Center proposal unveiled
New owners focus on restoring ‘jewel.’
By Steve Lackmeyer
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Edition: City, Section: BUSINESS, Page 1B
A Los Angeles-based partnership that is building a $325 million condominium tower in Las Vegas announced Monday “several million” will be spent to restore Oklahoma City’s First National Center as downtown’s “crown jewel.”
Alliance Property Investments Inc. and Carla Ridge LLC., both affiliated with Milbank Real Estate Services, closed on the $21 million cash purchase of the building on Friday.
Milbank will manage the building and oversee renovations.
Jason Little, who along with Gary Gregory of Sperry Van Ness represented the buyers, said the group typically moves fast with development and won’t settle for the First National Center remaining 66 percent vacant. But offices may not be the only future tenants.
“Their goal is to spend the money to bring back First National,” Little said. “They’re not ruling out partial condominium conversion. They’ve done condominiums, both new and adaptive reuse.”
Little did not identify principals of the buying partnership, and officials with Milbank could not be reached for comment. Milbank’s Web site, www.milbankre.com, describes the company as one that transforms undeveloped land and distressed properties into “profitable, community enhancing developments.”
“Our promise is to develop new projects and renovate distressed properties, filling voids in surrounding neighborhoods while producing substantial returns for client investments,” the Web site states.
Reopen hall to public
Immediate plans include reopening the Great Banking Hall to the public.
The entrance was roped off by the previous owners and remained empty since Boatman’s Bank (now Bank of America) abandoned the tower in 1993 and moved across the street to Leadership Square.
“It will be used for special events,” Little said. “They want to restore it as the focal point of the building. It’s too remarkable a space not to be utilized.”
First National Tower has been a downtown icon for 75 years, with additions built in 1957 and 1972.
Milbank’s online portfolio indicates First National would be the company’s first building outside of California and Nevada.
Among the company’s properties is the Figueroa Tower in Los Angeles, which twice won the “Office Building of the Year” award from the Building Owner and Managers Association, and “The Roosevelt,” a $125 million redevelopment of the Roosevelt Building from offices into 223 luxury condominiums.
Other projects include development of two 35 story luxury condominium towers in Phoenix and construction of the 45-story “Sky Las Vegas” condominiums along the Las Vegas strip.
Little said despite the company’s residential development, the owners may also look at restoring the First National from Class C to Class A office space.
Under either scenario, Little said the owners are looking to retain current office tenants.
“The last Class A office space built in downtown Oklahoma City was 20 years ago,” Little said. “Downtown has not had a breath of fresh air when it comes to office space in 20 years.”
Dave Lopez, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., said he is eager to learn more about the new owners’ intentions.
“I think the opportunity to have a mixed use is a double blessing for downtown,” Lopez said. “Not only do we get increased residential opportunities, which research shows we need, but we also start to trim down our office vacancies.”