According to the Office Market Review issued by Tooman Partners Commercial Real Estate Services, the occupancy rate for the downtown submarket stood at 73.7 percent in late 2006.
Six months and 100,000 SF in corporate expansion later, the occupancy rate for downtown Tulsa stands at 75.4 percent.
This, according to Bill Daniels of Daniels Greer Properties LLC, is momentum that will likely carry the downtown submarket in the foreseeable future.
“I think there is finally enthusiasm about downtown Tulsa,” he said. “Were are going to see some new hotels, a lot of development, and a lot of new businesses moving in, not only to Tulsa, but to downtown.”
Daniels sees these shrinking vacancy rates as a sign of things to come.
“I still think we are about two years off,” he said. “When we complete the arena, we will see an absolute surge in downtown.”
While there are more positives than negatives in the attempted rejuvenation of the central business district, one obstacle to an absolute turnaround could come in the form of absentee landlords, according to one downtown property manager.
“I think one reason that our occupancy rate is so high is because there are other landlords who do not take care of their buildings or tenants, and word gets around,” said Indrek Redard. He is general manager of Coldwell Banker Commercial Argue Properties and leasing manager for the 321,500-SF Mid-Continent Building, 401 S. Boston Ave.
Redard also cites the snail’s pace of downtown improvement projects as a reason why businesses have failed to refill downtown office space.
“It is hard to say that downtown projects have done anything for the downtown occupancy rates,” he said. “I hope that, eventually, things will happen as a result of all this. But right now, you just can’t see any progress.”
“If we can all get on the same page on projects rather than just talking about them,” he continued, “we will be in much better shape five years from now.”
Jim Burcham, broker for downtown-based Argue Properties sees safety issues as a concern for businesses contemplating the move to a downtown address.
“Security and lighting are issues in creating a vibrant downtown,” he said. “When the sun goes down, it is dark down here, and a lot of businesses don’t quit working when the sun goes down.”
He said that parking is also a concern.
“Parking is a concern for everybody, and that’s no secret, but if we could solve those two problems, there would be a lot more people downtown, both during the day and at night.”
Daniels, a 22-year downtown leasing veteran, agrees that any honest look at downtown cannot be taken through rose-colored glasses, though he remains optimistic.
“I think downtown has seen some serious deterioration in its infrastructure,” he said. “But I feel confident we will correct those problems and maintain the energy being created by the Vision 2025 projects.”
“Tulsa has survived the oil crisis, the aerospace crisis and the telecom crisis. We are very resilient city.”
On the heels of hints of major projects like the expansive East End and Mayo Place proposals, many private downtown development plans have quietly gone on hold or undergone significant changes.
Bright spots of economic growth continue with the piecemeal projects of Elliott Nelson and Michael Sager, and in the far northeast corner of downtown, Micha Alexander’s Third Street revival neighborhood.
Following a hiccup in its plans to acquire a 14-block chunk of the eastern part of downtown, Global Development Partners LLC’s plans to build the East End, complete with a new Tulsa Drillers stadium, 450,000 SF of retail and dining outlets, 800 residential units, three high-quality hotels, and 150,000 SF of office space, has shrunk to a one-city block of “vertical” mixed-use development.
That reduction has not dampened Washington, D.C.-based Global Development’s enthusiasm for downtown Tulsa.
“We were, and we are, very interested in doing a project in Tulsa,” said Tom Kissler, Global Development partner. “We like the market, we like the demographics, we like everything about it.
Global Development’s plans faded when it lost options to purchase key properties held by Nordam Group Inc. and long-time Tulsa auto dealer Bill White.
“We have, however, acquired one full city block, and we are working on other attractive land,” Kissler said. “We intend to do a project – and it will be a big project. When we are in a better position to talk about it, we will.”
Fifth and Sixth streets and Elgin and Frankfort avenues bound Global Development’s block of property.
Kissler said Global’s development will include retail, residential, hotel and entertainment elements.
“Our focus is that Tulsa needs 24-hour use, and that means you need people living downtown,” he said. “You need the shops and businesses that support people living downtown.”
Meanwhile, Downtown Tulsa Development LLC, fronted by Claremore real estate broker John D. Williams, has contracts on the Nordam and Bill White properties.
And while Downtown Tulsa Development will not comment on nor confirm any aspect of its plans, it is not a well-kept secret that those plans include the possibility of an urban Wal-Mart.
White, now operator of Bill White Charter Shuttle Bus, 414 E. Fourth St., acknowledged that his and the Nordam properties, comprising about 23 acres, are under contract with Downtown Tulsa Development.
He has pushed for development of the property, including a Drillers ballpark, for years.
“All the way back to the Went Hubbard era I have tried to get the city and the ownership of the Drillers interested in coming down into this area, “ he said.
Hubbard was owner of the Tulsa Drillers from 1987 until current owner Chuck Lamson bought a majority share in 2006.
“It is a spectacular development area, and I am amazed that it hasn’t been picked off by somebody,” White said. “And, of course, Wal-Mart comes in and sees the opportunity and gets everybody under option.”
That leaves the status of any proposal to move the Tulsa Drillers downtown a line drive that could still go foul.
While Lamson has been vocal in his support of such a plan, the probable demise of the East End plan leaves a location still in the air.
Baseball on the River?
The baseball park could move to the west bank of the Arkansas River as part of a $550 million entertainment, dining and shopping complex.
However, the City Council’s vote on city hall consolidation that would entail moving government offices to the One Technology Center will determine the speed of progress of the complex, said Don Himelfarb, Tulsa’s Economic Director.
The vote, expected during the July 12 city council meeting, is not necessarily a deal breaker, but a lot hinges on it, he said.
Richard E. Huffman, CEO of Branson, Mo.-based HCW Development, LLC, is the developer of the proposed waterfront shopping, dining and entertainment project. HCW built the Branson Landing project on Lake Taneycomo. Huffman has dubbed the project here, “Tulsa Landing.”
City staff has done enough due diligence on the HCW project, Himelfarb said, “as we are comfortable with — pending the city council vote on the City Hall consolidation.”
“We have everything keyed up. There is nothing else that will be done because if the council does not approve the city hall consolidation, then the movement of public works is called into question,” Himelfarb said. “We are at a standstill until we see what the council does next Thursday.”
The Public Works facility at 23rd Street and Jackson Avenue would have to move to accommodate the entertainment complex.
The office staff would move into the OTC at Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue as part of the consolidation.
Meanwhile, even quieter on the downtown scene is the progress on Mayo Place, a 12-block area along Fifth Street that was to be a cooperative community effort involving American Parking Services and the properties held by San Francisco developer Maurice Kanbar, who owns 20 buildings in downtown Tulsa.
Inquiries about the project went unanswered. A commercial real estate observer said “on hold” adequately described the status of the plan.
The uncertainty of other downtown projects has not derailed the revitalization of retail and residential properties owned and developed by Micha Alexander.
With about 40,000 SF of retail and loft space developed within a block of Third Street between Kenosha and Lansing Avenues, including his Maverick Machine Shop at 202 S. Lansing Ave., Alexander has plans to move ahead with additional loft developments.
At 820 E. Third St. and on an empty lot next door, he plans to build two multi-story contemporary loft-style homes of about 2,500 SF each.
He is building the homes to “gauge people’s reaction to the type of construction that we are doing and the type of living that it will be.”
Based on the feedback, he plans to develop a 40,000-SF lot at Second Street and Kenosha Avenue as a multi-use project with additional residential units.
Voters passed Vision 2025, a broad-stroke economic revitalization initiative to improve the quality of life in and attract visitors to Tulsa, Sept. 9, 2003.
The stakeholders – the City of Tulsa, the County, DTU, private developers or other entities — manage each Vision 2025 project. Still, Vision 2025 serves as the umbrella group for all approved projects.
Total Vision 2025 sales tax receipts exceed $162 million. In May, $18.6 million in payments were processed for a total of $296 million in Vision 2025 project payments through this reporting period, according to the latest reports from Vision 2025.
Vision 2025 is not responsible for all capital improvements in downtown Tulsa. Every five years, Tulsans vote on whether or not to extend the existing temporary 1-cent sales tax, or the Third Penny Sales Tax. The proceeds from the tax fund public works improvement projects aimed to make Tulsa a better place to work and live.
From new arts venues to updated sidewalks and streets, the following are amongst the initiatives most poised to assist in downtown revitalization and the resulting retention of Tulsa residents and the attraction of valuable workers.
Four out of the nine projects submitted to Vision 2025 for funding were chosen to receive the $10 million earmarked for Vision 2025 Downtown Housing Funding. All residential development projects in downtown Tulsa are proceeding slowly or seem to have come to a standstill, according to the latest Vision 2025 reports. The proprietors of the projects reported that though the projects are moving slowly, there is incremental activity that will lead to new downtown housing within the next few years.
? Mayo Building, 424 S. Main St.
The Mayo Building, originally erected in 1909, will soon undergo an authentic restoration that will redeem the building as a mixed-use development.
With the help of $3 million in Vision 2025 funding, floors 3-10 will be converted to 67 one- and two-bedroom apartment units ranging from 600-2,000 SF. Floors two, one and the basement will be reserved for commercial use. The development will feature a rooftop terrace and a health club. The $3 million Vision 2025 contribution represents 15 percent of the total cost of the project.
Charles Wiggin of Wiggin Properties, the manager of the Mayo Building, said rent prices will fall between $700-$750 per month for the smallest units.
Wiggin’s firm is in the final stages of signing a redevelopment agreement with the city. Though earlier reports indicated construction would begin last month, current schedules say work will begin in the third quarter of this year, with hopes to occupy the building sometime in 2008. Kinslow, Keith and Todd are serving as architects on the project.
? Mayo Hotel, 115 W. Fifth St.
Private funds were used to renovate the Grand Lobby and Mezzanine areas of the Mayo Hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the rest of the building is being converted to 118 lofts in eight styles ranging from 700 to 3,060 SF, according to In the Loop, an on-line publication of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited.
New elevators, a renovated Crystal Ballroom and a rooftop bar are also in the works.
Construction is underway, and the project is expected to take 18 months. The project will be occupied by summer 2008.
Requests for updated information on the project were not immediately returned.
? Transok Building, 600 S. Main St.
No development is known about the Transok Building residential project.
Transok is one of several properties of Maurice Kanbar and Henry Kauffman duo and managed by Navajo Properties. No renovations have been noticed to take place, however, and Kanbar and Kauffman spokesman refused to comment on the development.
Earlier reports said 52 lofts were to be created on the upper floors as the ground level hosted commercial space. The lofts would range from 752 to 1,450 SF. Rent would be priced from $940 to $1812.50 per month. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
? First Street Lofts, 310 E. First St.
The 1916 Jacobs Hotel will be converted by Blue Dome Properties LLC into 17 lofts ranging from 550 to 3,500 SF. Street-level retail space is also part of the re-development plan on First Street.
Though the development Web site, www.firststlofts.com, reported construction was slated to begin earlier this year, permitting and construction is underway, according to ITL. Occupancy is projected for early 2008.
Requests for updated information on the project were not immediately returned.
? Centennial Green, Sixth Street between Boston Avenue and Main Street
The newest downtown park, Centennial Green, will act as part of the Centennial walk at Sixth Street between Boston Avenue and Main Street and spans more than a city half-block.
The final design documents were submitted early this year. The first phase of the Centennial Green project was advertised for construction bids in late May. The bids were due Friday, June 29.
Phases three and four of the Centennial Green project have been postponed by the City until the Vision 2025 funds for the Arena “settle down,” said Kathleen Page, principal at consynsus.
Several major aspects of the Green will be ready for the Centennial in November, she said, including the grass itself, the base of the fountain and the base for the Centennial Walk trailhead.
The Green should make downtown Tulsa more attractive to residential development, Page said.
? Centennial Walk
Centennial Walk will link historic events, places and buildings with other downtown Vision 2025 projects via an enhanced pedestrian walkway. The path as proposed will stretch for 2.5 miles and would connect Centennial Park, the Blue Dome Entertainment District, and new Jazz Hall of Fame, the Brady Arts District, and the new BOk Event Center.
Consynsus, along with Howell & Vancuren Landscape Architect, was retained to plan pathways, historical narratives and physical improvements for the Walk.
The Walk project, which was allocated $9.3 million in Vision 2025 funds, was broken into four phases, Page said. Phase I – the potion at Third and Fourth Streets — has been bid, contracted and is under construction.
As for the date when the Walk project will be finished, “at the moment, it’s about 2011,” Page joked.
Tulsa’s Event District
? BOk Events Center, northwest corner of Third Street and Denver Avenue
The BOk Event Center is what officials like to call a long-range Vision 2025 project.
The 550,000-SF BOk Center seats 18,041 in its multi-purpose arena. Ground was broken on the project August 31, 2005. Renowned architect Cesar Pelli designed the Center.
Construction continues. The pre-cast concrete seating riser installation began in February, according to the latest edition of In The Loop. Construction is on-schedule, according to recent reports by Tulsa Vision Builders. The project is still slated for completion in September 2008.
Steel erection is in progress on the long-span roof system and west and east sides of the seating bowl, according to the latest Vision 2025 report. Other construction activity is on-going in the electrical, mechanical and plumbing trades. Work also continues off-site on the exterior wall system for later installation to the structure.
Upon completion, the BOk Event Center will be home to the Tulsa Oilers hockey team and the Tulsa Talons arena football team. Its size will rival that of the Ford Center in Oklahoma City and the Alltel Arena in North Little Rock.
? Tulsa Convention Center Improvements, 100 Civic Center
The Tulsa Convention Center will soon be turned to the new Tulsa Regional Events Center, a modernized version of the 1960s facility, thanks to Vision 2025 funding.
Major improvements include a new modern, glass entrance to reflect use of the same material in the BOk Event Center fa?ade and what will be the largest ballroom in Oklahoma at 34,800 SF.
Interior renovations include 7,000 SF of additional meeting space on the lower level, street level and second level for a total of 21,000 SF of new improved space.
Demolition of the old arena will begin after the last Tulsa Talons game Aug. 18, according to Kathy Tinker, director of convention sales. The arena will be closed until Fall 2008.
Construction should be complete by October 2008.
? Museum and Arts Development Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa’s Visual Arts Center, 100 E. Brady Ave.
Initiated by the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, a 40,000-SF, two-story Visual Arts Center will be built in the Mathews Warehouse at 100 E. Brady Ave. at an estimated cost of $15 million.
The extension of the Third Penny Sales Tax included $1.7 million for the Council to purchase the west half of the Mathews Warehouse. The building will be owned by the City of Tulsa, and AHCT will have a long-term lease on the facility.
The project is still being studied for feasibility. The AHCT is surveying the community to find the proper programming and design for the building.
The development will house visiting regional, national and international artists, workshops with studio artists, events for all ages and abilities and will foster partnerships with other arts organizations, according to a case statement from the AHCT. The facility will act as an arts incubator, teaching local talent the business of art, said AHCT spokesperson Kathy McRuiz.
The AHCT hopes to break ground on the project in 2008. Between 2010-2011 is targeted for opening. No project architect has yet been named.
? John Hope Franklin Greenwood Reconciliation Memorial and Museum, bordered by Detroit and Elgin Avenues and I-244
The $20 million John Hope Franklin Greenwood Reconciliation Memorial and Museum will be built on a 3-acre tract between Detroit and Elgin Avenues, bordered by I-244 on the north, and will be surrounded by a $5-million outdoor memorial.
“In our minds, just like the situation with the Murrah Building (in Oklahoma City), it takes a civil tragedy and turns it into an economic triumph,” said Rueben Gant, president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.
Though earlier reports predicted a groundbreaking on the project this summer, work has come to a standstill.
“We want to secure adequate funding before we have an official groundbreaking ceremony,” he said.
The Race Riot Memorial Design Committee is $1.3 million short of a $5 million promise to the project from the state, he said.
“Once we get the first phase done and there is something to actually see there, I think there will be some impetus to seek and get funding from private as well as public sources,” he said.
Most of the conceptual drawings are complete, he said. E.W.C. One Inc. is serving as the architect on the project.
A sculptor, Ed Dwight, has been commissioned for the memorial art. Dwight was the first African-American astronaut at NASA.
? Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame,
111 E. First St.
The first jazz concert on July 15 will not only kick off the Tulsa Summer Jazz Concert series, but it will also open the new Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame on a high note.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame was the only arts project included in the Vision 2025 project. A total of $4 million was allocation to the project, $2.2 million of which was used to purchase the building. The remaining funds were used to renovate the old Tulsa Union Depot. Renovations are substantially complete.
The renovations to the 28,000-SF Depot included a new Great Performance Hall with ceilings 35 feet high, photo exhibits, a VIP suite, recording studio, music library, gift shop and band room.
Now, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame Executive Director Chuck Cissel is looking to corporate and private investors to assist in funding the finishing of the Depot interior spaces. He is looking for $5 million in new furnishings, lighting and “all the things we don’t have because all the money went toward renovating the building,” he said. This phase of the project is projected to last three years.
The Jazz Depot “sits pretty high on the Boston Ave. Bridge,” Cissel said. “On one side you have the PAC, the Blue Dome District – on the other side, you have Cain’s and the Brady Theatre, and you also have the Greenwood District. We believe the Jazz Hall of Fame is the bridge that brings these parts of the city together.”
? OSU Medical Center, 744 W. Ninth St.
OSU Center for Health Sciences signed a 50-year academic affiliation agreement in May 2005 with the then Tulsa Regional Medical Center, owned by Ardent Health Services. Early this year, the OSU Medical Authority approved $10.6 million in medical center improvements aimed to improve the residency experience.
Funding for the renovations come from a $40 million appropriation by the state, the $10.6 million of which are aimed to improve the Intensive Care Unit, a Neonatal Intensive Car Unit/Labor and Delivery expansion, a remodel and expansion of classrooms and sleep rooms for residents, enhanced OSU faculty recruitment and support, and other programs. These projects represent Phase I of a long-term renovation plan for the teaching hospital. Phase II projects will be reviewed this summer.
The improvements to OSU Medical Center are in the architectural planning stages, according to Karen Senger, OSU Health Sciences spokesperson. Construction is slated to begin by the end of this year and should be complete by July 2008.
? TCC Metro Campus Center for Creativity, 909 S. Boston Ave.
Tulsa Community College will soon expand its downtown footprint into what is now a surface parking lot between 9th and 10th Streets on Boston Ave., directly west from the main academic building.
TCC plans to build a $10.5-million, 46,000 SF facility, the Center for the Advancement of Learning. The building will house several departments, including Visual Arts, Journalism, Media Production, Radio and Broadcasting, and Distance Learning.
Students and faculty will benefit from two new TV stations, lecture halls, digital media classrooms, an art studio and a faculty-training center for instructional technology.
Landscaped areas will connect the existing and future campus development with welcoming, shaded pedestrian areas. The construction of this facility is part of a move to make TCC a destination in downtown, according to the latest reports from Downtown Tulsa Unlimited. %9
Groundbreaking on the project is scheduled for this September. The center is expected to be complete late next year. SelserSchafer Architects are serving as architects on the project. ?