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Oklahoma City's Baker First Commercial Real Estate turns 25

But uncertainty surrounding the “fiscal cliff” has Rod Baker, founder of Oklahoma City's Baker First Commercial Real Estate Services, wondering about next year.
BY RICHARD MIZE Published: December 15, 2012

Project 23V

A recent project is 23V Retail Center, 2519 NW 23, and the Little Caesar's Pizza next door. The redevelopment is northwest of NW 23 and Villa Avenue, not far from Shepherd Mall and its workforces and Oklahoma City University and its students, faculty and staff. It's a heavy-traffic part of the city.

Baker took a two-story, 24,000-square-foot office building built in 1954, demolished half of it and remade the property into four ground-level retail spaces, a 6,000-square-foot office space upstairs, a freestanding Little Caesar's and plenty of parking.

“It's been well received. We get a lot of attention to this project,” he said. “Of course, there's a lot of redevelopment going on in Oklahoma City. Twenty-third Street, in particular, is getting a lot of attention, at both ends of this main part of town. So we think it's going to be a good long-term investment.”

Baker has come a long way from days in his father John's funeral home in Mayville, N.D., population then about 2,500. Rod Baker did mortuary work himself for a few years — here at Smith & Kernke — before shifting to property, working for C.A. Henderson Cos., in the mid-1980s.

Up from 2009

He said he didn't hit serious trouble until three years ago, but even then things could have been a lot worse. Construction and development — and lending for it — came to a stop while owners of properties already in operation held their breath.

“A few people had difficulties during that time, but our properties continued to perform well,” Baker said.

“We had a good asset base, so we made it through that time and have climbed up and are doing very well right now. Oklahoma has blessed us greatly.”

Except for uncertainty surrounding the “fiscal cliff” negotiations between Congress and the White House, Baker said he remains optimistic.

“The interest rate environment is very good for real estate investment,” he said. “The lenders still are somewhat cautious. But they're eager to make good loans, which is a little different from 2009, when they had to pull back. But for people that they have relationships with, they require a little more due diligence on their loans.

“But they haven't suffered like lenders have nationally, so they've been able to make their way through that part of it.”