Going downtown 

“For several years, the university and the law school have been looking for a location in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City,” said OCU Law Dean Valerie Couch. “Just being all under one roof is going to be wonderful for us.”

In 2009, before Couch came aboard, law school officials considered a possible relocation to the former Fred Jones manufacturing building at 900 W. Main. That deal did not come to fruition, but university leaders didn’t stop looking.

In late 2012, OCU made an offer to buy the old high school building at 800 N. Harvey. American Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance Co., the building’s owner, accepted the $10 million offer.

Built in 1910, the building was purchased by Southwestern Bell in the 1980s and converted to office space.

“We will be returning this building to its original purpose,” Couch said.

OCU officials are still working out the logistics of the move and renovation back to classroom space and the addition of mock courtroom and clinic space, while also making it a venue for community and university meetings and events. Couch said the project will likely cost up to $7 million. Farmers and Ranchers, which has offices in the building, has the option to stay for two years, although renovation plans are under way.

“We’re in the process of trying to estimate that more carefully now that we have access to the building,” Couch said, standing in the former auditorium space in the building.

OCU President Robert Henry is not knocking on the law school’s door with an eviction notice, but he said that opening up the space will allow other departments — such as the arts, sciences and theater programs — room to grow.

“Not only will relocating the law school give OCU a dynamic presence downtown, but it also provides us an opportunity to expand on-campus resources for undergraduates,” he said.

Couch said law students will benefit from being within walking distance of many law firms and courthouses and in close proximity to the state Capitol.

“There is just such a density of opportunity in downtown Oklahoma City,” she said.

Robert Haupt, director at the law firm Phillips Murrah and an OCU law school graduate, said it just makes sense to move the law school downtown for students and the downtown law community.

“It furthers the relationship and the connection between students, i.e. future lawyers, and the legal community,” he said. “And it works hand in hand in furthering the growth of the school and enhancement of the legal community.”

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