Radio star

Like his grandmother, during the past quarter century, Fudge has developed his own hunger for saving items of historical significance, including restoring historic homes and buildings, an interest he shares with his wife, Shannon.

Their shared passion led them to renovate Kamp’s Grocery; the Cameron Building; and homes in Oklahoma City’s older neighborhoods, such as Linwood, Crestwood, Jefferson Park and The Paseo.

But in recent years, the efforts of the Fudges and others have been to revitalize the Film Exchange District from what some once considered akin to a Skid Row into the city’s newest darling and fastest growing district.

Today, Film Row’s buildings from the district’s heyday in the 1920s and 1930s have been revived and repurposed for modern enterprises. In the past, films were brought into the area by train and theater owners screened them on-site prior to showing them to the general public. Vendors also used the district’s buildings to supply theater owners with concession supplies and equipment. For nearly 65 years, most major movie production studios, including MGM, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Fox and Universal, had film exchange distribution offices there.

But when the Hollywood distribution system changed, Film Row later became dilapidated. Shady bars, prostitutes and drugs became a common problem for the area.

Fudge says he first became interested in Film Row after being approached by David Wanzer, who wrote his architectural college thesis on the Film Exchange District. As the founder and chairman of Claims Management Resources and various other companies, Fudge decided in 2004 to buy his first building there at 614 W. Sheridan Ave.

“We’re an overnight success that took nine years,” he says, laughing. “When we started down here, I thought that it was the only quadrant in the central business district not being developed. Everything was moving back Downtown, and it seemed to me the only quadrant that had any real opportunity left
was the Film Exchange District. I felt like it had the brand on the
market because anything to do with film or the movies has a cachet. I
thought it was something we could uniquely brand.”

Today,
Fudge and his wife own more than a dozen addresses in Film Row. They
are co-owners of the popular Joey’s Pizzeria. Their latest projects
include the filled-to-capacity Hart Building (formerly Hart &
Industrial Supply, 726 W. Sheridan Ave.), and the soon-to-be completed
Slivr Building. State and federal historical rehab tax-credit programs
were a huge driver in deciding to invest in the area, Fudge says.

Fudge
renovated the Hart Building with the expert help of Bill Gumerson and
Associates. One way to breathe new life into Film Row was to make it
affordable for nonprofits such as Individual Artists of Oklahoma, which
has its gallery there.

Fudge
says he originally wanted to be a lawyer, perhaps following in the
footsteps of his politician grandfather, Hugh Sandlin, who served in
both the Oklahoma House and Senate. Still, he decided to join his
family’s bill collection business after a trip to Europe. The trip was a
gift from his parents when he graduated from Oklahoma State University.
By 1988, Fudge founded his own company, also named CMR, with a much
larger business portfolio.

“If I had to make my living in real estate or redevelopment, I’d probably starve to death,” Fudge says.

COME ONE, COME ALL

Described
as a family- and pet-friendly event organized by IAO, Premiere on Film
Row features live music, art exhibitions, film screenings, gourmet food
trucks and an indoor interactive park.

“IAO
has brought a lot of people into the area, and now, every third Friday
of the month, we’ll have a happening known as Premiere on Film Row,”
Fudge says.

Last
spring, Fudge’s restoration efforts were recognized by Oklahoma City’s
16th Street Plaza District Association when he was awarded the 2013
Urban Pioneer Award.

“I like to find historical
buildings and put them back together again,” he says. “Because Oklahoma
is such a young state, we have brick buildings that were built in the
1920s and 1930s. They’ve been absorbed in my passion to put them back
together and restored … or at least to make sure they’re protected and
put back together in fun and interesting ways.”

One
tenant of the Hart Building who appreciates Fudge’s efforts is Kelly
Burley, KOSU Radio’s director. The station celebrated its grand opening
in September 2013. He says Film Row is a perfect fit for KOSU’s needs.

“We
went through a strategic survey and determined we needed a place where
we could engage with the community in a whole new way with more local
news and music,” Burley says. “Chip Fudge was the catalyst, and we began
talking two years ago about having a presence in the Film Row District.
He was retrofitting the Hart Building. We were looking for a space
where we could invite the public, and we worked out a great arrangement.

“Now
we’re seeing the success of what he’s done with the Hart Building.
We’re seeing folks like 21c Museum Hotels looking at renovating the
historic Fred Jones plant, the new charter school and new development
around Stage Center.”

Burley
says one of the things he likes best about being in the Hart Building,
and on Film Row, is the sense of vitality in the area.

“There
is an incredible energy in that building,” he says. “It is absolutely
fabulous to be a part of the revitalization of that building and
district.”

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