First, let’s look at more renderings and site plans for Marva Ellard’s proposal:Mercy Redevelopers 030711 (2)
Sometimes comments get posted on older articles at OKC Central and don’t get properly noticed. Such was the case recently when visitor Diane Hooper posted the following comment on an article published two years ago – “Why Downtown Condos Cost More than $250,000.”
Looking back, I think most developers and observers will acknowledge this effort at controlling the market was a failure and the city should have spent the pre-2008 crash encouraging apartments and starter housing at the same time it was pushing for upscale housing.
Here’s Diane Hooper’s thoughts:
I’m originally from OKC. All my family live there and had thought to look for a condo to retire there. However, I am looking at what is on offer and comparing it to other inner city cores I have lived in, in the past. NYC, Chicago, Toronto, among other smaller cities around two hundred thousand people. The BIG difference here is that part of being a condo dweller in the inner city that attracts people is the easy access i.e. walking to everything. OKC still does NOT have this. The prices for the condos on offer are in line with the area in many ways but, the inner city amenities are not there yet.
I’m not sure I’d like to commit that much money to an inner city condo in OKC without the public transportation availability that works so well in so many other cities. Going to the grocery store? You have to drive, going to the pharmacy in the evening? You’ll have to drive. I still don’t see OKC downtown as having the same community spaces as other cities. It’s trying and maybe some day but, not right now. I’m keeping an eye on things though.
It almost looks as if these condo buildings are going in plopped near some amenities but, without actual living day to day amenities in place. The need for a car in most inner city urban centers is eliminated. That and the need for great parks and green spaces being kept in tact. Avenues, with trees etc….OKC could be great in that urban core but, it can’t just be a few condos near Bricktown or one library or one center. There’s got to more of a community core space that people call a “home” than that.
One thing OKC needs to do is REALLY strive for full public transport that is safe, available, reliable and affordable. Most people I know in condos in many other cities don’t even need to own a car! Everything they need is within walking distance of their condo. If they go on a long trip they just rent a car for that purpose or take cabs. OKC, if it wants to urbanize needs to do what other cities that are successfully urbanized downtown do so well. Easy transportation and daily amenities within walking distance of these condos, not just restaurants and bars and arts centers but, real amenities like green grocers, drug stores, flower shops, you know things a “main street” has. Without those the condos will still be in an urban no mans land except for the “eat out” crowd and some amenities for the arts. It has to be it’s own “town” in the core. Right now it’s really not there yet. So I wouldn’t pay three hundred thousand to live down there. More underground parking would help too to get rid of so many unsightly HUGE parking lots. Those things are a no mans land of wasted space and do not contribute to a community gathering space at all.
Having said all that, I am encouraged to see OKC striving to revive that core and make it a real living space. My father owned a store down there for many years and it was discouraging to see how far down the core went for so long. I am so urbanized now, when I come home for a visit my sister laughs at me thinking I can hail a cab to go about anywhere and such. This needs to change. OKC has always been a huge “driving city” and is spread out but, it is NOT impossible for it to become a fully serviced public transport city like others, NOR for the core to be serviced by the same amenities as the suburbs. The reason most downtown cores are more expensive in other cities is that ALL the arts attractions are in their cores BUT you can also live in them. Go to your grocer, your doctor, your hardware store AND have access to the best arts activities, museums etc. OKC does not have the same living attractions in the core of these other cities…….yet.
Add to this that OKC’s core is competing with their suburbs with VERY affordable housing. Solve the transportation and daily amenities issues FIRST before you start adding in more restaurants etc. Each of these buildings would do well with a ground floor grocer for quick access. OR if OKC had an underground like a subway the space under these buildings could be used for shops too. I’m just dreaming and I love OKC but, it’s got a long way to go before justifying the kinds of prices some of these condos are going for.
I adore Block 42 and the townhouses…though they just are not “quite” there yet. If I am living in a condo and trading off having no adjoining walls for “easy access” then there needs to be something there to access besides “entertainment” People have to live day to day. Also, retirees with some cash could be buying up these spaces but, they want to know they will NOT have to drive to everything if they go into a condo space downtown. Why move into an urban area if there’s no “there, there” yet and pay the same as you will pay for a luxury home in the same city? It doesn’t make sense.
All this said, I’m thinking of perhaps buying a space downtown and putting in a green grocer near these existing condo units somewhere. These people need COMMUNITY businesses that they can use every day.
When I became re-involved in 2003 in OKC development, I touted TIF (Tax Increment Financing) as the means through which the MAPS sales tax incentive could be “bootstrapped” to help create a dense mixed use environment. The target: a broadly defined “triangle” bordered by I-40 on the south, I-235 on the diagonal and on the west, a north-south boundary splitting what is now known as MidTown.
My first efforts were with ERC on Deep Deuce, then the Arts District, then The Factory, in which I was technically “Oh for three.”
However, we learned a great deal that we have tried to apply since. We conducted a market study of 14 peer cities that had neither sexy mountains nor shorelines and found that each had between 2 percent and 8 percent of their MSAs’ population within the urban core. At the low end for OKC, that math translates to 24,000 people. Even counting the Jail, we are under 2,000 today.
Now that a number of players have emerged downtown, the geographic focus has naturally gotten blurred. The Thunder and Devon Tower have brought into the game two 800-lb gorillas – the NBA owners group and Devon Energy. To a significant but lesser extent, Sandridge, the Humphreys family, Roy Oliver/Mark Beffort and CHK/McClendon have gained strong positions in the core. Greg Banta/Bob Howard/Mickey Clagg and Corsair/Smith Brothers have made a number of speculative buys in MidTown that are starting to see life. Steve Mason, Chris and Meg Salyer, Nick Preftakes, BMI and Earl Neighbors have taken very different but positive approaches as user/owners.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the City Staff are clearly and rightfully feeling their oats, while the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority has been weakened by Larry Nichols’ departure and the controversial pick of The Hill’s developer, which probably has spawned a winding down of some trustees’ long running influence. The approval of a un-Urban design for the Chamber’s building was an unfortunate reminder of the darker days in OKC history before the Bombing made consensus and grass roots projects possible over politics.
A perceived negative out there is that the former Triangle group has splintered, which is true but not necessarily a bad thing, as each of us can now play in their own sandboxes and probably get more done, and I think Maywood Park has been unfairly maligned as a bit of a bust as most of the brownstones sit empty. I say unfairly because I think they will ultimately sell, and because the City got exactly what it asked for from all of the Downtown housing developers – expensive, high-end for sale homes.
Neither the City or Urban Renewal wanted affordable rentals, as they turned down both of my ERC proposals for mixed income apartments in the competition for the Deep Deuce site (2002, with Benham) and the Arts District site (2003, with ADG and Raptor). The only for sale projects that have sold out have been the Centennial (albeit to mostly corporate buyers) and the Harvey Lofts rehab (only 17 units between $100k and $200k).
Dick Tannenbaum has made a very successful entre into housing development (Park Harvey and Lincoln), but not without hiccups (eg the failed attempts to condo both the Montgomery and the Classen). Block 42 has more dark windows at night than not, and The Hill deal is a ticking time bomb; the unpaid contractors will soon grow tired of waiting for their money and will no longer play as nice as they have been.
The national meltdown has been a big factor, but the reality is that OKC has never been a big condo market. Also, no one can blame even the richest buyers for a reluctance to buy if the surroundings of a real dense and active urban village does not materialize as quickly as everyone would like.
The reality that the City is experiencing downtown is that critical mass and density matters most, and is not delivered quick enough through the linear production and absorption of for-sale housing. The decision by Urban Renewal and the City to promote and push for upper end, for-sale housing first was ill-timed to be sure, but generally a violation of real estate development fundamentals.
In my opinion, the critical path to successful infill Downtown development in OKC begins first with creating density of people using the real estate on a 24/7 basis. This happens quickest through 2 uses – Hotels and Rental Apartments, which more quickly put more heads on beds than any other use.
Everyone wants to experience an urban “Magnificent Mile” environment like Michigan Avenue, but Daniel Burnham’s Plan For Chicago took 15 years to draft and adopt and over 90 years to develop, culminating with Millennium Park, absolutely the coolest urban green space in America. That is why I think that the current Core to Shore emphasis puts the cart way before the horse. We need to finish the Core first in a most excellent way.
I believe that the following represents a better chronology for a critical path for OKC’s Downtown Development
1- Plan for Core to Shore through a broader 20 year long process and horizon, led and participated in by more than a couple dozen people, incrementally stopping and adjusting every 3-5 years to review how the market is responding. Mix in Social Initiatives like the Jail (on a more modest, phased basis, not as a response to another unfunded Federal mandate) and Homeless Center with the sexy stuff so that voter fatigue doesn’t kill the Goose that Laid the MAPs Eggs.
2- Avoid the consolidation of power in administering Business Improvement Districts comprising the current and emerging “districts” that make up the Downtown Core. Remember that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
3- Let the Neighborhoods and Districts decide where their boundaries begin and end and manage themselves through Business Improvement Districts and other Owners Associations. The localized characteristics of Auto Alley, Bricktown, Deep Deuce, Maywood Park, Midtown, Film District, Lower Bricktown, Courthouse Block, Devon/Botanical Gardens each have their own forces of will, market attraction and good design attributes that will help compel and sort out the timing and priorities of projects – politics should not.
4 – Use TIF creatively and broadly to include Sale and Room Taxes for discrete user-driven projects, as per the examples of the Skirvin Hotel and Devon Tower.
5- Inventory current infrastructure opportunities and challenges in the Core and create a priority list that gets addressed by TIF. Example on one end of the spectrum – we can cheaply double parking on Broadway through angled striping and narrowed, slower traffic; versus the other end of the spectrum – the costly Boulevard through nothing to nowhere, which only happens five years after the Feds fund I-40.
6 – Agree that density, shared parking, connectivity and walkability are good and should be the paramount ideals for Project design.
7 – Focus on Big Users and what they need to come into the Core.
8 – Rental apartments can be tailored for sites big and small, renters rich and not so rich, and are the most finance-able class of real estate today and for the foreseeable future.
9 – The Quiet Zone (property owners are seeking new gates along the BNSF railroad to quiet train noise as it passes through the Flat Iron district) is a threshold need that must happen first BEFORE any other project Downtown – it is absolutely essential to any private project of scale, and will create incremental value on both sides of the tracks for miles East and West, North and South.
10 – Do not try to Force the Core to Shore – it is my sense that a relatively small group of parties are unduly influencing priorities. I am okay with the MAPs 3 Convention Center Idea just South of the Ford Center, but it is still a long ways to the South shoreline. Our version of Millennium Park will have to be birthed and season for 10 years before development happens naturally further South. The thing that could change this is if a huge User shows up, but none are on the horizon that I can see.
What’s encouraging is that while the numbers on the tour are down (probably due to the weather), I saw some genuine potential buyers. I really enjoyed stopping in at the old downtown library, which Judy Hatfield is converting into retail and condominiums. Hatfield reports she’s been delayed by having to file a “friendly lawsuit” against the city and county to secure air rights for roof-top patios. That task is now completed, and Hatfield is still hustling to try to get construction underway by winter.
Downtown is still doing well. Sure things are a bit more uncertain these days, but what I saw yesterday indicates we’re far from dead.
FROM DOWNTOWN OKC INC:
Experience all that downtown OKC has to offer, with restaurants and specialty shops offering tour specials and prizes. The tour runs from 11 am – 5 pm and is free. Ride the free Move UP shuttle around downtown and between stops. The tour will be self-guided and stops can be visited in any order. Tour books and maps will be available at each stop. Free parking will be provided. The tour will also include “Jane’s Walk” a special walking tour of Deep Deuce in honor of urban pioneer Jane Jacobs.
Stops featured on the tour include Block 42; The Hill; The Sieber; Legacy at Arts Quarter; Carnegie Centre; Park Harvey; The Montgomery; Central Avenue Villas; the Brownstones at Maywood Park ,The Lofts at Maywood Park and a special stop at Downtown’s new boutique grocer The Sage Cafe and Market.
Since the passage of MAPS in 1993, the city center has experienced over $3 billion in public and private investment. Development of new and renovated residences are Going Up like never before in Downtown Oklahoma City. There are currently over 2200 rental and for-sale units existing, under construction or planned. A 2005 study shows that by 2015, the total combined growth of housing in Downtown could climb to between 4,000 and 7,750 units.
For specific tour details, please visit Downtown OKC > Home or call 235-3500. The Move UP Downtown Living Tour is produced by Downtown OKC Inc. and sponsored by the Downtown Business Improvement District, The Oklahoman, Downtown Magazine, Cox Communications and the Downtown Developers. Supporting sponsors include the Downtown Urban Neighbors (U.N.).
Yes indeed friends, Roy Oliver really is building residential condos on the top floors of City Place. See the Richard Mize story here. Wouldn’t it be cool if the California owners of First National got the same idea for across the street?
A year ago there were at least a handful of downtown developments on the drawing boards that seemed to be sure things. One of those was the Flatiron, a mixed-use development by Grant Humphreys at 5th and Harrison.
Construction was to start in the fall. And that’s where things get all messed up; have your leases and financing nailed down in July, 2008, and things are still set. But fall was a totally different story following the economic crash, and while Oklahoma City has been spared much of the pain, financing is still troublesome for pretty much everybody.
Grant Humphreys wants to make this deal work. He spent time and money on the project. He invested his creative energies and hopes.
The local economy isn’t shutting down, but it’s not immune from the outside pressures. Interestingly enough, I’m seeing more leasing activity along Broadway and in Bricktown than I have the previous two years.
By all accounts, Devon Energy is showing no hint of delaying or stopping construction of its 54-story highrise.
Yet the banking crunch is having its effort. Without any further delay, here’s Grant’s open letter:
From: Grant Humphreys
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 5:03 PM
Subject: THE FLATIRON – A SYMBOL OF RESILIENCE – of our downtown, of our city, of our Oklahoma spirit
Across the nation, the economic crisis has forced many development projects to be put on hold or brought to an end. Yet Oklahoma City, despite some very real economic downturns, continues to prove itself as one of the most resilient markets in America.
After almost three years of design and due diligence, our project known as ‘The Flatiron’ is poised to become a reality. When the construction of this project begins at the gateway of downtown OKC, The Flatiron will deliver the message that Oklahoma City is still in the game. Watching this new 5-story mixed-use project be built will boost confidence in our market and help maintain or increase property values as well. No doubt the Devon Tower will deliver this same message around the world, but we’re the small business version that is ready to go. But we need YOUR help.
We need YOUR help to meet our pre-leasing hurdle. The Flatiron will create more than 73,000 RSF of Class ‘A’ office and retail space ideally located at the gateway to downtown, Bricktown and the Oklahoma Health Center. Our asking rates are $22/RSF (gross) for loft office and $22/RSF (net) for street level retail (with CPI bumps). We need credit tenants willing to sign a 5-year lease. Local tenants are great. Once we’ve pre-leased 50% of this space, we will move towards an exciting groundbreaking event. We want to work with brokers. So bring me a deal. With your help, we can meet this goal . . . and you’ll be the first invited to the party!
All the information you need is available online at www.flatironokc.com. You can find floor plans, marketing brochures and a video of the project. Make a point to watch the video. It’s awesome.
Dave Ortloff, our Director of Marketing, is handling the broker relations. He’s here for you. If you’d like to arrange a tour or receive more information about this exciting project, just call Dave at (405) 228-1000 (ext 4). His contact information is also on the website referenced above.
Let’s work together to show everyone that, despite the rest of the nation, the real estate market in Oklahoma City is alive and well. I appreciate your help!
Find out more by visiting their website at: FlatironOkc.com!
UPDATE: A co-worker got an interesting call from a “homebuilder” who complained about this post. The homebuilder didn’t bother contacting me directly, but apparently feels this is a ”lovefest” for Grant Humphreys and wanted to know how much Grant paid for it.
Grant paid nothing. I post what I find interesting. I found the new animation interesting. I thought Grant’s comments were interesting. There you have it, anonymous homebuilder. The same logic went into yesterday’s posting on the Prohibition Room.
I also think this might be interesting to my readers. If I’m guily of a ”lovefest” here, I guess you can also say I’ve had “lovefests” with Marva Ellard and the Sieber, Ron Bradshaw and the Maywood Lofts, Larry Nichols and Devon Tower, pretty much all of Bricktown and all of MidTown and all of Automobile Alley.
Here’s the thing people keep on missing: I cover downtown and the inner-core. That’s what I do. If I were the Sooner beat writer, I guess I’d be accused of having a lovefest with Bob Stoops.
A few months back I paid tribute to Misty Kemp, a downtown resident and founding member of Urban Neighbors who tragically died way too young during a visit to Texas. Anyway, this comment was posted this week on that old post and deserves your attention:
I just stumbled across this site by accident and was so pleased. I am Misty’s aunt/foster mother. She came to live with us in Rouses Point, New York, in the summer before her senior year in High School. She spent the summer with us, but when she went back to her father’s home in Machias, Maine, she called me and asked if she could live with us. I talked him and he said that if I didn’t take her he was going to dump her on her mother’s doorstep. I talked to my husband and he said that every kid needs a home and to tell Misty he would come and pick her up. There is much more to the story but I want you all to know that the year or so that Misty lived with us before she married was one of the happiest of my life. I miss her with all my heart and soul. Thank you for keeping her memory out here for all who loved her.