The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 12, 2013

Panel approves variance to Broadway Tower fire regs

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Even though the historic Broadway Tower does not meet full fire regulations, there are enough proposed safety features to proceed with the site plan, a city panel agreed Wednesday.

The Construction Board of Adjustment and Appeals voted to recommend a variance to the fire code that requires two separate methods of escaping the structure. The 14-story tower currently only has one — a stairwell that leads to the first floor lobby. Two elevators in the structure, including the building’s original lever-operated machine, are not included in the tally, said Enid Fire Marshall Ken Helms.

The tower is being developed into a boutique, or themed hotel, with probably eight floors of rooms, said developer Johnny Peart. The remaining floors will house offices, and the ground floor will have retail and restaurant space.

Peart said a new design will reinforce the upper level hallways to match the protection afforded inside the stairwell.

“When you go into a staircase, it has a certain fire rating. What we developed was, as soon as you come out of your room, it’s all protected as though it were a staircase,” he said. “Essentially, when you’re in the hallway, you have more protection there than you would in most hotels you’ve ever been in.”

Peart also noted the space in front of the elevators will be reinforced and will be an area of refuge. The elevator doors are programmed to not open on floors where a fire alarm has sounded, he said.

During the meeting, Helms said he was not opposed to the variance request, but asked the board to consider it anyway. Among the recommendations from the panel that Peart said he would institute includes construction of a separate exit from the stairwell that leads directly outside, rather than down to the lobby.

“It’s going to cost money, but we don’t object because it’s important to us that the building is safe,” he said.

The board also recommended the fire department inspect the building twice a year, rather than annually.

Escape routes along the outside of the building are not feasible because the tower already takes up so much of the property, he said. The building does have a sprinkler system.

Peart is hopeful Broadway Tower Hotel will be open by September.

“As soon as we have the plans (approved by the city), we think the first set of rooms will be open within 100 days,” he said.