Call it "six in the city” — and a literal spin on what it means to live the high life. Consider life on the 33rd floor, in one of only a half dozen condominiums towering above the core of downtown Oklahoma City. It’s in the works for City Place, the Depression-era skyscraper at 204 N Robinson Ave. The top seven floors of the office building are being converted to residential use — but only six condos, whose residents will have access to indoor parking on the ground floor. Owner Roy T. Oliver doesn’t plan to compete with other downtown living options. He plans to dominate one niche: the skyscraper life. "There are no residences on the 33rd floor downtown now. There will be in the near future. This will certainly be the most unusual residence downtown. It’s one of a kind,” he said. Make that the 32nd and 33rd floors, which will be sold as one condo connected by an Art Deco stairway, which seems natural since the elevators go only to the 32nd floor. By renovating City Place, which he bought last fall, Oliver is building up his own neighborhood. His property holdings include Leadership Square across the street at 211 N Robinson; Oklahoma Tower around the corner at 210 Park Ave.; and Corporate Tower, catty-corner to City Place at 101 N Robinson. "The big picture ... is to improve a place that’s got some history and special architecture, and to improve the area of downtown where I have so much property already,” he said. With new roofing already on, work is going on inside. "Just getting down to the concrete and steel is what we’re concentrating on right now,” said Ran Oliver, Roy Oliver’s son, who is overseeing the renovation.
Surprise challengesSpecialty Construction Services, which has handled numerous projects for Oliver, is doing the work. Butzer-Gardner is providing architecture services and See’s Design is doing interior design. There’s been an unexpected discovery or two — no surprise, really, for a 78-year-old building. Take the generator. There wasn’t one. Finding a place for one was a challenge, said Michael Nichols of Specialty Construction Services. But stripping away almost eight decades of tenant improvements has revealed some Art Deco ceramic tile crown molding and some other surprises, too.
At a glanceCity Place’s place in history Roy T. Oliver said it was the history embedded in the architecture of 78-year-old City Place and the building’s place in Oklahoma City’s oil-boom heritage that led him to buy the building last fall. Originally called Ramsey Tower for oilman W.R. Ramsey, who financed it, the building went up in a "skyscraper race” with First National Center, on the next block south at 120 N Robinson. The buff-brick exterior, with its vertical bay windows, numerous architectural setbacks — the higher the floor, the smaller the floor plate — and use of darker spandrel brick, said "stability” in 1931, when construction trends were pushing office buildings higher than some people’s comfort levels. It was quite a sight for Oklahoma City, still young at 42. "It wasn’t six blocks from that building, it was pastureland,” Oliver said.