MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 27, 2013

Hunt’s building removal good for downtown


— The City of Muskogee Foundation’s approval of a grant to demolish the old Hunt’s Department Store Building downtown will remove an eyesore from Muskogee.

The grant, worth up to $250,000, was made to the Eastern Oklahoma Land Acquisition Co. The limited liability company plans to buy and demolish the building.

Foundation board Chairman Earnie Gilder said the holding company will buy the downtown building for $65,000. It will cost an additional $123,000 to tear it down, fill in the basement and raise it to grade. The same company hired to raze the former S.H. Kress and Bully Good Saddle Shop buildings earlier this year will perform the Hunt’s demolition.

What the space will be used for remains to be seen. Frank Merrick, the foundation’s executive director, said a green space is the plan.

For downtown, this is addition by subtraction. We prefer to have addition by addition, but this will make downtown more attractive. Sadly, an empty lot is an improvement.

If the demolition is approved, it will be the third building this year to be demolished downtown.

These structures once had a grand place in Muskogee’s history, and in a way it is sad they had deteriorated into such disrepair. But because they had deteriorated so much, they were just old buildings — a shell of their former glory.

Of course, it would be nice if those buildings had remained bustling hubs of activity as the years went by. But they didn’t. The only activity they saw was deterioration.

Another Muskogee landmark nearly suffered a similar fate. Only a community effort saved the Roxy Theater from eventual demolition. Now that theater is a bustling hub of activity several times a week.

Removing these buildings should encourage businesses to move downtown, improving Muskogee and our quality of life in the process.