This old furniture and lumber company building at the corner of Third Street and Peoria Avenue in the Pearl District would be demolished to construct a new Iron Gate soup kitchen and grocery pantry. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

Editor’s note:

Iron Gate late Monday notified the city’s Board of Adjustment staff that it will seek to continue its hearing before the board to Sept. 8.

The hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday.

The nonprofit needs BOA approval to move its soup kitchen from downtown Tulsa to Third Street and Peoria Avenue in the Pearl District.

Attorney Mac Rosser, representing Iron Gate, said the additional time would give the nonprofit time to address residents’ concerns about the project.

“We would like the opportunity to meet with anyone who has concerns so that we can hear what they have to say, provide them with additional information they may not be aware of, and work with them,” Rosser’s request for a continuance states.
“We previously met with everyone who received notice of the application, but a continuance would allow us to meet with this larger group.”

BOA staff reported Monday that it has received a petition signed by 400 people opposed to moving the soup kitchen to the Pearl District.

The request for a continuance must be approved by the Board of Adjustment.

The board meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday in City Council chambers of City Hall, Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue.

Here is my original story:

Every once in a blue moon, people pay attention to the city’s Board of Adjustment.

Tuesday will be one of those days. The board will be asked to resolve what is the city’s biggest development controversy — whether Iron Gate should be allowed to move its soup kitchen from Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati Ave., to the southwest corner of Third Street and Peoria Avenue in the Pearl District.

The plan is to demolish the dilapidated structure there, which once housed a furniture and lumber company, and replace it with a brand-new 16,000-square-foot soup kitchen and grocery pantry.

That can’t happen without the BOA granting Iron Gate a special exception to the zoning code. The special exception is needed because soup kitchens are not allowed by right on the property, which is zoned industrial.

The process, then, is pretty cut and dry. What isn’t so clear is the criteria board members must use to determine whether the special exception is warranted.

According to the city’s zoning code, for a special exception to be granted, the project must “be in harmony with the spirit and intent of the code, and will not be injurious to the neighborhood or otherwise detrimental to the public welfare.”

Of course, for every person who sees the project as “in harmony with the spirit and intent of the code” there is bound to be another who finds it “injurious” and “detrimental” to the public welfare.

City Councilor Blake Ewing, who represents the Pearl District, was unavailable for comment Monday. But a piece of paper stuck to the front of The Phoenix restaurant in the Pearl District asked people to sign a petition seeking to block the move. Ewing owns the restaurant.

“Good Organization but Bad Proposed Location,” the sign reads.

Count Charles Stockholm among those who see the project as potentially injurious to the neighborhood.

Stockholm, 76, owns Custom Motors, which sits directly across the street from the proposed soup kitchen site.

“A lot of people want to come down and eat and need to come down … not all the winos in town coming down here and getting some free groceries so they can sell them and get them a bottle of wine,” Stockholm said. “There is so much of that.”

Stockholm owned the property on which the old furniture and lumber company occupied, but sold it to Michael Sager.

Sager, who sits on the Downtown Coordinating Council, is best known for his company Blue Dome Properties LLC, which has invested heavily in downtown. He purchased the proposed soup kitchen site from Stockholm through a different company, Bricks and Mortar LLC.


This flyer promoting a petition against moving the Iron Gate soup kitchen to the Pearl District was posted on the door of  The Phoenix on Monday morning. The restaurant is owned by City Councilor Blake Ewing. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

He defended the Iron Gate move Monday, saying the new building would be a positive for the neighborhood.

“I think it is a fabulous use of the property.” he said. “The architecture, the investment. … I think it is fabulous.”

He called those who would use the city’s most vulnerable population to spread fear “terribly petty.”

“I think there is plenty of crime that is not attributable to the homeless and the people in need,” Sager said.

There you have it.

By the end of the day Tuesday, either Stockholm’s argument or Sager’s argument will have carried the day.

And there will be a soup kitchen in the Pearl District, or there won’t.

It is really no more complicated than that.