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  • Cathy O'Connor

historic renovation encourages new development

As plans for downtown Oklahoma City’s First National Center continue to develop, there is increased excitement about the final product. At a recent chamber event, local developer Gary Brooks shared his team’s vision for the iconic building.

The First National Center will be a mix of a 149-room hotel, 210 apartments, two restaurants and 35,000 square feet of retail, commercial and event space. Residents will enjoy spectacular amenities such as a concierge, rooftop pool and dog-park, outdoor kitchens and a theater. The Great Hall on the second floor will be restored to its former elegance and open for public use, a hotel lobby and a museum.

When Gary shared his vision with me, I immediately saw the economic development opportunity. Built in 1931, and once considered the star of Oklahoma City, the building had suffered from two decades of neglect and deferred maintenance. It sat mainly empty with an occupancy rate of 20 percent. Gary’s proposed development would spur economic vitality by bringing more than 700 people downtown through employment, tourism and urban living.

I could also see Gary’s passion and commitment to restoring a hometown building to its former art deco elegance. His development team has looked at 110 case studies of similar projects around the country and gone on dozens of site visits to research the best process for preserving historical significance, while integrating new and updated infrastructure and living space.

The building renovations are estimated at $200 million and will likely require a mix of public and private investment. The building is located in a tax increment financing district.

Read more at The Journal Record.

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