The Oklahoma City Abstract & Title Co. is not a store, but owners of 50 Penn Place were happy to lease it the former Harold's mall space anyway.
The title company is relocating a branch from Nichols Hills Plaza because the owner there, Chesapeake Land Co. LLC, is renewing only retail leases, said Amber Dixon, president of Oklahoma City Abstract. Chesapeake Land, an arm of Chesapeake Energy Corp., said the title company had to be out by the first of the year.
It was no secret. Chesapeake made sure Oklahoma City Abstract had plenty of time to find new space. Dixon said she wanted to remain as close to Nichols Hills as possible. 50 Penn Place is about a mile southwest of Nichols Hills Plaza.
It was a fluke, however, that she even considered 50 Penn Place. She attended 50 Penn's grand reopening last spring after owner In-Rel Properties of Lake Worth, Fla., completed upgrades and an exterior makeover of the property, a combination mall-office tower.
She said she went expecting to see renovated retail space — and was surprised that she could imagine Oklahoma City Abstract using the former Harold's space: 5,700 square feet, plus 1,000 square feet of common area.
“It wasn't until I saw the old Harold's space in 50 Penn Place and the renovations to the building that I got really excited,” Dixon said.
She said she was drawn by the wood beams and paneling, marble floors and grand entrance, but was vetoed by her directors when she first suggested it. They couldn't see it. Then the chairman of the board, her mother, Connie Dixon, happened to get a look at the space — and caught Amber's vision.
“Some people would look at this and only see space that would be suitable for a retailer,” Amber Dixon said. “I saw it and thought about how much character and beauty the rich wood details would add to our office space. I had to ask myself, why not think differently about the space?”
So a lease was inked in a deal handled by Chad Khoury, a broker with Colliers International-Oklahoma, which then marketed space in 50 Penn Place. The property is now represented by Sperry Van Ness/William T. Strange & Associates.
Mukang Cho, CEO of In-Rel Properties, said In-Rel has been working to reposition the mall portion of 50 Penn Place to appeal to retail and non-retail businesses alike since buying it 18 months ago.
“We acquired 50 Penn to create an environment in which retail, commercial and service businesses create great synergy and add value to the other businesses,” Cho said. “This is something we were able to accomplish successfully in our other markets and a model that is prevalent in many leading gateway cities.”
In-Rel also owns office buildings and shopping centers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. In addition to its Florida headquarters, In-Rel, founded in 1985, has offices in Birmingham, Ala., and Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.
Dixon said renovation of the new Oklahoma City Abstract space will start later this month and the branch will open in January with six employees with room for expansion.
“Our employees are excited and customers will benefit from the other businesses in 50 Penn,” she said. “When you work a long day at the office, having amenities like restaurants, a bookstore, gift shops, a tailor and other service businesses means convenience for us. I think on some days, having a restaurant a few steps away will mean the difference between being able to grab lunch and having to skip it.”