A boarded-up former hotel at the east gateway to downtown is set to become the headquarters of an insurance company.
The building at Harrison and Walnut Avenues, boarded up for 27 years, is owned by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority and was previously targeted for redevelopment by Grant Humphreys. That plan was within weeks of construction starting when the national economy collapsed in 2009 and the project stalled.
Urban Renewal commissioners on Thursday approved a request to negotiate a new development agreement to Chuck Ainsworth, who is hoping to renovate the property into a new headquarters for Physicians Liability Insurance Co. (PLICO) with retail on the first floor.
The company’s CEO, Dr. Carl Hook, said he is under a July 2015 deadline to move his company out of the Federal Reserve Building, 226 Dean A. McGee.
“We’re in a real race to get Dr. Hooks’ company in this building,” Ainsworth said, adding he hopes to start construction this summer.
Architect Rand Elliott told commissioners the $3.5 million renovation will incorporate “historically accurate brick” and design-appropriate windows.
Hooks’ company will occupy the original 13,000-square-foot building.
Ainsworth said a second phase addition to be built on vacant land to the east of the former hotel will likely consist of a two-story garage and three stories of office space.
Parking is to consist of 20 spaces along surrounding streets with overflow spaces, if needed, to be built on Elliott’s property to the north.
Ainsworth told commissioners he is aware of the property’s prominent vista for visitors arriving downtown from Interstate 35 and Interstate 235.
He added he never considered housing as several residential projects already are being built elsewhere downtown.
“Downtown office space is getting into short supply,” Ainsworth said. “We do think some new office development is needed. There are large tenants out there knocking for space. We’re committed to doing something special. This is a gateway site. It will set the tone and expectation level for what to expect downtown.”