If there is one single building that is emblematic of what might be called the renaissance of Oklahoma City, it is the gleaming new Devon Energy Center by New Haven'based architects Pickard Chilton. Soaring 50 stories over the low-rise downtown, the glass-and-steel tower has quickly become a reference point and a thing of wonder in this emerging, though still rough-at-the-edges, prairie town.
Devon Energy, an independent oil and natural-gas exploration and production company, was founded in Oklahoma City in 1971. Following numerous acquisitions, it grew rapidly to about 2,000 employees who were spread out across five different aging buildings downtown. Recognizing the need to unite the offices, the company in 2006 relaunched 'Operation Scissortail,' a 2002 plan (named after the state bird) to develop a new corporate headquarters. Houston regularly wooed Devon, as it did other local energy interests. But management insisted on staying in Oklahoma City, refusing even to consider relocating to the suburbs, says Klaholt Kimker, the company's vice president of administration. 'We could see in future years the city was going to be great,' he says. Kimker credits, among other things, a shift in the local bureaucracy and the introduction of the MAPS program (a penny sales tax for metropolitan capital improvements) with spurring the city's transformation. 'Young leadership created an environment where Devon could stay and prosper,' he says.