Leasing agents for some of downtown Oklahoma City's premium office towers are competing to become the temporary home base of the city's new NBA team. Clay Bennett, who leads the ownership team that bought the former Seattle SuperSonics, listed the search for new office space as one of the first tasks they face in moving to Oklahoma City this summer.
City covering the costsAs part of an agreement to play at Ford Center, the city committed to paying for temporary downtown office space for team employees until permanent space is added at the arena. "The addition of 120-plus employees to the current downtown work force of over 52,000 adds to the 24/7 vibrant environment we're working to create,” said Brett Hamm, president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. "The fact that these are NBA employees serves as an impressive recognition of the investment the public and private sectors have made towards downtown's success,” Hamm said. Mark Beffort, principal of Grubb & Ellis-Levy Beffort, represents Leadership Square and Corporate Tower. Those two towers, along with Oklahoma Tower, are considered top contenders as downtown's premium Class A office properties. He said even just a two-year lease with the team would be considered a huge win because of the nature of the tenant. "People like to be around exciting new things,” Beffort said. "To be around basketball players, it really is a neat deal.”
Less space availableSpace is available, Beffort said, though not as much exists as did when the Hornets were looking for a similar deal in 2005. He noted the latest office space report shows vacancy down from 30 percent a few years ago to 27 percent now. The Class A space vacancy is just under 15 percent. Leadership Square is 84 percent occupied and has two floors that could fit a tenant needing a full floor of space totaling 20,000 to 25,000 square feet. At Oklahoma Tower, three floors are available. Craig Tucker, a leasing agent for Price Edwards representing Oklahoma Tower, said the former home of the Hornets is 87 percent occupied. But as testament to changing times, the Hornets' former office space is now leased to Simons Petroleum. Tucker said the ground floor Hornets store, however, is still vacant and the tower still has a couple floors left large enough to accommodate space needed for the team's operations. Hamm said the diminishing availability of Class A space may help revive the fortunes of older downtown properties. "As Class A space becomes increasingly limited, in order to capitalize on downtown's momentum, we continue to see strong interest among investors and developers in renovating Class B and C space,” Hamm said. "And that continually opens up new opportunities for business growth and relocation.”
Leadership Square, left, and Oklahoma Tower, right, are considered top contenders to be the temporary home of Oklahoma City's new NBA team. by steve lackmeyer, the oklahoman