In the history of a district like Midtown, 2008 seems as if it were decades ago. It was in 2008 when I wondered in this column if the area just north of the Central Business District was set to lose its forward momentum with the departure of Greg Banta.
Banta had worked to acquire a couple dozen properties, had a vision, but was struggling to move forward.
The economy was souring, and Banta had skipped opportunities to obtain historic tax credits and other assistance that might have made financing of his vision a bit easier.
Banta’s partners behind the scenes, Bob Howard and Mickey Clagg, stepped in and took over where Banta left off. At first, Howard declined to discuss his plans. Howard was not going to be one to prematurely hype a project that may or may not get off the ground.
Howard kept to his word, however, that he was “fully committed to the completion of these projects.” And after taking in a third partner, Chris Fleming, the three went far beyond Banta’s early vision, pursued historic tax credits, gave more emphasis to preservation, and incorporated the latest trends in place-making and urban design.
The developers’ legacy is already solid – the neglected Osler office building turned into an upscale Ambassador Hotel, shops and restaurants centered along NW 10 and Walker, several historic buildings turned into apartments, offices, shops and restaurants at NW 10 and Robinson, and yet another nondescript decades-old office building turned into contemporary apartments along NW 12.
Midtown Renaissance Group has redeveloped 30 properties in Midtown, including 11 projects renovated to historic preservation guidelines.
Even bigger redevelopment projects are underway at NW 10 and Broadway, as detailed in stories this past week. Construction will wrap up this summer on a parking garage deemed critical to a successful redevelopment of the Buick Building at 1101 N Broadway, the Pontiac Building at 1100 N Broadway and the very fragile 110-year-old Marion Hotel at 110 NW 10.
All four properties are active construction sites, with three of them involving intricate preservation efforts.
Preservation also is going on, though with less attention, on the old Mayfair Apartments, which for years was a converted office building and home to United Way of Central Oklahoma. Howard, Clagg and Fleming are wrapping up a restoration that will return the building at 1315 Broadway Place back to its original use.
Yet another game changer, Fassler Hall and Dust Bowl Lanes, can be seen rising along NW 10 just east of Walker Avenue. The vintage-style bowling alley, live music venue and German beer garden will fill in a huge gap in Midtown, not just in terms of vacant land, but in terms of entertainment venues. Yet another large vacant piece of land at NW 10 and Harvey is being converted into an outdoor food truck plaza – a place holder for something bigger and better in future years.
And have no doubt, bigger and better is coming.
Bob Howard last week said as much, not to tease or withhold information, but rather to show his confidence in Midtown’s ongoing momentum, in saying as much as what has transpired in the past five years, even more is ahead.