Moving offices into the 21st Century

Renovations are underway on the original Oklahoma Bar Association building in Oklahoma City.
Completion scheduled by May, 2008.
John Morris Williams, executive director, said the project, costing an estimated $1.7 to $1.8 million, will upgrade the structure first occupied by the association on July 27, 1962. Ironically, he added in a letter to members published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, the work began July 27, the 45th anniversary of the day the association started using the facility at 1901 N. Lincoln Blvd.
It has taken four years — and a membership dues increase — to plan and pay for the work, Williams said. No money is being borrowed.
The OBA staff has moved into modular buildings behind the center and have settled in so their workflow is virtually uninterrupted, he said. Members will find services are not affected, though they won’t be able to easily get to the temporary offices.
Rather, they will meet with the staff in the newer part of the OBA facility where meeting rooms are usable and available.
It will take some planning to ensure that needed space for meetings, Williams added. The Council for Judicial Compliance has opened their meeting space and Emerson Hall will seat more than 200 people.
Access to the OBA center off Lincoln Blvd. is closed so visitors will have to use other nearby access routes.
When the center was built in the early 1960s, asbestos was the material of the day, he continued. Asbestos removal is the first work that must be done. In addition, open stairwells will be enclosed to meet fire codes and brought up to standard to meet the Americans for Disabilities Act law.
The overall project will bring the Oklahoma Bar Center into the 21st Century with an updated and professional decor, Williams said.
Working in a modular space isn’t bad, he continued. The 82 ft. by 56 ft. facility is designed to be functional.
Williams said his office is 12 ft. by 12 ft. and he doesn’t have as much furniture.
He does have the same desk, chair and telephone.
While the new space is about one-third the size of the vacated area, it is comfortable. It also is important to note that office space has not diminished as much as people think. A lot of space was taken up documents that had been placed in storage in the basement — some dating to 1962 — which now been moved. Some of those papers have been scanned, others destroyed. Staff members, looking at those stored papers, said they would be changing the way they are doing things.
Current renovation is just part of an on-going effort to upgrade the facility.
Last year the front steps on the south side of the building were repaired and upgraded to ADA compliance. That work cost $215,000. Other work maintaining the structural integrity of the building also has been completed.
Several years ago, Williams continued, a structural engineer advised that the marble facade was about to fall off the building. Further study showed the structure could be caulked to stop water from getting behind the walls and preventing a the catastrophic event.
An electric transformer in the basement was replaced after OBA officials were advised the equipment was old and possibly could cause a fire.
Most OBA members aren’t really aware of the project, Williams said. As far as members are concerned there will be no change in services and they can look forward to a modern facility in May 2008.

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