MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 12, 2013

MLK Center patrons see designs for new building

Structure would be more than three times as big

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Plans and architect’s renderings for a new Dr. Martin Luther King Center received cheers Monday from people who plan to use it.

Architects with the Bartlesville firm of Ambler Architects presented the building concepts Monday at the current MLK Center. Supporters, Muskogee City Council members and members of the Muskogee Martin Luther King Task Force packed the center’s common area for the unveiling reception.

“We need this building,” said Shelia Crutcher, who used to work at the MLK Center. “I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”

Derrick Reed, a member of the task force and the center’s programs director, said the new center would be built west of the current 5,000-square-foot facility. Reed also is on the Muskogee City Council.

Plans for the new center include a large multipurpose room, a functional kitchen, a resource library, a multipurpose commons area and three classrooms. Two of the classrooms could have a movable partition to create two more smaller classrooms, said Joey Evans, intern architect with the firm.

Evans said the plans, as presented, call for a building “a shade over 18,000 square feet.”

Reed said the plans must go before the City Council for approval. If they are approved, the center could start its fundraising efforts.

Reed said he could not estimate a cost of the facility or know its square footage until the plans are approved.

City Councilor Wayne Johnson said buildings, such as the proposed new center, “typically” cost $200 per square foot. Multiplied by 18,000 square feet, the cost of the building as presented could be $3.6 million.

“Tonight was about communicating back to the community, to come back to them and ask ‘Did we take your dreams and make them reality?’” Johnson said.

Reed said the center now in use needs more space.

“We have outgrown this buildings with the programs we have,” he said. “We have 60 kids at our after-school program. During summer, we feed 100 kids daily without a kitchen.”

He said the original building dates to World War II and has been added onto since then.

The building also needs repair. According to a June story in the Muskogee Phoenix, the MLK Center began showing signs of wear early in 2012, after a series of small earthquakes hit parts of Oklahoma. An engineer attributed the building’s deterioration to the tremors and a period of extreme drought.

The task force was formed earlier this year to decide whether to reconstruct or relocate the facility, the story said.

Reed said the funds would be raised in a variety of ways.

“We will appeal to the City of Muskogee Foundation,” he said. “There is the possibility to apply through FEMA for a safe room. Once this is approved by the council, we’ll start exploring options.”

A fundraising gala has been set for Jan. 17 at the Muskogee Civic Center, Reed said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.