With suspense building to today's unveiling of designs for the new Devon Energy tower, Larry Nichols is willing to share just a tidbit of what to expect: it won't be traditional. "What has been fun is that the design we ended up with was not everyone's first choice at all,” Nichols said in an interview with The Oklahoman. "Some of the more traditional designs people were naturally attracted to as opposed to the shape we ended up with.” Nichols, chairman and chief executive officer of Devon, admitted he's just as excited about seeing public reaction to the tower designs as the public is about seeing them. Nichols first announced plans to build a new downtown corporate headquarters in March and predicted the building will be at least 37 stories high and would cost more than $350 million. Construction could begin by late 2009.
"It's the most anticipated announcement in the last couple of decades.”
Details being kept secretNichols isn't changing his predictions, but he's keeping further specifics secret until they are unveiled at 9:30 a.m. today at the board meeting of the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. The meeting was relocated from Urban Renewal's offices to the auditorium of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library to accommodate an expected crowd of dignitaries and the simply curious wanting to get a first look. "It's the most anticipated announcement in the last couple of decades,” said Brett Hamm, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. "We haven't seen a corporate tower built downtown for some time and this is a significant symbol of growth for Oklahoma City.”
Several ideas studiedThe presentation is set to be led by Dallas developer Gerald Hines and Connecticut architects William Chilton and Jon Pickard. Nichols said he was intrigued by the design process, where engineers, space planners and architects picked apart about eight different design concepts. Heating and air experts looked at how different building shapes either repelled or attracted heat or cold and at which ones might be most energy efficient, for example. Other experts focused on how the building designs might stand up to Oklahoma wind, while another team looked how to create a safe workplace. Nichols said many of the design experts didn't care about the building's exterior. Yet, "they all ended up with the same building,” Nichols said. "And it is not a traditional design.”
An evolving downtownNichols hinted the building may not be a simple, rectangular box as is prevalent with most of the high-rises built downtown the past 40 years. He said the interior designers find a rectangular design with long straight hallways an easy task for office layouts. "When they studied the design we ended up with, they discovered it was just as efficient, in terms of using the greatest number of net feet as the traditional design,” Nichols said. "So it was quite fun.” Nichols is curious about how downtown might evolve with the new tower — and he's realized after looking at cities like Charlotte, N.C., that a "new, interesting building” didn't just change the skyline, but made its downtown a more exciting place to work. "The trend we have going on here ... where we are doing things outside of our historic mold — getting an NBA team here, all the success we have had with Bricktown — this city has been fighting to get outside of its stereotype for a long time,” Nichols said. "The city has been doing an awful lot of positive things to get out of that stereotype. We are growing a new one that says we are growing, dynamic, exciting place to be.”
What to ExpectThe Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority is set to hear a presentation for the proposed Devon Energy tower and then could vote to name the company developer of city-owned land along Sheridan Avenue across from the Myriad Gardens. The presentation will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will include renderings and a model of the project. Oklahoman Business Writer Steve Lackmeyer will provide live coverage of the design presentation and will post renderings first on his blog at www.okccentral.com.