More than 100 supporters of businesses that could be displaced by a rezoning application gathered at a community meeting in Oklahoma City Monday night.
Neighborhood residents and customers of businesses located in the Donnay building have rallied to support the building’s tenants since Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores applied to rezone the lot in July. At a meeting at the Crown Heights Christian Church Monday night, attendees expressed concerns about the rezoning to representatives from the company.
Tenants of the Donnay building include the HiLo Club, Drunken Fry, Classen Grill and other small businesses. Braum’s intends to demolish the building, located on the corner of Northwest 50th Street and Classen Circle, and replace it with a new restaurant.
Many at the meeting praised the HiLo Club, one of the city’s first gay bars, as a hub for the LGBT community. Others said the Donnay building was a welcoming venue for local musicians and artists to showcase their work.
Some cited concerns that a new Braum’s location would bring an unsustainable amount of traffic to Classen Circle.
Many expressed a feeling of betrayal that Braum’s, a local franchise, would displace beloved community businesses. Some said they would boycott Braum’s if the company did not withdraw its rezoning application.
Marilyn Tate, who has lived in the same neighborhood as the Donnay Building for more than 20 years, told Braum’s representatives her children have not eaten at the restaurant since the rezoning application was filed.
“Good gosh, you are supposed to be family. We have supported you,” Tate said.
One attendee said she supports Braum’s intention to demolish the Donnay building.
“That building is falling down. It should be condemned. It should have been condemned a long time ago,” Deanna Waltens said.
Waltens lived across the street from the building for eight years, before moving in 2003. She still owns property nearby, which she rents to tenants. She said the activity surrounding the Donnay building and its deteriorating conditions have made her tenants feel unsafe.
Rod Meyer, owner of the Drunken Fry and Grease Trap, two businesses that occupy the Donnay building, announced during the meeting he would buy the building if Braum’s agreed to withdraw the rezoning application.
“It’s a nostalgic piece of property and I don’t want to see it go anywhere. I’m about preserving things in the community and not taking things away that affect people in a negative manner,” Meyer said.
Meyer said he previously tried to buy the building, but was unable to secure bank loans. He said he now has the funds to make the purchase and renovate the building.
David Box, the attorney representing Braum’s, said he does not know whether community input will affect Braum’s decision.
“We’re going to take all the concerns and questions that were raised back to the ownership and go from there,” Box said.
City Councilman Ed Shadid advised those who opposed the rezoning to focus on the legal grounds for challenging it.
“If you want to fight and win, you have to have legal representation,” he told attendees.
He advised them to hire a lawyer and conduct a traffic study to assess the impact of a new Braum’s location.
Shadid said the rezoning was just one example of the trend of large companies buying private properties and repurposing them for their own gain.
“What is the precedent if this is allowed to happen?” he said.