After having covered Bricktown for more than a dozen years, you begin to see the cliche mistakes the minute they begin.
Here’s a classic. Guy comes into Bricktown buying up property without knowing how the district works and employs a suburban real estate broker who is also clueless about the intricacies of a seasonal entertainment district.
Before long, the same delusion comes into play: “Why can’t I get $20 a square foot for my space? After all, this is Bricktown! I’m here to get rich!”
Now, this guy might be blessed with having good stable tenants who actually pay their rent on time and cause no problems (believe me, this isn’t as common in Bricktown as one might think).
But their rents aren’t at $20 per square foot. So what’s next? You guessed it – he’s going to double the rent knowing he’ll lose the good stable tenant. He thinks a new lease will be easygoing – heck, his suburban real estate guy even thinks so!
Now, let’s back up a second.
The first floor of the Kingman Building, formerly home to Othello’s, has been empty a year. It has yet to attract a good stable tenant since it was first occupied by a troublesome nightclub that drew gang members.
The old location of the Laughing Fish has been empty at least two years.
The old Daquari Zone has been empty for a year.
The old Varsity has been empty for months. It’s about to be leased to a nightclub, which is widely considered a downgrade for a property.
The future home of the American Banjo Museum was empty for years after a Chinese restaurant failed there a few years ago.
The Bricktown Canal is littered with empty space. That space hasn’t gone empty due to a lack of interest. Instead, the owners decided a decade ago that they can demand $20 to $25 a square foot in rent with no finish out. And so you have everything frozen in place as if it’s 1999. The owners willing to make deals for canal level space have tenants on the canal. Those who were demanding $20 or more per square foot for empty space still have empty space.
That’s just a small sampling of how “easy” it is to do deals in Bricktown. These property owners never seem to know what they had until they’ve brushed it off. And some of the people who came in with no experience and acting like Bricktown is like any other real estate are losing their shirts.
Now, I’m not saying any of this is related to what’s coming next, but….
Uncommon Grounds, the coffee shop on the ground floor of the Mercantile Building is closing in December. Gary Berlin, who bought the building a year or so ago, confirmed he tried to double the shop’s rent after the lease expired. He thinks he’ll have no problem leasing the space for an even higher amount of rent once it’s empty.
He said there is no truth to a rumor at OKC Talk that he has a new tenant lined up for the space. Uncommon Grounds has been in business since 1995.