GUTHRIE — A new nonprofit group wants to take the crumbling State Capital Publishing Co. Building off the state’s hands, and took the first step Monday by filing articles of incorporation for Guthrie Tomorrow Coalition Inc.
“We chose that name because we don’t want this to be the effort of any one person or one small organization,” said Lynn Bilodeau, an attorney leading the effort who lives next door to the historic, 50,000-square-foot office building and publishing plant in downtown Guthrie.
The coalition formed just more than a year after the failure of a plan to save the 115-year-old building, a museum for nearly 40 years, by converting it into 34 units of senior housing, preserving the historic facade, and reserving a small space for a micro-museum.
The Oklahoma Historical Society was working with the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which then oversaw all state-owned property transfers, and an out-of-state housing developer. The plan hinged on a change in zoning to allow high-density housing downtown, the Guthrie City Council wouldn’t change it, and the developer withdrew.
That settled the old newspaper and job printing building back on the property rolls of the Historical Society, a state agency, but with one big difference.
After the Historical Society started considering the housing project, lawmakers lifted the agency from overview by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and exempted it from guidelines for the disposition of surplus state property.
Before, the publishing building, as an underused state property, would have to be sold for no less than 90 percent of appraised value, or redeveloped with proceeds deposited in a statewide building maintenance fund.
Now, the Historical Society may sell historic properties at fair market value to “appropriate organizations or groups who agree to maintain the properties in the best interest of historic preservation.” It has sold at least three historic properties since the new law took effect in May 2016.