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Office space is getting tight and tighter in downtown Oklahoma City

Price Edwards & Co.'s midyear report shows more space absorbed in the past year than in any other 12-month period since the firm started tracking the office market in 1986.
by Richard Mize Published: August 10, 2012

“Despite the change in crude oil and natural gas prices, the strong energy industry has enabled the local economy to flourish while most of the country has struggled,” brokers with CB Richard Ellis-Oklahoma noted in their midyear Oklahoma City Marketview.

The firms' midyear assessments of downtown were comparable.

Price Edwards found a vacancy rate of 20.7 percent, down from 22.8 percent at the end of 2011, and an average rent rate of $15.34 per square foot per year, up from $15.28. CB Richard Ellis calculated a vacancy rate of 19.9 percent, down from 23.5 percent at year-end, and an average asking rate of $14.87 per square foot.

Storm watch

Price Edwards mentioned two clouds over downtown: the fate of First National Center, 120 N Robinson, and the shortage of parking.

First National owners have until Friday to come up with $12 million to settle with lender Capmark on a $21 million note or see the 1-million-square-foot office complex go into receivership.

The center includes a 32-story tower of 451,086 square feet built in 1931, a 14-story building of 201,915 square feet built in 1956, and a 14-story building of 346,650 square feet built in 1974.

Price wondered whether the answer to the parking problem might be found on some of the First National Center property.

The tallest tower, on the National Register of Historic Places and an icon for 80 years since the “skyscraper race” with what is now City Place next door to the south, is probably untouchable, he said.

But Price said some of the rest of the complex is ripe for “adaptive reuse” — re-purposing as something other than office space, maybe housing, maybe a hotel, maybe parking.

Whatever becomes of First National Center, “I think the city of Oklahoma City has to be involved in some way, just like with the Skirvin,” he said of the public-private effort that took the historic downtown hotel out of mothballs and put it back in service five years ago.

by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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