Veteran Bricktown property owner Don Karchmer is in talks with city officials about building a 1,200- to 2,200-space garage in Bricktown with the possibility of offices or housing on the top floors.
The Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority was preparing to hire architects to design a 1,000-space garage on the city-owned land north of Main Street and west of Walnut Avenue when the privately financed parking was pitched as an alternative.
Karchmer has a long-term lease for the former rail yard and operates a 1,300-space surface parking lot on the site.
“Our designs are for 2,300 spaces, but that may end up being too aggressive,” Karchmer said Thursday. “We are in talks with major downtown property owners and companies about buying blocks of these spaces — and it can be something they can buy and sell.”
Those discussions include Continental Resources, based at 20 N Broadway, the owners of Cotter Ranch Tower (also known as Chase Tower) at 100 N Broadway, BancFirst at 101 N Broadway, and the owners of the Medical Arts Building at 100 Park Ave.
Those talks, Karchmer said, “are very positive,” and he is prepared to buy 500 spaces that he will make available to the public.
Karchmer's plan also calls for the first extension of The Underground pedestrian tunnels in a quarter century. Karchmer said he hopes to know next week whether his project will proceed, and if so, construction is set to start by September.
He hopes to construct the extension of a tunnel under E.K. Gaylord to the closest connection at the Santa Fe Garage while the street is being rebuilt as part of Project 180. The tunnel would then go under Main Street and the BNSF Railway viaduct to the front entrance of the new garage.
Karchmer said the garage is being designed to allow for expansion or development of offices or apartments on the top floors. He said interest to date leans toward development of apartments that would allow tenants to park under their residence and enjoy direct tunnel access to the Central Business District.
Cathy O'Connor, president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, is assisting in the talks and said a privately built garage will allow the city to focus its resources on providing parking elsewhere downtown.
The city's downtown public parking system was expected to enjoy some vacancy after Devon Energy completed construction of its new headquarters and doubled the size of the former City Center West Garage. Instead, the influx of new headquarters including Continental Resources and Enogex has produced vehicles beyond the parking system's capacity.
The city recently started construction of a new 800-space garage south of City Hall and assisted in the financing of another 350-space garage at NW 10 and Broadway.
“We recognize that we need to develop additional garages downtown,” O'Connor said. “If there is an ability to finance privately, from the city's perspective, that's the preferred course of action — to let the private sector do what it can do. A garage at that location could help to serve the east end of the Central Business District and would help take pressure off of the Santa Fe Garage. And once the garage south of City Hall is open, COTPA (the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority) hopes to move parking out of the Santa Fe Garage to create more open spaces for the public.”