A mysterious scramble is underway to empty the 11-story One North Hudson Building, part of a block of properties bought up over the past decade by developer Nicholas Preftakes.
Preftakes did not return phone calls to The Oklahoman on Tuesday. He owns all of the properties on the block bordered by Hudson, Sheridan, Walker and Main Street, except the city's 420 W Main office annex, Coney Island Hot Dogs and the now-closed Pizza Town.
His acquisitions on the block, dating to 2007, total more than $16 million. And while Preftakes has remained coy about his plans throughout the years, all indications point to a dramatic transformation of the southwest corner of downtown.
All of Preftakes' buildings are empty except the Union Bus Station, where operations are set to close and move to Eastern and Reno Avenues next year, and the One North Hudson Building. The few remaining tenants confirm they are moving after being told their leases won't be renewed when they expire in April 2014.
The Oklahoma Pork Council, a tenant leasing the ninth floor for nine years, is preparing to move to 901 N Lincoln, where it will lease space from the Oklahoma Blood Institute. The Hunsucker Legal Group, meanwhile, is preparing to build a new office building that will fill in a gap between Film Row and the Central Business District.
Roy Lee Lindsey, director of the Oklahoma Pork Council, said Preftakes told him the building is being emptied out as part of a plan to redevelop the block.
Preftakes bought One North Hudson, originally the Hotel Black, in 2007. And while he has engaged in some leasing activity, occupancy has dived at a time when similar properties have filled up.
“There were not many left in the building when they started work on Devon Tower,” Lindsey said. “As that work progressed, the Holder-Flintco people, their subs (subcontractors) on the Devon project took up that space. At the height of the project, the building was filled.”
Lindsey said that space is again empty since the Devon Energy Center construction was completed.
Lindsey praised Preftakes for allowing him flexibility on where he could move and possibly ending the lease early without penalty.
John Hunsucker, owner of the Hunsucker Legal Group, reported the same communications took place with Preftakes' leasing agents — with one exception: the firm had to move by April no matter what. He also has been notified by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation that his firm's month-to-month lease of parking spaces at Stage Center will not be renewed after July 31.
Cardinal Engineering, meanwhile, completed site inspections several weeks ago on the Stage Center site, where several sources have confirmed an announcement is imminent of redeveloping the property into a tower.
While Preftakes isn't talking, it's highly unlikely he is struggling to find tenants for the office building, which overlooks the revamped Myriad Gardens.
After Devon Energy added 1.8 million square feet to the downtown office market, some people worried whether the city would be hit with a glut of vacant space. The opposite occurred as new companies moved into town, and now the city's downtown garage system is oversold and full.
Greater Oklahoma City Chamber President Roy Williams on Tuesday told the city council “our success has become our impediment.”
“We're losing potential clients everyday,” Williams said. “They're looking for existing space, and we're basically full. Everything large, 50,000 square feet and up, is basically full in our market.”
Could more than one new tower be in the works for the downtown skyline? Devon Energy has denied rumors it plans to build a second tower on Preftakes' block, though its parking garages are filling up as its workforce continues to expand.
Or could Preftakes' moves be directly related to the development set to occur across the street at Stage Center?
Either way, the timelines are moving in tandem and deadlines are being set by owners of both blocks.
And Hunsucker is caught up by both deadlines, which has him hoping to quickly build a new home for his law firm at 600 W Sheridan. Hunsucker bought the corner at Sheridan and Dewey back when Film Row was better known as Skid Row and prospects for the area looked dim.
Most of the remainder of Film Row has since been redeveloped to the west and walls are going up for the new John W. Rex Elementary across the street to the east. With the redevelopment of Stage Center almost a certainty, and potentially more redevelopment ahead of Preftakes' block, Hunsucker is set to enjoy a pretty plush new address.
If he can get the job done by April.
Hunsucker experienced an unexpected delay last month when the Downtown Design Review Committee told him he needed to make changes to the building plans and involve an architect.
He's done just that, changing the roofline from a pitched to a flat line, and architect Thomas Small worked with builder/designer Scott Coleman on final renderings.
Hunsucker will find out if his plans can proceed at Thursday's design review meeting. He also is including a retail space facing Sheridan that he hopes to lease out to an art gallery or related use. His fallback plan is to open a gallery for his own photography, which he displays at festivals throughout the year.
“I think this building will provide a nice transition, a nice step down that will bring together the business district and Film Row. We are moving a bit quicker than we wanted to with everything changing around us.”