Developer Wanted for Downtown OKC Gateway Link to Innovation District

Oklahoma City Urban Renewal is making a third attempt to find a developer for a downtown gateway property.

The triangular block, bordered by NE 5, Walnut and Harrison, is a hub for Interstate 235 drivers traveling to downtown, Deep Deuce, Automobile Alley and the Innovation District. Despite the visibility and high traffic, the corner has proven to be a challenge for developers.

Cathy O’Connor, director of urban renewal, said the latest developer, Chuck Ainsworth, had managed to redevelop a flat iron building on the western half of the block, but had been unable to go ahead with plans to an eight-story office building on the rest. of the block.

“He has since retired and requested termination of his contract,” O’Connor said.

The new RFP provides a new opportunity for developers with Urban Renewal’s recent acquisition of excess land across from I-235 that expands the set to 2.3 acres overlooking the east and west sides of Walnut Avenue. .

“I believe the addition of the property across the street that Urban Renewal recently acquired from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will facilitate the development of both parcels,” O’Connor said. “It will be easier to understand how to park development and configure on sites.”

O’Connor said developing the property just west of I-235 represents a significant opportunity to improve the connection between downtown and the Innovation District.

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On the east side of I-235 along Harrison Avenue, Mark Beffort and Richard Tanenbaum set to build Convergence, a $178 million mixed-use development which will be anchored by offices and lab space for Wheeler Bio, a biomanufacturing company. The development will also include offices for other innovation companies, restaurants, bars, shops and a 107-room hotel.

Continued:New drugmaker and hotel to anchor development of OKC’s Innovation District

The first developer to attempt a deal with Urban Renewal for the flat iron block, Grant Humphreys, offered to restore the flat iron building that anchored the west corner of the block as he sought to build a mix of retail, office and five-story housing on the empty eastern half of the block. Its 2006 pitch also proposed a glass elevator leading to a rooftop garden.

Humphreys had filed for planning permission and was weeks away from starting construction when the national economy crashed in 2009. The project was scrapped as Humphreys instead focused on developing Carlton Landing at Lake Eufaula.

The Urban Renewal Authority took another hit in 2014 with developer Chuck Ainsworth and architect Rand Elliott proposing a two-phase approach that began with renovating and expanding the flat iron building into a headquarters for PLICO, an insurance company for doctors.

Continued:OKC’s Downtown Railroad Quiet Zone pays off fast with $100 million invested in five years

The old hotel, built in 1924, was closed for 27 years before Ainsworth and Elliott completed a $3.5 million makeover that included the addition of a transparent third floor. The pair have had less success with their plan to build an eight-storey office building in the eastern half of the block.

Elliott’s design called for three parking floors topped by five office floors. Ainsworth once indicated he was in talks with potential tenants, but a deal was never reached.

“Lack of space for parking has been a challenge for both developers,” O’Connor said Friday. “We appreciate ODOT for their assistance.”

Steve Lackmeyer started at The Oklahoman in 1990. He is an award-winning journalist, columnist and author who covers downtown Oklahoma City, urban development and the economy for The Oklahoman. Contact him at [email protected] Please support his work and that of other Oklahoman reporters by purchasing a subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.