Clayco, the Chicago firm hired by Rainey Williams Jr. to help develop a new headquarters for OGE Energy Corp., is seeking to possibly acquire the south half of the downtown block for a larger mixed-use project.
The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority board is set to decide next Wednesday on whether to issue a request for development proposals for the property, which is bounded by Reno, Hudson and Walker Avenues, and the former alignment of California Avenue that is now the arts festival plaza.
City Manager Jim Couch also is expected to present a report on the potential development at Tuesday’s meeting of the Oklahoma City Council.
Larry Chapman, a partner in Clayco Realty Group, said the development team inquired about the property’s future and was told the city eventually planned to seek a development plan.
“What happens in the future will have a huge impact on our site,” Chapman said. “Pete Delaney (CEO of OGE Energy Corp.) is very interested in seeing something next door that is very nice, He said if it’s available, let’s look at it and have something much bigger, something that is mixed use. We’re talking about doing something that is far bigger, far more robust.”
Chapman said any potential development of the south half of the block would not result in dropping the previously announced 16- to 18-story height of the OGE Energy Corp. tower. Chapman said an expanded development likely will include housing and a hotel.
“Everyone wants to see more height here, and that’s a good goal to have,” Chapman said.
Cathy O’Connor, director of the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, said the proposals for the city-owned property would be due within 60 days. Clayco asked for the request for proposals, but O’Connor said other interests also have inquired about the property.
“We know they plan a large-scale, mixed-use development with structured parking,” O’Connor said. “By looking at both blocks at the same time, they can modify their design and make changes that will be better for the whole city.”
Stage Center, which is on the north half of the block, is being demolished to make way for a tower for OGE Energy Corp. The development previously detailed by Williams suggests another developer would build an eight- to 10-story hotel or housing tower on the northwest corner of the block.
If the south half of the block is redeveloped, which O’Connor called “a real possibility,” the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, La Luna Mexican Restaurant and the Myriad Gardens Foundation all would need to find new homes. The development also would displace a large area used since the mid-1980s for the annual Festival of the Arts.
A city trust resolution is set to be heard Tuesday that would begin notification to the tenants of early termination of their leases.
“We are going to ask that the proposals include a plan or strategy about how they would deal with the tenants that are impacted,” O’Connor said.
Peter Dolese, director of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, was unaware of the potential development until contacted Friday by The Oklahoman. The arts council is one of five non-profit arts agencies that have been located in the arts plaza, some for more than 20 years.
“I assume we would be able to have a positive relationship with whoever the new developer is,” Dolese said. “I can only be optimistic anyone coming into this area would want to include us.”
Officials with the Myriad Gardens Foundation and owners of La Luna Restaurant, other tenants on the block, could not be reached for comment.
O’Connor said she is not entirely surprised by the development interest in the block, which is within walking distance of the future convention center, Core to Shore park and future streetcar line. It is also across the street from the John W. Rex Elementary that is set to open in September.
“If you come downtown and look (at development possibilities), you go to that site,” O’Connor said. “It’s right across from the gardens and it’s not developed right now. It’s obvious that’s the next place.”