Leadership Square

Of Leadership Square, Bob Roloff wrote:

In 1976 I met with Mr. Dean McGee and Mr. Jack Conn of Fidelity Bank regarding the construction of an office building in the downtown area. The specific area they instructed me to work with was Couch Drive between Harvey and Robinson. They put the plan on “hold” but the building eventually became Leadership Square. Mr. McGee has always deserved the credit for the idea of closing and building over Couch Drive.


Without doubt, the most interesting project of my career was Leadership Square. Jack Duffner introduced me to the officers of Daon Development Corporation of Calgary, Canada. They were interested in developing a significant number of projects in Oklahoma City including industrial, commercial and residential areas. I.M. Pei had developed a plan for the Oklahoma City central business district and we decided to compete for the first office building to be built. Four teams (including ours) of architects and developers started design work on the project. I had been giving a lot of thought to finishing work in the office and retiring but here was a project that was exciting, and Daon Development was a great client who wanted to do the job right and expected nothing less than a first class building. The competition gave the four teams time enough to build models, make presentation drawings and three dimensional renderings. I spent weeks on the presentation. We had been told that we would have an hour to make our presentation. I had worked and worked to make my proposal fall in the sixty minute limit. When the day came to present our projects to the Urban Renewal Authority, we were told that our time would be limited to thirty minutes and Mr. Roloff would go first.

When I sat down as the second team started their thirty minutes, the president of Daon Corp. leaned over and whispered, “congratulations, we are going to build an office building.” It was not over because the U.R.A. had employed the Skidmore, Owings and Mevill firm to review and judge the entries. S.O.M. agreed that our submission was superior to the others and the project should be awarded to our team.

The chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority at that time was an ex-O.S.C. coach named Jim Lookabaugh. In spite of a lot of pressure, Mr. Lookabaugh kept politics out of the decision process as did his staff, Jim White, director and Dan Batchelor, lawyer for the U.R.A.

After the project had been awarded to our team, the attorney general at that time made a public statement that aliens (Canada) could not own real estate in Oklahoma. Every lawyer we talked to assured us that the attorney general was wrong, but Daon Development was not looking for a fight with someone who did not want them to spend their money improving housing, industrial and commercial activities in Oklahoma City. They decided to withdraw from the project and spend their money where it would be appreciated.

All of a sudden we had a project without a developer.

Jack Duffner and Kermit Schaeffer were involved with Daon Development from the first day Daon arrived in Oklahoma City and had expected to play a part in the Leadership Square project. They helped us look for a new developer and it wasn’t long before we started the paperwork to begin the project with Joe Love as the developer. Joe was okay but he was busy with other investments and delegated responsibility to people on his team. Many lacked the qualities necessary to make effective decisions and were a burden to work with.

We were well into construction documents for Leadership Square in 1980. Channel 25 TV station was under construction. I designed a small office building for Mutual Savings and Loan, a development plan for Couch Drive and a new building for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. Ed Cook had become head man at the chamber and proposed the building be located in Tivoli (Myriad) Gardens. Ed told me Mr. Gaylord did not like the selected location.

In 1981 we were working very hard on construction documents for Leadership Square and work in California. Jack Van Every is probably the finest architectural draftsperson I have ever known. Jack was an architect who not only produced more ink drawings in less time than anyone in the office but also coordinated and kept work moving through the office. I would have never been able to wind up with such a clean and well detailed building without Jack.

Bob fired the orginal HVAC contractor after the firm tried to grift $1,000,000 from the project. They were replaced by the Tom Boismier company, and Bob and Tom became the best of friends. The former contractor filed a million dollar lawsuit against the architecture firm, which was dismissed.