Brian Fitzsimmons credits a developer's architectural competition for giving him the chance to pursue a vision for a long-neglected MidTown building that may prove to be a prominent addition to his portfolio.
MidTown Renaissance, led by Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Chris Fleming, has redeveloped dozens of properties in the neighborhood. But for Fitzsimmons, the chance to oversee the conversion of the former Guardian Garage into apartments and retail is among the most unique of the batch, thanks to the inclusion of an adjoining alley.
Once complete, the alley will take on a festive look, serving as an outdoor patio for a future restaurant tenant in the Guardian building while also connecting it and the neighboring Packard and Hadden Hall buildings with nearby parking.
“I might have won the competition based on that alone,” Fitzsimmons mused. “We expanded beyond figuring out the building. We went and looked at how we could tie all the buildings together using the alley as a plaza. We knew that all of these buildings had to use the same parking, so we wanted to make the alley a place for pedestrians, a place where people want to be.”
The 90-year-old Guardian building, 1117 N Robinson Ave., allowed Fitzsimmons the opportunity to create 37 loft apartments and 4,445 square feet of retail space in the shell of one of MidTown's oldest buildings.
The building first was operated as a used car dealership that Fitzsimmons believes was somehow connected at one time with the Packard building to the south. A steel beam crossing the alley still connects the two buildings and will be incorporated into the new plaza. Door openings from both buildings into the alley also are being incorporated into the new public space.
The building design itself is seen as unique, with larger than usual casement windows that will allow for some of the most generous window views of any housing in downtown Oklahoma City. The exterior features, Fitzsimmons noted, are unlike any of the other Art Deco buildings found in Oklahoma City.
“It's pseudo-gothic, pseudo-Art Deco,” Fitzsimmons said, “but definitely Oklahoma.”
The apartments, with high floor-to-ceiling heights, are being created with additional raised mezzanine lofts.
The Guardian, which is being renovated by Lingo Construction, is set for completion later this year. Fitzsimmons, who also oversaw renovation of a smaller apartment building at 815 NW 12 for MidTown Renaissance, is about to see his next renovation at 430 NW 12 take shape where an old office building is being converted into apartments.
“We are extremely excited about the project,” Fleming said. “Fitzsimmons Architects came up with a historically compatible, modern design that considers even the most infinitesimally small detail.”
Fleming said his firm also is moving forward soon with redevelopment of the Hotel Marion at NW 10 and Broadway, and the 1100 and 1101 N Broadway buildings.
“Everything has been well received by the marketplace,” Fleming said. “People are looking to downtown and MidTown for ‘live, work and play.' We've gotten to tag along with a lot of other success stories, including St. Anthony Hospital.”