A drastic revision is being unveiled in plans for apartments and retail — one that may cost developers more money but one they also hope will make for a better east gateway into Bricktown.
Gary Brooks, who is developing the former site of Stewart Metal Fabricators, told Urban Renewal commissioners this week that the new architectural plans were drawn up in cooperation with Urban Renewal design consultant RTKL and attorney Leslie Batchelor.
“We'd like to say my team knocked this out of the park when you first looked at it — we didn't,” Brooks said. “One of the challenges on this site is because we do have federal funds involved, we have some workforce housing. My partner Andy Burnett and I are committed to making this affordable for the average worker downtown.”
That consideration, Brooks said, led him to impose a budget cap on his architects.
“It hurt us from coming up with the best design for the project,” Brooks said. “One of the problems with (the first design) is it was very long.”
The new design cuts the complex in half with a promenade running north and south between Sheridan Avenue and an alley road that will run between the development and The Hill neighborhood. The new design also cuts in half the view of the garage from The Hill.
The new designs also add several thousand square feet in retail space. Estimates also show, however, that the new design could increase the cost by $15 a square foot.
“We're going to build it,” Brooks said. “We're going to figure out how to do it.”
The back story
Brooks and partner Andy Burnett began work on the 250-apartment, 18,000-square-foot retail development two years ago.
The former Stewart Metal Fabricators plant at Joe Carter and Sheridan Avenues stood empty after closing in 2003. The company started in 1934 and employed 400 in the heyday of the telecommunications boom of the late 1990s.
Brooks and Burnett were not the first developers to see the property as a prime site for housing — but they were the first not to be scared away by the contamination that lurked beneath the surface.
Engineers determined the soil was filled with years of metal shavings and also hydrocarbons likely left by oil derricks that spread over east Bricktown in the 1920s.
Brooks was at first reluctant — neither he nor Burnett had ever developed a contaminated site that was eligible for federal Brownfield assistance. Burnett, who had successfully brokered the sale of several Bricktown properties, convinced Brooks the reward was worth the risk.