Much is yet to be learned about the GE Oil and Gas Technology Center set to be built next year near downtown, but designs for the $110 million project indicate the company is looking to be a community player and enhance its visibility in the energy industry.
The architectural firm chosen in September, Miles Associates, competed for the job.
During selection, the firm's founder, Bud Miles, learned that GE executives visited the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, and were impressed with the Devon Energy Hall and the ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility at OU.
Both award-winning projects were designed by Miles' firm.
After a site evaluation that included two other locations, the company chose a spot between NE 10, N Walnut Ave., Harrison Avenue and N Stiles. The property is considered one of the most prime pieces of undeveloped real estate left in the health sciences district, where Miles has overseen dozens of projects over the past 30 years.
Oklahoma City's status as an epicenter of the energy industry played a role in being chosen for GE's ninth global research center. GE might not be known as a player in the industry, but its buys in oil and gas the past five years totaled $14 billion.
“One of GE's goals with this building was to tell this story, that GE is a member of the oil and gas industry,” said Cory Baitz, one of the project architects. “Through this building and location, they can start to spread their message that they are a part of this industry as well.”
Mark Little, GE's chief technology officer, said Friday the company's hiring of Miles Associates is part of a plan to use local resources.
The location is north of OU, south of OSU, and within walking distance of the state's prestigious Oklahoma School of Sciences and Mathematics.
Just across Interstate 235, downtown is home to energy companies including Devon Energy, Continental Resources and SandRidge Energy.
After Miles Associates was commissioned for the work in September, a team of up to 12 people, including six architects and two interior designers, were assigned to completing a quick turnaround.
“What we wanted to do is connect to the community,” said Mike Ming, general manager of the Oklahoma City research center. “Using a local architect who understands our needs and understands the local community connection of the building and the employees enhances the connection to the community.”
Building a showcase
During the design work, the architects learned that GE wanted a showcase space — one that would greet potential clients from around the globe.