Major league city? Well, yes, by definition, Oklahoma City can wear the label legitimately, thanks to the Thunder and the NBA.
But “big league” city informally? As in “the most prestigious level of accomplishment”? Sorry, but no, not yet, when it comes to commercial real estate investment.
The tipping point could be under way, though.
The Thunder's appearance in the playoffs is getting “O-K-C! O-K-C!” just the kind of attention the city deserves for all of its other success stories.
Specifically, the Thunder could get Oklahoma City more than the usual slightest mention in the widely watched annual “Emerging Trends in Real Estate,” published by the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“Emerging Trends” is based on data as well as the perceptions of some 900 movers and shakers in property investment across the country. Playing co-host with Miami for the NBA Finals this week and next — after Dallas, Los Angeles and San Antonio, in turn — will make a genuine difference in how Oklahoma is perceived.
Having one of the healthiest single-family housing markets in the country didn't do it — not even during the most painful throes of the late housing bust, credit freeze and the Great Recession.
Having an enviable office market didn't do it — even when so much of the rest of the country's big office markets were hurting.
Having money seem to fall out of the sky looking for apartment properties when multifamily investors on the coasts found themselves wheezing — nope, it was no big deal to the people behind the big desks on those same coasts and other big power markets.
Not even Devon Energy Corp.'s dazzling tower, which crept up its 50 stories the past few years when construction everywhere in every property sector was down, down, down — not even Devon could do it.
This year's “Emerging Trends” had all of this to say: “Oklahoma City quietly benefits from energy sector performance.” That is almost damning with faint praise.
The mid-year update report had nothing to say, even in the “Markets to Watch” section where Oklahoma City usually appears; the compilers from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute, for the update, focused on just the top 10 of the 51 also-ran markets plus “hand-selected markets covering prime, secondary and tertiary locations.”
Boston and Houston got the spotlight because of stronger-than-average job growth. San Jose, Austin, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, New York and others got nods, too. No accolades for Oklahoma City for maintaining some of the lowest unemployment in the U.S. during the late economic unpleasantness.
But now, thanks to the Thunder, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Miami eyes see Oklahoma City in a different light — and those are some pretty powerful eyes in commercial real estate. Other eyes are upon us, too.
Eyes are opening not just because of basketball but in acknowledgement of the savvy it takes to land an NBA team, nurse it to greatness in just a few years and totally infect the general business community and general populace.
So, Thunder up, y'all. As fun as this ride is, and for all of the Oklahoma camaraderie it's engendering — Sooners and Cowboys living together! Cheering side by side! Peace in our time! (until late July or so anyway) — the Thunder isn't just personal.
The Thunder means business. It means a different kind of vision. It means the kind of national relevance that causes important, searching eyes all over the country to stop and focus.