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Affordable housing by Frank Lloyd Wright? HUD may make it happen

Architect’s famous Price Tower in Oklahoma may get affordable apartments thanks to federal grant

The exterior of the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed skyscraper.
Randy Lane: Flickr/Creative Commons

Living in a Frank Lloyd Wright home is a rare privilege for fans of the legendary architect. But a federal grant in Oklahoma may create an even more unique opportunity to live within a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed apartment.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is exploring the option of creating affordable apartments within Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Frank Lloyd Wright’s first skyscraper, according to the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.

According to the article, the Bartlesville Redevelopment Trust Authority (BRTA) plans to use a $500,000 Hope VI Main Street grant to rehabilitate four apartments in the building to create affordable housing, and the organization recently submitted plans for the conversion to HUD.

“The project will take three of the original two-level apartments on six floors and rehabilitate them into new rental apartments,” Chris Wilson, executive director of BRTA, told the Examiner-Enterprise. “They will be restored in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.”

Based on a Wright blueprint for a Manhattan apartment building first sketched in the 1920s, the Price Tower is an asymmetrical, 19-story building Wright described as “the tree that escaped the crowded forest.” Opened in 1956, it was commissioned by Harold Price, owner of a local oil and chemical company. Currently, the building is split between a hotel and restaurant, the Inn and Price Tower and Copper Restaurant, and the Price Tower Arts Center.

HUD is excited about the project, per Wilson, but the difficulty in converting Wright’s angular design meant bringing in architects from the department’s San Francisco office. There are multiple challenges to face in the potential conversion, including reconfiguring the kitchens and bathrooms and installing new HVAC systems and window treatments. All the units will have elevator access, and due to the difficulty of moving in furniture, will come fully furnished. One of the units will be ADA accessible, as required by the grant.

So far, there are no estimates as to the potential completion date of the project, or the possible monthly rent for such units.

Initially, the Hope VI Main Street grant was going to be spent on rehabilitation of the former Memorial Hospital site, but since the overall renovation plan hasn’t come together, funding was reallocated before the September 2020 spending deadline.