First National Center is up for sale with brokers urging potential buyers to look at it as a redevelopment opportunity.
The sale was posted this week by the Oklahoma City office of CBRE and is being represented by Amy Dunn. The listing does not include an asking price, though a separate office at CBRE appraised the property at $8.5 million during bankruptcy proceedings in 2012.
“We’re getting a really positive response,” Dunn said Wednesday. “It’s definitely a redevelopment play and potential buyers are looking at it for conversion to parking, hotel, residential and office and every combination thereof. Every one of them has a different opinion as to what they would like to see happen.”
First National Center has struggled with occupancy and ownership issues since it lost its last anchor bank tenant, Boatman’s Bank, 22 years ago. The complex, totaling just under 1 million square feet, consists of three buildings built at different times when it was home to one of the state’s largest banks, First National Bank.
First National was declared insolvent in 1985, one of dozens of area banks claimed by the oil bust.
Occupancy at First National Center is down to 26 percent after the loss of one of its biggest tenants, Devon Energy Corp., when the company was able to consolidate all its operations at its new 50-story headquarters at 333 W Sheridan.
Several redevelopment plans have been pitched by local groups in recent years, but were frustrated by purchase rebuttals from out-of-state ownership. The current ownership, Los Angeles-based Neman Brothers, investors and owners of a textile company, acquired the property when prior ownership led by Aaron Yashoufar declared bankruptcy.
Dunn said potential buyers are being urged not to look at the property as “an income play,” but rather as a chance to buy a historic landmark in a thriving downtown that can be renovated with more value to be realized afterwards.
While the asking price is unknown, those familiar with the property have told The Oklahoman an effective renovation and redevelopment will cost at least $80 million and will require some participation by the city.
The previous two ownership groups, one based in California, the other in New York, were on tense terms with city officials over operation and failure to fulfill promised improvements to the 1931, 33-story tower. Both ownership groups saw liens filed against the property as bills went unpaid.
Cathy O’Connor, president of The Alliance for Development of Oklahoma City, said city officials are aware that a public/private partnership will be needed.
“The city is very interested in seeing First National Center renovated and complete occupancy achieved,” O’Connor said. “We all see it as a key to the success of the Central Business District.”
O’Connor added that some ownership groups may not be ideal candidates for such an overhaul.
“I think the city may be hesitant if there is not a comfort level with the ownership,” O’Connor said. “They (potential new owners) will be need to be people they know, like and trust.”