It sounds like an ideal project for someone in the renovation business, but it’s not a typical update. The building that needs to be reused is the city’s former electric generation facility. It was Stillwater’s main source of power until 2016, when a new power plant as opened.
The old building is filled with metal pipes, wheels, boxes – the trappings of a power plant.
“What we have to find is someone who not only has a dream and vision but someone who could make it work financially,” said John McClenny, special projects director for the city of Stillwater.
He has found someone who is trying to create a game plan for how the building could be renovated. California-based Primo Facchini works in taking building materials and reusing them. His daughter, Giovanna Facchini, is an Oklahoma State University student. She had approached the city on behalf of her father because he wanted to renovate some boarded-up houses in town. She met McClenny, who found out more about the family’s scrap-metal reuse business in California.
McClenny took Primo Facchini on a tour of the power plant. Where McClenny saw junk and scrap metal, Facchini saw art. He showed McClenny where a bar could be installed, and what might need to be removed to help make the building more attractive to a developer.
“Basically, I see a building to repurpose, keeping the character of the existing building and highlighting the past,” Facchini said.
Facchini met with SZFM Design Studio, based in San Francisco, which is doing a draft of how the building could be renovated.
He said the building’s biggest selling point is its lakefront location. He said if it was surrounded by 100 acres, it wouldn’t be that attractive. But he thinks there could be a family area in the front, with picnic spots, and the old pipes could be turned into grills.
He’s interested in being a financial partner in the project. With his daughter and future son-in-law planning to live in Stillwater, he wants to do some work in the area.
“People like to see things repurposed,” he said. “When people walk into a building and see something that used to be there, it really delights them.”
McClenny said the city would like to have a partnership with someone but he didn’t know what that would look like on the city’s side. The original idea was to sell all the electric utility pipes and pieces inside for scrap metal and use that as seed money for a developer.
Since Facchini said the pipes could help with redevelopment, the scrap-metal plan is off the table.
The city hasn’t issued a formal request for proposals because it’s still trying to see what could be done with the building. The plant was constructed in the 1950s, so it could be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. But that’s a decision made by the owner.
McClenny said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is doing a phase 1 evaluation to see what could be a concern inside the building, such as lead batteries.
But there’s no timeline on the project, he said. They won’t give up anytime soon.
Facchini said since the building has been monitored by the city, and was used until a couple of years ago, it’s still in good shape. It has great integrity, he said.
“Anyone that wants to invest in this place needs to have a rock-solid plan,” McClenny said.