- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Leo’s BBQ has been a staple in the metro since the mid-1970s, founded by Leo Smith. After Smith’s death, his son, Charles Smith, decided to venture from the original restaurant at 3631 N. Kelley Ave. and take his father’s famous barbecue downtown.

Charles Smith worked for six months selling barbecue in front of a liquor store in order to save the money to purchase a building and equipment. Eventually, he was able to purchase the building at 7 Harrison Ave.

He opened Leo’s downtown in 1995 and was there for 18 years. The property was also home to a bail bond company.

“(Leo’s downtown) was good while it lasted,” Charles Smith said. “I was glad I had the opportunity to do what I did down there. I had to move on,” he told The Journal Record (https://bit.ly/1iTptkN).

The building was sold in January and purchased by E2Two LLC, which includes architect Rand Elliott. Elliott has had an office in the area for 19 years. Elliott said he and his partners thought they would be able to improve the property.

Elliott and his partners then had a historic analysis study conducted to see if there was any redeeming value in the property built in 1930. The study included an inspection by a structural engineer and analyzing the condition of the building.

“It was determined that the building had really outlived its useful life,” Elliott said. “We decided it was in the best interest of the neighborhood to remove the building.”

The 6,787-square-foot building has been approved for demolition by the Downtown Design Review Committee.

Smith said he was sad to see the building go, but he understood the evolution of cities.

“I hate to hear that they’re doing demolition on the building,” he said. “Sometimes all good things must come to an end. You never know when the Leo’s on 36th and Kelley will come to an end. Old buildings get torn down so new buildings can get put up.”

Tearing down a building is usually Elliott’s last option when he’s looking at a project. He said the building doesn’t have any significant historic value.

“I take this process very seriously,” he said. “I consider myself a preservationist.”

He said the company’s goal is to improve the property by building something better than the existing building. As to what that will be, the plan is still being discussed. He said he did not know when the building would come down, but it would be soon.

The building is in the Automobile Alley district of downtown, so a demolition permit filed on a downtown building drew the attention of Jane Jenkins, executive director of Downtown OKC Inc. She said anytime a building is planned to be demolished, the organization is concerned with what will replace it.

She said she believes Elliot’s project will improve the property.

“I have the ultimate confidence in Rand Elliott as a downtown guy and as an architect, whatever he puts there will better than what is there now,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what (Elliott) will do to make the property better.”

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Information from: The Journal Record, https://www.journalrecord.com


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