If Johnathan Russell could simply follow his heart, his recent purchase of the Hale Photography Building at NW 5 and Broadway would be accompanied by an announcement of plans to renovate the property into his corporate offices.
For years Russell, president of Land Run Commercial, admired the property from his offices across the street.
Instead, the longtime home of the century-old Hale Photography is within days of being torn down by the city, which declared the building dilapidated last fall.
“At first, our primary interest was to renovate it and move our corporate offices into the building,” Russell said. “It was to our dismay we realized that was not to be the case.”
Russell holds no grudge against the city; on a recent inspection he encountered not just a collapsed roof but walls being pulled inward by the debris. The interior side of the walls was reduced to the equivalent of a “bag of potatoes,” he said.
Even so, Russell said he visited with city officials about potential rescue plans. Russell ultimately paid $180,000 for the property — convinced the building could not be salvaged.
“We had it under contract for a much higher price hoping we would get to renovate the building,” Russell said. “We still paid handsomely for the dirt, but it was at a lower price.”
Demolition of a decades-old building along Automobile Alley is not how Russell hoped to introduce himself to the Oklahoma City real estate market. While he has operated Land Run Commercial for more than a decade, his development to date has been in other areas of the state and in Arizona, Texas and Arkansas.
The Hale property, along with an unidentified site along NW 23, fits into what Russell describes as a strategy of buying and redeveloping troubled sites in promising commercial corridors.