. That’s not including new elevators. Culver said the bathrooms also need renovations.

In the last year, the Chamber received $500,000 in grants to replace the roof. Culver said limestone work was recently done, and brick work is expected to start in the near future.