If you read Real Estate Editor Richard Mize’s cover story in The Oklahoman on Saturday, you may have noted that the forecast by Price Edwards office specialist Craig Tucker mentioned the possibility of two additional towers being built on the west edge of downtown Oklahoma City.
No public announcements are being made about these projects, but based on information from several good sources, I can confirm not just the likelihood of these additional towers, but also where they are set to be built.
First, consider that the issue of higher office rents — a prerequisite for any such construction — is set to be tested by Chuck Ainsworth, who is preparing to build new office space as part of a second phase of redevelopment of the block at NE 6 and Harrison.
Fencing went up this past week for renovations and expansion of the existing flatiron building on the block, and Ainsworth recently told the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority he plans to build the new space this next year. To do so, Ainsworth will need to recover up to $30 per square foot in rent. He thinks the market is ready — and demand may very well prove him right.
If the new rent structures hold, the next question is, how extensive of an expansion are we set to see in the downtown market?
Consider what is already public knowledge: Rainey Williams Jr. is preparing to build a mid-rise tower (though it may end up higher when built) for OGE Energy Corp. on the site of Stage Center at Sheridan and Hudson Avenues. Williams also previously said he is seeking a developer to build a second tower on the block.
Clayco, a Chicago firm hired by Williams to assist in development of the OGE Energy Corp. headquarters, is seeking to build a significant structure on the south half of that block — a development that may result in three towers being built between Reno, Sheridan, Hudson and Walker Avenues.
Once OGE Energy Corp. makes the move, the company’s historic home at 321 N Harvey Ave. will go dark – but likely not for long. With ample parking located immediately to the west, this building could easily be converted into housing.
Serious discussions, meanwhile, have been going on for months about another tower to be built at Hudson Avenue and Main Street. The block, acquired by Nick Preftakes over the past decade, has long been associated with potential expansion of Devon Energy, which has its own 50-story headquarters to the east.
Several sources have confirmed to me this tower is likely to be developed as office space, with the tenants including one major company seeking to lease additional space while another tenant might end up consolidating its downtown and suburban operations in the same building.
Yet another development is possible at the site of the old First National Bank drive-thru at Robert S. Kerr Avenue east of Walker Avenue. Finally, Rick Dowell confirms he is getting closer to starting design and planning for a residential tower at NW 5 and Dewey.
Count it all up and up to six new towers could be added to the downtown Oklahoma City skyline over the next few years — and this does not include the prospect of a 15- to 20-story conference hotel that civic leaders hope to see built next to the future convention center at Reno and Robinson Avenues.
Most folks get excited at such skyline changes. But careful planning and coordination will be needed to ensure the market can absorb the new space — and that the increased downtown population is adequately served with parking and incorporation of a new streetcar system.