Construction is set to start in early 2014 on The Metropolitan, a 330-unit, $45 million apartment complex that will be the largest single housing development announced yet for downtown Oklahoma City.
John Gilbert, president of Houston-based Bomasada Group, said that unlike a previous proposal he scrapped two years ago at NW 11 and Broadway, The Metropolitan is financed and will not require any tax increment financing or other public assistance.
When Gilbert contemplated his previous development, it required public financing for both a garage and creation of a railway quiet zone on the nearby BNSF Railway tracks.
Funding for the quiet zone was approved earlier this year, but the site first considered by Bomasada was bought by Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, which hopes to move downtown from State Fair Park.
Gilbert, who presented the project Thursday to the Downtown Design Review Committee, said the site for The Metropolitan, NE 6 and Oklahoma Avenue, is the last best remaining site downtown for new housing.
The property is immediately east of Ninth Street, home to a popular mix of restaurants and shops. The southeast corner of the property is home to a pocket park built by the Automobile Alley Association.
“We like this site better,” Gilbert said. “We are within walking distance of Bricktown, Deep Deuce, Automobile Alley and MidTown. We have great access to I-235 and 10th Street. We really have great access to everywhere in the city.”
Gilbert said he plans to formally apply for design committee approval in September, seek a building permit, and start construction in January.
The site isn't without its challenges. The property, which is under sale contract by Pat Garrett to the Bomasada Group, is 962 feet long, stretching between NE 6 and NE 9. The property is bordered by Interstate 235 to the east, and has a billboard with a long-term lease in the middle of the site.
“It's an oddity at 8th Street — the billboard,” said architect Mark Lange, principle in Atlanta-based Lord Aeck Sargent. “That's something we needed to incorporate into the project. We didn't have the option of removing the billboard.”
The solution was to build the complex's six-story, 578-space garage at the center of the project so that it, and not any of the apartments, look out on the billboard. The design, Lange said, also hides almost all of the garage from downtown streets.
The design borrows from both the modern “arts and crafts” look of the Level apartments and other developments in nearby Deep Deuce, and “post industrial” architecture of nearby Automobile Alley.
The facade is designed with brick and metal, with front stoops and windows at street level facing the sidewalk along Oklahoma Avenue. About 8,000 square feet of amenities, including the leasing office, also will be at street level next to the garage entrance. Apartments will separate the garage from Oklahoma Avenue.
“It will be a pleasant place to walk by,” Lange said.
Initial reactions by members of the design committee on Thursday indicate the project will likely be easily approved in September. The committee voiced no concerns about the designs.
“I'm so excited about this,” said committee chair Betsy Brunsteter. “I was driving along Oklahoma Avenue the other day and thinking about what a great site this is.”
Dick Tanenbaum, another committee member who developed The Montgomery and Park Harvey apartments downtown, called The Metropolitan a success over a “difficult site.”
“It's difficult with the narrowness of the site, and I think you've done a great job,” Tanenbaum said. “This is the urban development we're encouraging, and you've hit it.”
Apartment communities grow
Several large apartment complexes have been built over the past few years downtown, with more either under design or construction. The Metropolitan, with 330 units, is the largest apartment complex announced to date since the downtown housing market got started a decade ago.
We like this site better. We are within walking distance of Bricktown, Deep Deuce, Automobile Alley and MidTown. We have great access to I-235 and 10th Street. We really have great access to everywhere in the city.”
President of Bomasada Group