For the past several weeks I’ve been digging into a phantom project – one that as of yet does not exist and yet is eagerly anticipated among those who follow downtown development.
Such is the power of good renderings. And the above renderings were created by Humphreys Partners and then placed on the Dallas architectural firm’s website.
Typically, when such a project is being seriously developed, the renderings are kept secret so as to not draw unwelcome attention from rivals – especially if the developer has yet to acquire the property. This project had renderings posted online where the location was clearly stated – the lumberyard just south of Harkins Theater in Lower Bricktown.
In February, the renderings appeared on the website OKCTalk. Some posters speculated the renderings were speculative, aimed at drawing investors. Others insisted the deal was real.
I started making calls. A source clued me into the name of the developer – Lou Christiansen of Tuscon, Arizona. I called his number, left messages, and never heard back. I called Humphreys Partners and talked to their media contact. They indicated they would pass along my interest in talking to Christiansen. No calls ensued from the architects or the developer.
On March 13, a local television station did a story on the “development,” and from what I saw, it was based purely on the discussion that took place on OKC Talk along with the posted renderings. I made a couple more calls. Nothing from Christiansen. I called my sources who track these deals. They were convinced it was going nowhere.
The topic next came up in my weekly OKC Central Live Chat:
Nick Emenhiser: Hey Steve, is the Lumber Yard project newly rendered by a Dallas architecture firm on the site newly acquired by OKC Mid Rise LLC, in any way connected to the development you've been attracted that would purportedly make Dallas and Kansas City "jealous." Apologies if this question gets asked 60 times before and after I have gotten this in.
Steve Lackmeyer: No. Be careful about reading too much into renderings discovered on architects' websites. Based on what I know, and folks I've talked to, I will be very, very surprised if this rendering represents anything real. I have not seen any transactions involving the sale of the lumberyard or anything transactions involving an entity named OKC Mid Rise LLC. There are some really great rumors that get batted around on a local website. Some are real, some are not real. This one, I suspect, is not real. And folks in the know say it is not real.
Pat: Good Morning Steve, Probably been asked, but is there any credence to the conceptual drawings for lumber yard site over by the co-op. Thanks
Steve Lackmeyer: I seriously doubt they are any more real than the renderings posted at the same website for a tower designed by a local firm for I-44 and Broadway Extension. Sometimes these renderings are done and posted to attract investor, developer interest. Sometimes they reflect a job that went south.
On March 27, Christiansen finally talked to a reporter – Molly Fleming at The Journal Record. He said he had a contract to buy the 5.9-acre site and that his plans also included a hotel. He said he might be interested in selling part of the site to another developer.
“There’s room for three midsize high-rise towers,” Christiansen told Fleming. “If there’s a business that wants to build an office, it’s a pretty prime spot.”
The story left a lot of my questions unanswered (and unasked?).
What experience did Christiansen have in developing high-rise and residential towers?
How marketable was the property as long as the Southwestern Producers Coop remained in business immediately to the south?
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