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Oklahoma City's First National Center saga either continues, or starts new chapter

Oklahoma City landmark First National Center's mortgage extension is set to expire at 5 p.m. today. Business writer Steve Lackmeyer considers the possibilities and implications of foreclosure or more extensions.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: August 28, 2012

If there is one topic being discussed this week collectively among the downtown real estate community, it's the fate of the city's landmark First National Center.

For the past three months the ownership, led by Milbank Real Estate Chief Executive Officer Aaron Yashouafar, has bought off extensions from lender Capmark Group in a bid to get more time to find $12 million to pay off what was a $21 million mortgage.

Capmark itself is under court order to liquidate, and gave Yashouafar what was seen as a great deal by offering to cut the debt almost in half if it could get back the full $12 million.

The latest extension is set to expire at 5 p.m. today, with the attorney Rob Robertson promising there will be no more extensions if the $12 million isn't paid in full.

But in this ongoing game, down payments from Yashouafar have bought extensions each of the last three months. Who is to say another payment won't buy more time, despite Robertson's public pronouncements?

One can look back to the start of this situation starting way back when Yashouafar agreed to pay $21 million for the property — far more than what locals felt it was worth. But Yashouafar came in with grand promises that he would restore the property to Class A status. He challenged locals to watch his deeds.

Those deeds were watched. Locals saw Yashouafar spend some money on life-safety systems critical to keeping the property from being shut down by city code inspectors. He engaged in a controversial renovation of the ground floor retail arcade that tore up the original marble floor in the historic west tower (the remainder of the renovation remains unfinished).

Rent disputes were blamed for the loss of longtime retailers and other tenants. Yashouafar even faced liens filed against him by his former public relations firm, Saxum, over unpaid bills. All in all, it's safe to say Yashouafar is not the most popular property owner in the central business district.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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