Texas Gas building - Skidmore, Owings & Merrell, 1962
In an article in today's Messenger-Inquirer about the OPS's submission of its facilities plan for state review and approval, Megan Harris reported... Architect Craig Thomas of RBS Design Group resubmitted the district facilities plan — slated to include converting the iconic home of Texas Gas into a 6-7-8 Center....
The deed requires that OPS use the property for educational purposes for its first 10 years of ownership. Riverfront Jam has a first right of refusal for an additional 30 years, during which the corporation may buy back the property before OPS can take public bids to sell it.
"If they put it on the market," Vick said, "I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they brought in between $4 million and $7 million in revenue. I don't foresee it ever being for sale — we'll never get 30 acres in this district again — but if enrollment declines, and they really believe they'll never use it, students would benefit to the tune of, say, $7 million."
At a board of education luncheon Tuesday, board members debated listing Texas Gas for demolition in the final plan they submit to the state later this year. Clearing the property for new construction could increase state-provided construction dollars in the form of unmet need. [Emphasis added]
Board chairwoman Nancy Eskridge, on telling Owensboro residents they plan to demolish Texas Gas, said Tuesday, "Yeah, that would go over like a ton of bricks, literally."
If the cost to renovate Texas Gas is more than 75 percent of the state's baseline estimate for new construction, including the cost of demolition, the KDE would not approve the renovation, Vick said.It seems obvious that OPS's plan is to demolish the building and deflect any community criticism by blaming it on the Kentucky Department of Education's denial of renovation costs. OPS is yet to publicize those projected costs. A question comes to mind: Would the state endorse a renovation plan in which OPS invested a greater proportion of funds than the minimum, perhaps supported by grants or other local investments? If not, then the Kentucky Department of Education certainly should share in the blame.
However, if the building is demolished, the main blame must go to OPS and its irresponsibility in taking charge of an important community building that it has neither the intention nor capacity to maintain.
We always find out about the details of these adventures that result in demolition of our community's historic buildings long after decisions are made that are unstoppable.
It appears that it is decided. We can look forward to a future 6-7-8 pole-barn or Dryvit-elaborated office/retail complex where once stood a building of important design quality.