An application being filed this week with the Oklahoma City Planning Department asking to raze downtown's Stage Center reveals the property is to be developed as a 14- to 16-story tower that will become the new headquarters for OGE Energy Corp.
The move will consolidate most of the company's 1,000 employees under one roof and might free up two of its existing properties for redevelopment.
In an interview with The Oklahoman, Rainey Williams Jr., president of Kestrel Investments, said the $100 million project will also likely include a second tower, eight to 12 stories high, that will be separately developed as either housing or a hotel.
A conceptual master plan shows both towers will adjoin a multistory parking structure that will include shops and restaurants facing Hudson and Sheridan avenues. A day care and play area are proposed along the south side of the garage facing the Festival Plaza that each year is home to the Festival of the Arts.
Williams said his current timeline calls for construction to begin in 2015 with completion in 2017.
“This project will continue to build on the revitalization of this exciting area of downtown Oklahoma City,” Williams said. “We want the development to complement its surroundings and provide another opportunity to enjoy our downtown. With OGE Energy as our anchor tenant, we are confident our development will be something that Oklahoma City will be proud to have downtown.”
OGE Energy has been in the hunt for a new headquarters on and off for years and previously considered construction of a new tower at Harvey and Robert S. Kerr avenues in the 1980s. The company's workforce is currently located in a handful of buildings throughout downtown, similar to the scenario Devon Energy Corp. faced a decade ago before it built the 50-story Devon Energy Center.
The development does not include relocating operations for Enogex or the new OGE Energy spinoff Enable Midstream Partners L.P., which will remain based at Leadership Square.
“We are excited about bringing our employees together in a new corporate headquarters,” said Peter B. Delaney, chairman, president and CEO of OGE Energy. “We have a large number of employees scattered throughout downtown Oklahoma City at multiple facilities that are outdated and unable to meet our future needs.”
Larry Nichols, executive chairman at Devon, applauded news of the development.
“When we built our building, and as we started the Devon TIF (tax increment financing district) to create Project 180, and to redo the Myriad Gardens, all the sidewalks and streets, we hoped it would inspire more development downtown. … I really think this is just the beginning,” Nichols said.
Development of the Stage Center site likely won't occur without debate. The theater, designed by John Johansen, is internationally recognized architecture and is featured in architectural textbooks.
The theater opened in 1970 and was part of the I.M. Pei Plan that sought to rebuild downtown in the 1960s and 1970s. The theater struggled through much of its history and closed for several years in the 1980s before it was renovated and reopened.
The building was closed again when it was devastated by floodwaters in June 2010. Arts agencies permanently relocated, the building was stripped by copper thieves, and building ownership reverted from the Arts Council of Oklahoma City to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
Kestrel Investments Inc. purchased the downtown property in July from the Kirkpatrick Center Affiliated Fund of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for $4.275 million. Start of building design and construction are dependent on approval of the demolition permit by the Downtown Design Review Committee.
Williams said he hopes to incorporate a tribute to Stage Center as part of the development.
Brian Alford, director of public affairs for OGE Energy, said no decision has been made on the future of the company's 86-year-old headquarters at 321 N Harvey or its other downtown location at 420 S Broadway. The company also leases space at Leadership Square. Also unknown is how many, if any, of the company's parking spaces might be made available in the combined OGE/Oklahoma County garage at Dean A. McGee and Hudson avenues.
Cathy O'Connor, director of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, said her office will be watching the development closely.
“Obviously we need parking downtown,” O'Connor said. “The shift of parking and freeing up of spaces could help us with increasing occupancy in other buildings or future buildings that could come online down the road.”
O'Connor said the property at 420 S Broadway is also far more attractive for development than it was just a few years ago.
“The South Broadway property is one that is one block away from the future park and the arena,” O'Connor said. “It's prime for private investment related to the park development. With the city investing $130 million in a park a block away, and with the streetcar coming, and how close it is to Bricktown, it could be an important connection between Bricktown and the rest of downtown west of the BNSF tracks.”
This project will continue to build on the revitalization of this exciting area of downtown Oklahoma City. We want the development to complement its surroundings and provide another opportunity to enjoy our downtown. With OGE Energy as our anchor tenant, we are confident our development will be something that Oklahoma City will be proud to have downtown.”
Rainey Williams Jr.,
President of Kestrel Investments