A $13.7 million makeover is proposed for downtown's Journal Record Building as part of a bid submitted Monday to the Oklahoma City Cultural and Industrial Facilities Trust by the chairman of Heritage Trust Co.
The building, built in 1923, was originally home to the Masonic Temple and was later a movie theater. In the years leading up to the 1995 bombing, it was home to The Journal Record, a business newspaper.
The building was extensively damaged by the bombing, and was acquired and repaired by the city before it was turned over the facilities trust.
The western one-third of the building is owned by the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and one floor of the eastern two-thirds up for sale is being leased to the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. The space up for sale is the more ornate entrance facing Robinson Avenue.
Bond Payne, co-chairman of Heritage Trust Co., said he first considered buying the building two years ago — but with a very different intention.
“We were interested in living downtown,” Payne said Monday. “We started looking at it from a housing perspective. We brought in some friends who work in urban real estate. It was their recommendation it might not be the best site for housing, but would be great as office space, especially if you had a company like Heritage Trust to come in as an anchor.”
Payne's proposal calls for a historic restoration of the facade to be designed by Smith Dalia Architects of Atlanta and Oklahoma City-based Butzer-Garder Architects. The project would be developed by Urban Realty Partners with contracting by Lingo Construction, a company working on the Braniff Building at nearby SandRidge Commons.
Payne said his goal is to create “unique” Class A office space that would offer prospective tenants an alternative to traditional office tower space in the surrounding Central Business District, yet be “more sophisticated” than space commonly found in nearby MidTown.
With 15,000 square feet already leased to the terrorism institute, and an additional 20,000 square feet to be occupied by Heritage Trust, Payne said the development would add about 55,000 square feet of Class A office space to the Central Business District.
About 5,000 square feet of that remaining space would result from a modern, glass-encased addition to the fifth floor, turning what is now attic space to what Payne believes will be among the most desirable offices in the building.
“It's the single element that, done correctly, can be a beacon to show people that something new is happening here and yet is completely respectful of the historic nature of the building and is in keeping with the highest principles of historic preservation,” Payne said.
The bid submitted Monday offers $1.74 million for the property and asks for unspecified city assistance in tax increment financing for the renovation and for construction of a garage with ground-floor retail on the former site of the YMCA building just southeast of the Journal Record Building.
“Parking is critical,” Bond said, adding he is seeking to create a new financing model that can be adopted by other future downtown developers.
Cathy O'Connor, president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City that oversees the facilities trust, said her staff will spend a couple of weeks evaluating Payne's proposal.
Payne's was the only response to a request for proposals issued last month, and follows several years of fruitless efforts to sell or lease the space.
“It's all still subject to negotiations and finding solutions acceptable to the Cultural and Industrial Facilities Trust and the developer,” O'Connor said.
Respect for memorial
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism submitted letters endorsing the development.
Payne, a former memorial trustee, said he strived to ensure his plans complemented and respected the memorial and its operations. Hiring Hans Butzer, who designed the memorial, was part of that effort, Payne said, adding the architect also is respected in urban design and historic preservation.
Kari Watkins, Oklahoma City National Memorial director, said she hopes Payne's project can start soon so it can coincide with an upcoming renovation and exhibit upgrade of the museum.
“We hope a year from now we're in museum redesign at the same time that they're under construction,” Watkins said. “That would be very exciting.”
Watkins and Payne said they hope the proposed redevelopment can be completed by 2015 — the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the nearby Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
“We would like to move quickly, firm up an agreement with the city and move on,” Payne said. “We're very cognizant that the 20th anniversary of the bombing is coming up, and we'd like to see it ready at that time. The market is ready.”