Mark Beffort, perhaps the most respected and influential player in the downtown office market, is looking forward to some relief in the parking shortage as 1,800 new spaces open up from the Arts District to Midtown.
“If you were to have talked to me this time last year, all of us in the real estate business downtown were a bit stressed about parking,” Beffort said. “Now, where we sit today, we’re all breathing a bit easier. But we still have tremendous pressure as more and more people look to move their offices downtown in addition to the residential activity we are seeing.”
Anecdotally and judging by the numbers, parking downtown this year hasn’t been fun.
The four city-owned garages are over-sold with an occupancy rate of 115 percent — and that rate would be worse if not for the 52 percent occupancy recorded at the Century Center garage, which has been shut down for repairs.
Garage construction can be seen throughout downtown, with the largest addition — a new 800-space Arts District Garage being built at 431 W Main — set to open by this fall. The 10-story garage will include 20,000-square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
Dowell Garage expansion
Rick Dowell, meanwhile, is hoping to finish work this month on a 390-space expansion of his Dowell Garage at 433 N Harvey Ave. that will expand its capacity to 694 spaces. Dowell, who has redeveloped several properties, said he has held back on leasing space in his Metropolitan Building, 400 N Walker Ave., because he has allowed for 600 people to park their cars on the adjoining lots even though they are not tenants.
“We have those folks who I hope will park in the garage, and we’ve got a letter of intent taking up 200 spaces (in the expanded garage),” Dowell said.
At 123 NW 10, work also is expected to wrap up on the 282-space, 123 Parking Garage within the next six weeks.
The garage is tied to three building renovations now underway by Midtown Renaissance developers at Pontiac and Buick buildings at 1100 and 1101 N Broadway, and the Hotel Marion, 110 NW 10.
“The primary use is for the tenants of the Pontiac, Buick and Marion buildings,” said Chris Fleming, a partner in Midtown Renaissance. “We most certainly will open up what is left to the neighborhood, and we’ve had inquiries for leasing spaces.”
The garage, Fleming said, was critical to developing the three buildings, which all stood largely empty for years if not decades.
“You look at the history of these buildings, and we don’t get tenants in them if we don’t have anywhere for them to park,” Fleming said. “They alone warrant a couple spaces for employees, guests and customers.”
Midtown still tight fit
Even with the opening of the 123 Garage, Fleming admits parking will remain tight in Midtown.
“As it continues to grow and parking gets further and further constrained, eventually there will have to be a solution to that, and structured parking would make the most sense,” Fleming said. “If the dense development called for in the Midtown plan is to happen, structured parking should be a component.”
Beffort sees more parking in the horizon, as well. Beffort leads an investment group that owns Leadership Square, Oklahoma Tower, Corporate Tower and City Place Tower — all located in the heart of the Central Business District and among downtown’s most prominent office space.
Beffort’s group is spending more than $5 million adding a three-story, 336-space addition atop the City Center Garage at Park and Harvey avenues. It’s not a cheap addition — structural re-enforcement was needed.
The expanded garage will begin opening up in phases, starting with the sixth and seventh floor additions opening in September, and the eighth floor opening up in October.
Add the reopening of the Century Center Garage this fall and the relocation of employees at Crowe & Dunlevy law firm from that garage to the Broadway-Kerr Garage owned by SandRidge Energy, and Beffort sees a much less stressed parking system within the next couple of months.
Beffort’s prediction includes accommodating the relocation of the Oklahoma Publishing Co. to Century Center next January and continued growth of Devon Energy, SandRidge Energy, Continental Resources and Enable.
“But as we continue to grow, we will need more,” Beffort said. “I hope by the end of next year, we can have another garage popping out of the ground.”
The restructuring ahead includes construction of a new headquarters for OGE Energy Corp. at Sheridan and Hudson avenues, which would shift hundreds of employees from the Oklahoma County garage at Robert S. Kerr and Hudson avenues, to a new garage that will be built as part of the development.
Bricktown developer Don Karchmer, meanwhile, is awaiting completion of a study to determine how many track lines will be needed north of Main Street so he can design a garage that he plans to link to The Underground pedestrian tunnels serving the Central Business District.
Bond Payne, meanwhile, is continuing design work for a garage at NW 5 and Robinson Avenue as part of his plans to redevelop the former Journal Record Building.
“We’re continuing to see positive absorption of downtown office space,” Beffort said. “In the next 12 to 18 months I expect we will need at least another 500 to 800 spaces.”