I’ve not stopped thinking about Jeff Click’s suggestion that I host a get-together on downtown housing.
I’m going to invite Jeff and maybe one other suburban home builder. I’m going to invite a downtown housing developer (maybe Richard McKown, who has experience with suburban and urban). I’m going to invite a longtime downtown resident and active member of Urban Neighbors (Paige Gregory, come on down!). And I’m hoping to convince a married individual with spouse, child, who has been frustrated in their search for a home for their family downtown.
The format will go as follows: I’ll join this small group at a table, ask questions, get a conversation going. People will be invited to sit in, listen, and after 45-60 minutes of the table conversation, questions will be invited from those listening in. If you don’t like this process, feel free to email me with alternative ideas. My idea is this – I want to get a good conversation going, the kind of conversation I’ve enjoyed many a time, but could never share with readers. To create this sort of conversation, it needs to be limited to just a few people before opening it up to everybody. I know, I know, this all may sound a bit unusual. I’m even going off range with this, doing it on my own time, off the clock. It’s not an official Oklahoman or NewsOK event, just me wanting to learn more about the community I cover. And I’ll be doing what I do every day – just with you readers as spectators.
If there is a downtown restaurant or business that would like to host our get together, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise I’ll just randomly pick a place I fancy.
Look for this to take place later this month or in early July.
An intriguing idea came up in the comments on my post yesterday on downtown housing. Let’s run with it. If I were to “host” an “OKC Central chat” on downtown for-sale housing, maybe after work over dinner, drinks, with some of you tagging along. Now, if we do this, who would be the ideal guests?
Here’s my list so far, with no significance to the order:Jane Jenkins, Cathy O’Connor, Nick Preftakes, P.B Odom, Richard McKown, Anthony McDermid, Jeff Click, Ron Bradshaw, Blair Humphreys, Dick Coyle, Marva Ellard, Mickey Clagg, Paige Gregory, more???
What I’m looking at, essentially, would be a really great dinner conversation that would welcome “spectators” to listen in, and maybe ask questions at the end. I’m really just winging it here, making it up as I go along, so ideas are welcome as I think this through.
The following comment was just left on my post about Twitter reflecting attitudes toward downtown:
Comment by Shelly on June 1, 2011 @ 11:23 am | Edit This
Again, I am not in my 20′s or 30′s but my husband and I would love to live downtown. But for our life style there seems to be nothing in our price range. We need more than 1000 sq feet and less than 250,000 grand. Where is our spot? And I am sure there are more of us!!!
Shelly, you’re not alone. I count at least a couple dozen of you who have expressed this frustration to me. I’ve heard all the reasons and excuses, but truth be told, with all that the city is doing to revive the urban core, I struggle to understand why it can’t team up with the private sector to address this market need. I know some of THE CITY’S (change as correctly suggested by Jeff Click) best and brightest builders and developers are daily readers of this blog. Guys, gals, what will it take to get you to build a home for Shelly and dozens like her?
Downtown on the Range blogger and urban planning student Nick Roberts has compiled his own “grid” analysis of the MidTown Mercy hospital site proposals. He has a very different take on “experience.”
The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority board met today. Director JoeVan Bullard gave a brief run-down of the committee evaluation of the bids to develop the old Mercy Hospital site in MidTown. He noted the committee concluded none of the proposals were perfect. He went on to say, however, that “two” of the proposals had far more pros than cons.
As noted on this blog, if a grid were done on those pros and cons, it would have quite a few gaps for four of the five proposals.
Bullard advised the board they will need to reserve quite a bit of time to hear the proposals, and asked if they wanted to hear two or three of them. He went on to say that to hear three proposals they would need about three hours.
New chairman Larry Nichols countered the board needed to “do the right thing” and hear all the proposals. Bullard reminded the board the Home Creations proposal did not match up with the request for proposals. Nichols responded that Home Creations should be told as much, and if they want to make modifications and still do a presentation, they are welcome to do so.
The presentations will be heard sometime next month with the exact date and time yet to be determined.
Urban Renewal director JoeVan Bullard is taking issue with the suggestion that the report on the old Mercy Hospital site leaves questions about the criteria used and whether the projects were evaluated on an equal basis.
More often than not, a grid that sets out how each proposal fares with each criteria is used for such analysis (and one is being used in the site selection for a new convention center).
So let’s try and take the information available and see for ourselves whether the same criteria is being used with each project.
The report begins with an extensive explanation on how the use of HUD financing can slow a project. And yet this criteria seems to only be used on the proposal submitted by Marva Ellard, and is not mentioned on any of the other proposals.
So, let’s submit just three categories to the grid:
1. HUD FINANCING AS A POSSIBLE DELAY IN STARTING PROJECT:
Ellard: HUD financing, cited as a con with statement: “redeveloper’s availability to timely execute.”
Henderson/Brooks: HUD financing, no such mention
Wiggin: HUD financing, no such mention
Tanenbaum: Not relying on HUD financing, not listed as a “pro.”
Home Creations: Unclear.
Ellard: Cited as con, “large commercial space: 49,450 sf,” does not explain that the proposal suggests much of the commercial space is designed to be “flexible” and could be turned into additional apartments.
Wiggin: Cited as a pro, “Commercial space: 24,000 sf”
Henderson/Brooks: Cited as a con, no retail space along Walker.
Tanenbaum: Cited as a con, no retail space along Walker.
Home Creations: Cited as a con, “Commercial space: 36,000 sf to 68,000 sf”
3. EXPERIENCE (Now this is an interesting criteria. Are we to assume this means “outsiders, you’re not welcome to play in this game?”)
Ellard: No comment made on Ellard’s development of the Sieber Hotel Apartments or involvement with The Hill, an Urban Renewal housing project in Deep Deuce.
Wiggin: Cited as a pro, “Familiar with OCURA procedures, successful developer.”
Henderson/Brooks: Cited as a pro, “Familiar with OCURA procedures, successful developer.” No mention is made on the team’s difficulties meeting deadlines, deviations from original proposal on last Urban Renewal project, the Legacy at Arts Quarter.
Tanenbaum: Cited as a pro, “Experienced developer with proven success record” Doesn’t make clear this is Tanenbaum’s first attempt at an Urban Renewal project.
Home Creations: No comment made on experience; the developer has decades of experience building homes in the Metro, but has not previously attempted an Urban Renewal project.
Now, what follows are criteria used to favor Henderson/Brooks that are not mentioned as a pro or con with the other proposals:
- Good exterior elevation variances for historic appearances
- Roof top amenities of dog park and community patio
- Good parking structure aesthetics
- Flexible open living floor plans
- Attractive street level unit entrances
The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority issued a request for proposals for housing on the former Mercy hospital. Their request set out certain rules that required developers to invest time and money in submitting their proposals. Is it respectful, is it professional, is it appropriate to deny the five responding development teams a chance to make their pitch to Urban Renewal commissioners?
When you have groups proposing to invest millions in redeveloping the inner-city, what message is being sent if one, two or more of these teams are told, in essence, “don’t bother making a pitch to us, don’t call us, we’ll call you?”
As I write this, I recall how one developer who responded to Urban Renewal’s effort to restore the Skirvin hotel came up with a proposal that simply didn’t comply with the spirit of the city’s objectives. But that developer, Paul Coury, was treated with respect, allowed to make his pitch, and ultimately he was recruited to convert the Colcord building, which was then tired and worn out, into a plush boutique hotel. What opportunity, if any, might be lost if such respect isn’t given to all of the developers bidding for the Mercy hospital site?
UPDATE: I think it’s important to add this comment made by Jeff Click, former president of the Central Oklahoma Homebuilders Association and the group’s 2009 homebuilder of the year:
It would be one thing if there were dozens of proposals, but with a mere five, why not give them each the respect of a 10-minute presentation? They deserve it, and I would think that much could be gleamed from a personal presentation that could never be captured on paper or in 3D modeling, at least in regard to the people and personalities behind the presentation.
Aside from what message it might send to these five applicants, there are other developers in healthy positions, looking for the next opportunity that may, or now may not, consider pursuing such projects under authority of OCURA if only look forward to this kind of “talk to the hand” perceived treatment.
The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority is taking its third shot at trying to find the right development mix for the old Mercy Hospital site at NW 13 and Walker in MidTown.
On the second go-around I noted the following bit of intrigue:
Urban Renewal commissioners have as a guide a citizen’s review report that recommends Overholser Greens, praising it for complementing Heritage Hills neighborhood to the north and criticizing Mercy Park because it includes apartments and retail.
But a look at the membership of the citizen’s committee shows that while it includes a longtime resident of Heritage Hills, it doesn’t include anyone from MidTown.
The Mercy site is in MidTown — not Heritage Hills.
Greg Banta, who is developing more than 30 properties in MidTown and is one of the district’s most influential voices, isn’t taking sides and was not invited to participate in the review.
But he questions the citizen group’s comments against retail. He wonders — isn’t mixed retail what urban development is all about?
What followed the next four years shows such concerns were well-placed. Chuck Wiggin won the development bid even as Urban Renewal commissioners were being warned that his model of high dollar condos – the one favored by the Heritage Hills crowd – was about to crash. The mix of apartments and retail pitched by his unsuccessful competitor, Marva Ellard, is now being sought out as the goal with this latest effort to redevelop the site.
So now the Urban Renewal Authority will be meeting at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to possibly decide which of the five current proposals they will want to hear – essentially by doing so they will be narrowing the list down to a group of finalists no matter how much they might deny it.
So the the report that was sent to commissioners on Friday will weigh quite a bit on who they might choose to advance to the final round.
I’m calling this report out. I am questioning whether this report was either badly written or written with the purpose of steering selection to one developer over the others.
Consider what some might say are blatant contradictions:
- The proposal by Marva Ellard is cited for being “suburban” in its footprint, and yet the proposal by Chuck Wiggin, which is almost identical to Ellard’s, is praised for being “urban.”
- Wiggin and yet another team, Mike Henderson and Gary Brooks, are given credit for their experience with Urban Renewal on previous projects, and yet there is no mention of how either team failed to meet deadlines on their previous projects, and Ellard is not given credit for her experience as part of the original team with The Hill in Deep Deuce.
- The exterior elevation on Wiggin’s proposal is knocked for looking “institutional.” Yet it features a retail mix on the first floor, and from my view, it was remarkably similar in scale to the much praised exterior elevation for the Henderson/Brooks proposal. There is also no mention in the report about how drawings submitted by Henderson and Brooks for their last Urban Renewal project, Legacy at Arts Quarter, were dramatically altered by the time the project was actually built. Did the committee not discuss this at all? If it wasn’t, why not? And if it was, why not include that in the evaluation of the Henderson/Brooks proposal?
- Another “huh” moment occurs with the following critical comment on Ellard: “redeveloper’s availability to timely execute.” Really? Really? From what I saw, there is no difference in the scheduling and financing of these projects between Ellard, Henderson/Brooks and Wiggin. They all rely on HUD financing, which they all will have to apply for and go through the red tape of waiting for approval. Ellard and Henderson/Brooks have experience working with HUD (there is no indication of any experience for Wiggin). If any of the developers have an advantage in this category, it’s Tanenbaum, who has $20 million in financing READY and is most likely of any of this group to start construction this year.
- Ellard’s inclusion of retail space is listed as a “con” in the report, and yet it’s listed as a “pro” for Wiggin. Yet another “HUH?”
There’s more contradictions, I’m sure. I asked Urban Renewal director JoeVan Bullard to let me attend the committee discussion. I was denied the request on the basis of the old excuse of needing to foster a “free and open discussion” and that I’d get in the way of that. I’ve known Bullard for many years, I’ve known him to be an honest and hard-working civil servant. But this report makes me question – are there other reasons for not wanting “Lackmeyer in the room”?
Does this report really reflect the discussions of the committee, which consisted of Assistant City Manager Cathy O’Connor, Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. President Jane Jenkins, University of Oklahoma architecture professor Bob Goines, Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber economic development Vice President Robin Roberts-Kreiger, former Urban Renewal executive Dave Jones, St. Anthony Hospital President Joe Hodges, and Heritage Hills Association President Steve Jacobi.
Read the “committee report” and ask – is this written as an honest, fair evaluation of all proposals, or is it skewed toward one developer?
OCURA MERCY RFP REVIEW
Review Committee: 01 April 2011
Terry Taylor Joe Hodges Russell Claus
Catherine O’Connor Robert Goins David Jones
Robin Roberts-Krieger Jane Jenkins Steve Jacobi
Committee member’s advocated principles, observations, and considerations to be applied for the potential redevelopment of the Mercy site are;
The important key elements in the redevelopment of the OCURA Mercy site should be accomplished through thoughtful negotiations that focus on an original, attractive, unique quality project of urban durability and sustainability which enhances and compliments the adjacent neighborhoods and becomes a “cornerstone” for additional Midtown redevelopment.
Architectural design integrity is essential for this “special” site.
A “back door” appearance on any side of the project should be avoided.
The project should have a residential quality appearance, establishing a defined and recognizable image that contributes to the protection of the Heritage Hills and Mesta Park neighborhoods.
Establishing a theme corner at NW 12th and Walker to encourage the continued retail\commercial redevelopment of Walker from the existing retail node concentrated at Walker and NW 10th needs to be explored.
Project design\layout should encourage and promote the continued redevelopment of NW 12th.
“Green” features and amenities should be incorporated throughout the entire project including “rooftop” venues adjacent to NW 12th.
Vehicular access from NW 13th is not desirable and should not be permitted.
Use of HUD financing (221(d)4) can be tedious and lengthy, which could slow the commencement of construction. Unfortunately, based on current market conditions HUD assisted funding appears to be the only source available other than private equity. However, founding a successful sustainable exclusive urban development should be the foremost consideration for this exclusive site.
OCURA MERCY SITE
April 01, 2011 Page 2
The Committee’s following general observations were derived from the Redeveloper’s proposal.
Connection at Midtown (Tanenbaum)
Unit sizes; 475 sf to 980 sf
Monthly rental; $1.18/sf to $1.38/sf
Suburban apartment appearance
Setback from property line
Compacted common area\space close to units
Parking access from NW 13th
Low equity investment
Durability and quality concerns due to low construction costs
No “character” on NW 12th
No commercial component on Walker
Good density of 268 units (97 units/acre)
Multi floor plans
Good access from parking structure levels to units
Good green landscape usage
Short construction period
Experienced developer with proven success record
The Marquette on Walker Option (Ellard)
Unit sizes; 697 sf to 1,553 sf
Monthly rental; $1.33/sf to $1.40/sf
Suburban appearance with divided structures
Low density of 150 units (54 units/acre)
Vehicle access from NW 13th, NW 12th, Walker and Dewey
Large commercial component on NW 13th, Walker and NW 12th
Large Commercial space: 49,450 sf
Redeveloper’s availability to timely execute
Good “green” elements (LEED)
Pedestrian entrances on all streets
Quality and durable project experience
Recognizes historical importance
Available parking for neighbors; church and school
OCURA MERCY SITE
April 01, 2011 Page 3
Edge at Midtown (Brooks-Henderson)
Unit sizes; 683 sf to 1,442 sf
Monthly rental; $.97/sf to $1.12/sf
Setback from property line
No commercial component on Walker
Visitor vehicle access from Walker not compatible with pedestrian usage
Good site plan
Good density of 250 units (91units/acre)
Good exterior elevation variances for historic appearances
Roof top amenities of dog park and community patio
Good parking structure aesthetics
Good location of parking structure with Dewey access
Direct access from parking structure levels to units
Interacts with NW 12th
Flexible open living floor plans
Attractive street level unit entrances
Available parking for neighbors; church and school
Experienced with OCURA procedures and established success record
Mercy Site Redevelopment (Wiggin-Huffman)
Unit sizes; 500 sf to 1,500 sf)
Monthly rental; $1.25/sf
Exterior elevation lacks urban character, very “institutional”.
3 bedroom units; 56
Expensive project: construction, A&E, marketing, etc.
Good site plan
Quality and urban durability reflected in high project costs
Acceptable density of 200 units (73 units/acre)
Street level interaction on NW 12th
Direct access from parking structure levels to units
Parking not visible from streets, NW 12th access
Interacts with pedestrians
Focal point established at Walker/NW 12th
Good building heights at NW 13th and increased at NW 12th
Familiar with OCURA procedures, successful developer
Commercial component on Walker and NW 12th
Commercial space: 24,000 sf
OCURA MERCY SITE
April 01, 2011 Page 4
Old Mercy Site (J&M Farzaneh)
Unit size; 1,200 sf
Monthly rental; unknown
Low density of 80 to 160 units (29 to 58 units/acre)
Garage &/or surface parking, Dewey access
Large commercial component on NW 13th, NW 12th, Dewey and Walker
Commercial space: 36,000 sf to 68,000 sf
The Committee thought none of the submittals were “perfect” and encourages the Authority to exercise rigorous supervision and control over the final design of the project and subsequent development.
The Committee acknowledges is it difficult to determine the “true numbers and design quality characteristics” based on preliminary concepts. The overall strength of the proposal, related experience of the developer, general vision of the redevelopment project, ability to perform in a reasonable time frame, and preliminary fiscal resources described in the proposal can be important criteria in arriving at conclusions.
The Committee members would also like to acknowledge their appreciation and opportunity for being invited to serve on the OCURA review committee. Should any additional information or assistance be desired, the Committee will be happy to respond.
(SING TO THE TUNE OF SESAME STREET’S “ONE OF THESE THINGS”): One of these things is almost identical to the other, one of these things has got me very curious, can you tell me which thing isn’t just like the other, before I finish this song …
To quote the annoying voice feature on the Apple computers up in the photography room with every typo committed by the photographers (and trust me, they happen frequently): “CURIOUS.”
On Friday a panel selected by the Urban Renewal Authority will evaluate the five proposals for the site and potentially select three to pitch their plans to the board (this likely would translate into a de facto selection of three finalists. Technically the meeting amounts to being a staff work session – exempt from the Oklahoma Open Meetings Act. But I plead my case with Urban Renewal director JoeVan Bullard to let me sit in on the discussion. No go. I promised to sit quietly in the corner. No go. I promised to keep my phone setting at “vibrate.” No go. I was about to offer to bring free donuts for everyone – but then Bullard pulled the card all government employees are taught on their first day on the job: “it’s important for the people in the room to feel free to have an exchange of opinions and ideas, blah, blah, blah.”
Fine. No free donuts from me.
So let’s do the next best thing is guess what issues might be discussed, and how each project might fare.
Let’s start with the narrowing of the list from five to three. The guys with Home Creations have a good track record, and are the sort of suburban developers downtown would love to attract. But their proposal is unlike any I’ve seen in response to an Urban Renewal project. Two phases? Nope, commissioners don’t like that. Offices? Commissioners have been out of the office development business for the past quarter century. The number of units and investment is also far less than that proposed by the competition.
Don’t be surprised if Home Creations is the first to be thrown out. And don’t be surprised if the downtown leadership and development community quickly contact these folks and show them other opportunities that might be a better fit for their ambitions.
If such a scenario unfolds, that leaves four.
I’m going to tell you what everybody on the inside of this deal has agreed on since the proposals were unsealed: the Edge proposal pitched by Gary Brooks and Mike Henderson is considered to hold the lead spot. They’ve successfully built respected apartment complexes throughout the metro and it’s assumed financing won’t be a problem. The proposal this time around has lots of density (though I messed up in previously reporting that it includes retail) and has a low tax increment financing request in comparison to the others.
But that’s not to say they will win this competition – they have a mixed history on the Legacy at Arts Quarter project down the street. It achieved an unprecedented residential density in the history of Urban Renewal. But most observers agree the final product fell far short of the project’s initial proposed design, and Henderson was about to run out of contract extensions by the time construction started.
After talking to several folks seasoned in this sort of thing, it’s generally agreed that the proposal by Marva Ellard is also likely to make the finalists cut. Her project also has quite a bit of density and she earned respect the hard way by redeveloping the Sieber Hotel apartments, which enjoys full occupancy. Her portfolio is shorter than Brooks and Henderson, though it should be noted she also was originally partners with Bill Canfield in winning development of The Hill in Deep Deuce. Ellard also asks for more TIF money than that requested by Brooks and Henderson.
So that leaves us with two guys playing duck, duck, goose and only one chair left. And that’s where things get … complicated.
MORE TO COME
As with Marva Ellard and Chuck Wiggin, this third proposal is submitted by folks with extensive experience with Urban Renewal. Mike Henderson and Gary Brooks developed Legacy at Arts Quarter, and it appears as if Henderson might have gotten a bit bored during his “retirement.”
NOTE: When I did my original reporting Wednesday, I had some massive binders to go through for each proposal. There was no one page that had all the standard needed information for my story, so each binder took about 30 to 45 minutes to sort through.
That said, one important correction: The Edge, which is proposed by Brooks and Henderson, will not include any mix of retail as featured by the Ellard and Wiggin.