After a two-year wait, Paul Coury is overseeing the transformation of MidTown's Osler Building into a 55-room boutique hotel.
Coury, who did a similar conversion with the Colcord Hotel downtown before selling it to Devon Energy Corp., is spending $15 million on the renovation and hopes to have the hotel open by year's end.
The Osler Building, 1200 N Walker Ave., was built in 1929 as offices for doctors at nearby St. Anthony and Mercy hospitals. It has stood empty since it was acquired by MidTown Renaissance Group in 2006, at which time it originally was targeted for conversion to housing.
That plan was dropped when the original developer, Greg Banta, parted with MidTown. Soon afterward, Coury, who opened his first Ambassador Hotel in Tulsa in 1999, began looking at the Osler as part of his plan to create a chain of boutique hotels.
“Two years ago, we decided to go ahead and create the Ambassador Hotel collection,” Coury said. “We have one in Tulsa. We opened one in Wichita and one in Kansas City. And now we're doing this one.”
Manhattan Construction started work in January and has dismantled an addition on the roof that will be replaced with a glass-encased restaurant and bar that will provide a view of the downtown skyline.
Another restaurant and bar will be established with an outdoor courtyard on the first floor.
Architects Catherine Montgomery and Karen Bishop worked closely with Coury to obtain historic preservation tax credits — a task they found challenging because Banta had gutted the building's interior. After finding historic photos, they designed windows to match the original facade, and they are carefully preserving the exterior.
Without those tax credits, Coury said, the project would not have been feasible. Work began as the moratorium on the tax credits was lifted.
“This is what I think of as a showpiece,” Montgomery said. “And when the windows are replaced, people will gain a new appreciation. The windows were changed in the 1980s, much like at the Skirvin hotel. And we have photos of what the original windows look like, and when we have them changed out, the building is really going to pop.”
Bishop said she also looks forward to redesigning a decorative “Juliette” balcony over the front entrance into a usable balcony that might make an ideal spot for bridal wedding photos.
Coury said the renovation won't just be cosmetic; with the entire interior previously gutted, the building is getting all new plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems. Other improvements will include a new stairway tower and elevators.
“This is one of the most important historic buildings we have right now in Oklahoma City,” Montgomery said.
“It's been a sleeping giant. … But once this is done, I think people are going to be very excited by what they see.”