The Journal Record Building, largely empty since it was damaged by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, is set to be redeveloped later this year with completion possible by summer of 2015.
The Oklahoma City Industrial and Cultural Facilities Trust, which owns the eastern two-thirds of the building at 621 N Robinson Ave., approved a deal Wednesday to sell the property to Bond Payne, co-chairman of Heritage Trust Co., for $7.25 million.
Payne said Wednesday he wants to start a $40 million redevelopment of the landmark building, and construction of a 409-space garage across the street on the site of the former downtown YMCA, “as soon as possible.” Payne’s effort to buy and redevelop the building began three years ago, and involved a series of approvals for tax increment financing, Murrah Building recovery fund loans and historic tax credits.
“It is still a very challenging deal legally and financially to do,” Payne said. “It was hard for me at times to understand why it took so long to get here. But with all the complexities, you can see why.”
The negotiations included a big gap in the appraised $7.24 million price established by the trust and a $1.8 million estimate provided by an appraiser hired by Payne. Frank Hill, Payne’s attorney, acknowledged the $1.8 million was determined by a different formula and was submitted before more recent development in the area, including the conversion of the old Central High School into the new Oklahoma City University law school.
John Michael Williams, attorney for the trust, said the agreement calls for a $2 million drop in the sales price if Payne is unable to obtain historic tax credits. The agreement gives Payne up to five months for “due diligence” before the sale is completed.
“I think it is the most important building in Oklahoma City from a historical, architectural, cultural, and spiritual perspective,” Payne said. “We were uniquely suited to do something; we’re local, we had the idea that was appealing to the city and the memorial. They felt we would be good stewards to the building. It makes us a part of the downtown business community and demonstrates our commitment to being here for the next generation.”
Payne’s plans call for a historic restoration of the more ornate Robinson Avenue facade to be designed by Smith Dalia Architects of Atlanta. Attic space will be converted into a glass-encased fifth floor set of office space, bringing the total space to 105,000 square feet.
The Heritage Trust is set to be a tenant, with the remainder of space to be leased to other companies. The building, built in 1923, was originally home to the Masonic Temple and was later a movie theater. The property was then home to Home State Insurance and the Journal Record Newspaper.
Payne said the name of the property may change as it is redeveloped.
“We want it to reflect the future of the building,” Payne said. “It could have a new name all together. It could reflect the needs of an anchor tenant or us for our purposes.”
The western third of the building is owned and occupied by the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Kari Watkins, director of the memorial, is eager to see work begin.
“As 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the bombing, one of the best things we can do to keep the memory alive is to keep moving forward,” Watkins said. “We can do that by bringing life to that side of the building. The memorial is as strong as the people around it. We want it rebuilt and we want to bring more development to the area.”