Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Oklahoma Goes Condo Crazy

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Oklahoma Goes Condo Crazy

Article excerpt

There is a new epidemic spreading among Oklahoma developers and city leaders causing them to go condo crazy. Over the past 18 months, condominium conversions and development have become buzz words in the industry with a handful of projects already under way and scores more planned to start construction within the year.

Prior to 2004, most condos in Oklahoma City and Tulsa represented a small percentage of the total multi-housing market and were limited to smaller properties consisting anywhere from 10 to 60 units in suburban areas of the cities. Now, condos are seen as a way to stimulate economic development by creating housing ownership alternatives in the urban areas of both cities.

We have a combination of both condos and apartments coming into downtown (Oklahoma City), and certainly it seems for the first time we will turn a corner in downtown housing with ownership opportunities in a wide range of offerings, said Dave Lopez, president of Downtown OKC Inc. That should make 2006 a real pivotal year.

Lopez said about 1,000 housing units are coming online in the Oklahoma City downtown area over the next 12 to 18 months, many of which will be for-sale condominiums. Projects slated for the downtown area in the next few years include The Hill at Bricktown, which will offer 171 town houses ranging in price from $200,000 to $475,000, and Block 42 consisting of 18 townhouses and 12 elevated flats. Costs will range from $160,000 to $485,000.

Kerr-McGee Corp. is also planning to convert three of its vacant buildings totaling 270,000 square feet into condos and penthouses in the next couple of years. The historic buildings located at Robinson and Robert S. Kerr avenues will result in at least 70 condominium units.

While Lopez admitted he would like to see all of these units come online immediately, he believed the staggered completions of these projects should result in a stronger absorption of these condos by residents.

The pace of development is very important, he said. I recently read about the Washington, D.C., condo market that created more supply than demand and it resulted in a two-year slump. That is not the case here. The slower pace we have is good.

Downtown Tulsa officials are also placing a strong emphasis on stimulating the development of condos. While Tulsa thus far has seen only for-rent apartment units be developed in such projects as The Renaissance Uptown, The Tribune Lofts and The Philtower Lofts at Fifth and Boston, Jim Norton, president of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited, said a number of condos are slated for downtown as a result of the city's $885 million Vision 2025 plan.

We have $10 million in Vision 2025 that is supposed to be used in assisting residential development in downtown, explained Norton. The city put out a request for proposals in August, and we received 10 responses in the first week of December.

In those proposals, Norton said about half of them call for for- rent projects while the other half are proposing condominiums that would be for sale. A task force appointed by Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune is currently reviewing the proposals with a decision expected in early March.

In addition to the condos that may result from the Vision 2025 plan, the two San Francisco investors that own 25 percent of the buildings in downtown Tulsa are also planning residential units in some of their properties. Maurice Kanbar and Henry Kaufman have previously stated they are planning to renovate several of their buildings into both apartments and condos.

We think (downtown housing) is the most critical part of downtown development added Norton.

The largest condo conversion project under way in the state is Gardner Tanenbaum's retrofit of the former Citizens Tower in Oklahoma City into The Classen condominiums at 2200 N. …

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