Two prominent but neglected buildings in the Film Row and 16th Street Plaza districts are set to be redeveloped by David Wanzer as he continues the transition from designer to developer.
Wanzer previously enjoyed success developing infill, urban housing in the Meadowbrook Acres neighborhood at NW 56 and Western — a project he started in 2008 just before the announcement that the city's first Whole Foods would be built within walking distance of the new homes.
His latest purchases include the former Haggard's building at 1732 NW 16, which he bought on Jan. 10 for $304,000, and the Main Street Arcade Building at 629 W Main on Wednesday $1.2 million.
Wanzer said renovations are planned for both buildings, and he is in negotiations with two tenants “that will excite the district” for the old Haggard's building, which was last home to an upholstery shop.
The plan for the Main Street Arcade, Wanzer said, involves first applying for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Obviously it's been an underutilized and vacant building for decades,” Wanzer said. “Its relationship to Film Row and now to what is occurring along Main Street makes it a key piece to the success of Film Row and extending it to Classen Boulevard.”
Wanzer said he is fortunate to have built up a network of relationships and investors who backed him on the acquisitions. He considers himself fortunate enough to have once again enjoyed good timing on a project by buying the Main Street Arcade as development plans were being announced by 21C Museum Hotels for the nearby Fred Jones assembly plant at 900 W Main.
One of those relationships is with Jonathan Dodson, who had previously represented Legacy Bank on several downtown financing deals and marked the first downtown Oklahoma City loans completed by his new employer, CrossFirst Bank.
“What he's done is fairly unique in that he's taken relationships he has leveraged in the neighborhood and used that to get investors united behind a vision,” Dodson said. “With the Arcade, he got it when he was able to get it — right before the 21C Museum Hotel announcement — due to relationships.”
Dodson said his bank's loan committee was at first skeptical about the Main Street Arcade — it needed extensive renovations, was vacant, and had no signed leases.
“I put together a map of the area around the Arcade building for Jonathan to present,” Wanzer said. “It highlighted all the investment that surrounds the Arcade building, and it totals hundreds of millions of dollars of investment within a four-block radius.”
The presentation quickly won over the committee.
Wanzer said he owes much to Film Row developer Chip Fudge. Wanzer was a young, recent returnee to Oklahoma City when he was hired by Fudge to assist in the acquisition and redevelopment of buildings along the 700 block of W Sheridan.
“Chip gave us the opportunity as a design firm to work on some really great buildings and help bring Film Row back to life,” Wanzer said. “We worked on tax credits and tax increment financing for the streetscape. I learned a lot.”
Wanzer said he is continuing to pursue properties like the Arcade and Haggards buildings awaiting a new life.
“I have a passion for modern architecture and adaptive re-use,” Wanzer said. “Oklahoma City has a wonderful dock of assets crying to come back to life.”
Building opened 92 years ago
The Main Street Arcade building opened 92 years ago as the home of Hill's Business College, though it was better known as the home of the Downtown Baptist Church. The church first leased space in the building in 1936 and later bought the property. Over the years the 30,000-square-foot building also was home to a boxing and skating arena, a lodge hall, printing store and restaurant. The Downtown Baptist Church sold the building to Cosair Estate LLC. in 2009, which then sold it to David Wanzer on Wednesday.