OKC Urban Renewal Approves Skirvin Hotel Development Pact

Article excerpt

The efforts being made by a group of developers to renovate the vacant Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City into a full-service Hilton Hotel took a significant step forward Wednesday.

The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority approved an agreement with the redevelopment group that is led by Irving, Texas-based Partners in Development designating them as the official redeveloper of the historic property. The agreement also allows the group, which will now be known as Skirvin Partners LLC, to being implementing its redevelopment plan.

According to the redevelopment agreement, Skirvin Partners is required to begin construction on the property by Oct. 1. John R. Weeman Jr., president of Partners in Development, said that his group has already done some exploration work on the building over the past couple of months and is confident that the deadline will be made.

You will see construction at the Skirvin over the next several months, he said. All of our work thus far has yielded good results and we want to keep the momentum going that we have now.

Weeman also added that his group is confident that they will be able to complete work on the hotel by the agreed deadline of March 1, 2006, and added that there is possibility the Skirvin could reopen for the 2005 holiday season.

The 13-story Skirvin Hotel building at One Park Avenue in downtown Oklahoma City has been vacant since 1988, when financial troubles caused the owners of the historic property to shut the doors. Since then, successive property owners have failed to reopen the hotel.

Under the agreement the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority will sell the building to the redevelopers for an undisclosed amount, but retain ownership of the land. The Authority will then lease back the land to the hotel owners at a lease rate that is based on a percentage of the hotel's cash flow.

Wednesday's agreement did not include overall project costs, which are still in the process of being determined. The redevelopment group's initial proposal that was presented in 2003 estimated the cost to be around $42.1 million, including about $10 million to be funded by the city and about $12 million in funds from the sale of historic tax credits.

However, Weeman said that he intends to have an overall project cost finalized within the next 60 days and is hopeful that the gap between what his group will be able to provide in terms of financing and what will be needed from the city and other sources will be feasible.

When we came in here, we made a promise that we were going to bring the gap in as low as possible, and I think we have made great progress on that, explained Weeman. We will be taking advantage of every available method to get this deal done.

During Wednesday's meeting of the Authority, Skirvin Partners made public its initial plans on restoring the Skirvin back into a high-end, full service hotel. The renovations are being designed by Kahler Slater of Milwaukee with Flintco handling the construction work. When completed, Marcus Hotels & Resorts will manage the Skirvin Hilton.

We expect to have the Skirvin return to becoming the place to stay in Oklahoma City, added Weeman. We hope to be positioned in the higher end of the market in terms of restaurant offerings and lounge offerings.

According to David H. Plank, AIA, an associate with Kahler Slater, the most detailed retrofit of the hotel will take place on the first two floors. …