After a dozen years of failed attempts at redevelopment of the former MidTown home of Mercy Hospital, construction is beginning this week on the $36 million, 250-unit Edge apartments at NW 13 and Walker Avenue.
Developer Gary Brooks, speaking to dozens of civic leaders Wednesday at a groundbreaking, admitted it took three attempts by friend and mentor Mike Henderson to convince him to bid for the project.
He also admitted that at the time, his awareness of the area's emergence as a mixed-use urban neighborhood was so limited that when invited to visit Henderson at the trendy 1492 New World Cuisine, his response was “What is 1492?”
Brooks, set to infuse the largest investment yet in the neighborhood, is no longer confused about 1492 or other MidTown restaurants, shops and housing clusters.
Larry Nichols, chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority, reminded attendees that the site was long home to the blighted remains of Mercy Hospital until it was acquired and cleared by the city in 1998.
The first attempt at an apartment development by Nicholas Preftakes fell apart when Urban Renewal commissioners denied his request to acquire decades-old duplexes across the street that at the time were considered blighted — but since have been redeveloped into offices.
Chuck Wiggin was then selected by Urban Renewal in 2008 to build a $62 million, 109-unit Overholser Greens on the same site despite warnings that the project was not viable due to a declining condominium market nationwide. The project fell apart amid the credit crunch associated with the Great Recession that hit the following year.
Brooks said he considered himself the underdog in the competition for developing the property at NW 13 and Walker as he faced off against Wiggin, Dick Tanenbaum and Marva Ellard.
“When you have names like Wiggin, Tanenbaum and Ellard thrown in, you know the competition was going to be tough,” Brooks said. “I told my team we needed to bring our ‘A-game' like we never had before.”
When selected in August 2011, Brooks promised an aggressive schedule, starting construction in 12 months. He missed that mark by one month — a delay he said was caused by the time needed to get financing.
The turnaround, however, is among the quickest in the history of the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority and included extra steps of meetings with area residents, submitting to independent architectural review by the firm RTKL and acquiring approval from the Downtown Design Review Committee.
“I obviously had my sales and marketing hat on, and that's OK,” Brooks said. “But I think everyone is happy.”
Brooks estimates the project will be completed within 22 months.
“I think we're a piece that MidTown was missing in terms of size and scope,” Brooks said. “MidTown has everything else in terms of housing, services, retail and restaurants.”
The Edge Team
Architect: GTF Design, Bedford, Texas
Civil Engineer: Cardinal Engineering
General Contractor: N.E. Construction, Lewisville, Texas
Financing: Crain Mortgage, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development