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Unhappy residents say goodbye to Sycamore Square as owners pursue changes

Tenants are unhappy that the new owners of Sycamore Square apartments in downtown Oklahoma City are asking residents of two-bedroom units to move out as part of a plan to downsize units at the complex.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: July 23, 2014
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When Clint Cowan signed a one-year lease for a two-bedroom apartment last winter at Sycamore Square, he believed he had found a perfect family friendly home that would allow him to enroll his 7-year-old son at nearby John W. Rex Elementary.

Now, just weeks before the start of school, Cowan is hunting for a new home even though his lease has yet to expire. Dozens of other residents have either chosen to leave or been told to leave as well by new owners who are converting the complex’s two-bedroom units to smaller one-bedroom residences.

Cowan, a downtown attorney, signed his lease shortly before an Los Angeles investment group led by Rohan Gupta purchased the complex from the family of the late Ed Fretwell for $6.4 million.

“I had planned to be at Sycamore Square for at least a few years,” Cowan said. “At Sycamore Square, my son can run around the pool, there is a lot of green space, and it’s gated so it’s safe.”

Other downtown properties, Cowan said, are running pretty full.

“I can go to Park Harvey,” Cowan said. “They are close to John Rex Elementary, but it’s not as nice for kids.”

Cowan complained he was given no notice about plans to have all the two-bedroom apartment tenants leave by Sept. 30 to allow for conversion to the smaller residences, and instead learned about the plan while reading an article in The Oklahoman.

A changing market

Gupta said he is making the changes in response to a changing market. He said most tenants are being given a 60-day notice their leases won’t be renewed — twice the legal requirement.

“Since our acquisition of Sycamore Square, we have made a significant investment to upgrade the complex consistent with the revitalization of the surrounding area,” Gupta said. “Our plan is to continue to upgrade the common areas and individual units to meet the demands of downtown renters.”

Gupta added he is trying to accommodate Cowan and his son, and may be able to move them into a three-bedroom unit that is not scheduled for conversion. Other tenants, however, say they’ve lost faith in Gupta, even as he is seeking to expand his holdings with construction of a new building at Sycamore Square and a pitch to the Urban Renewal Authority to build micro-apartments at NW 4 and Shartel Avenue.

Dianna Jones, who moved out last week after living at the complex with her sister for nine years, was one of several tenants who praised the Fretwells’ operation. Fretwell bought the complex in 1990 and his family not only ran the property, but also lived in the apartments.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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