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Real es­tate de­vel­op­ment game leads to con­stant changes in down­town neigh­bor­hoods

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - BY STEVE LACKMEYER Busi­ness Writer slack­meyer@ok­la­

Look­ing out from the third­floor bal­cony of her home in a for­mer stor­age ware­house, Linda Man­del can see the im­mense down­town sky­line, in­clud­ing a thriv­ing Deep Deuce and, of course, the 50-story Devon En­ergy tower.

“It’s a good place for cof­fee in the morn­ing and wine at night,” Man­del jokes.

Man­del and her hus­band, Peter, a movie props me­chanic, bought the for­mer Tom Mun­day Mov­ing and Stor­age at 6 NE 6 in 2004 when the build­ing was sur­rounded by blight and she didn’t dare leave the en­trance door un­locked.

They’ve spent the past 14 years slowly turn­ing the 21,000-square­foot build­ing into their home, start­ing with con­ver­sion of the first-floor of­fices into a tem­po­rary apart­ment and then work­ing their way up. She says the home is still a work in progress, though to the ca­sual eye of a vis­i­tor, it’s al­ready a show­case for how to turn a ware­house into a home.

All along, the cou­ple have no­ticed de­vel­op­ment pop­ping up all around. Across the street, the cen­tury-old Pi­o­neer Tele­phone Ex­change ware­houses are be­ing con­verted into

of­fices and re­tail. Im­me­di­ately to the east of the Cen­tral Ex­change project, Basil Rayan is con­vert­ing a garage and ware­house into the mixed-use 6th Street Mar­ket­place. “I like it, but Pete tends to like it the way it was,” Linda Man­del said. “We walk to Thun­der games, we walk to all the restau­rants, and we walk to the Arts Fes­ti­val. We walk a lot.”

Jonathan Rus­sell, mean­while, has led in ac­quir­ing land along the stretch of NE 6 be­tween Broad­way and Ok­la­homa Av­enue, just north of In­ter­state 235. One of those lots pur­chased early on was im­me­di­ately south of Man­del’s home where she cur­rently en­joys her bal­cony view of down­town. “We were con­cerned,” Man­del said. “I could see a five-story apart­ment com­plex or a park­ing struc­ture — any­thing could go in there.”

Rus­sell de­clined an of­fer by the Man­dels to buy the empty lot, but he promised he would talk to them be­fore mak­ing any fur­ther moves.

Sev­eral weeks ago, Rus­sell did just that, swap­ping the lot south of the Man­del home for the yard they own to the east. It in turn con­nects to prop­erty Rus­sell owns to the south and east. The swap with the Man­dels is one of sev­eral trans­ac­tions Rus­sell has made along Sixth Street, treat­ing it al­most like a chess board as he has bought, sold and flipped deals along the way. At the north­east cor­ner of Sixth and Broad­way, de­vel­oper Ni­cholas Pref­takes aban­doned his plans for a heav­ily pro­moted Con­do­mini­ums on Broad­way.

Rus­sell pre­vi­ously owned the south­east cor­ner of the in­ter­sec­tion but sold it to two dif­fer­ent groups, one for de­vel­op­ment of a seven-story head­quar­ters for Heart­land Pay­ment Sys­tems and the other for a Towne­place Suites ho­tel.

“Nick’s prop­erty re­ally got into my head af­ter he de­cided to change his path on the con­do­mini­ums,” Rus­sell said. “I had al­ready owned the two store­fronts next door for years and years. He did some struc­tural im­prove­ments to my build­ing due to snow load that would have been caused by his new build­ing. He also fixed the en­croach­ment ease­ment.”

The lot, cleared of sur­face park­ing as part of site prepa­ra­tion for the can­celed con­do­mini­ums, is now ready for a fresh start and Rus­sell re­ports he is in dis­cus­sions on how to pro­ceed. Rus­sell also has a lease for ad­join­ing sur­face park­ing next to the for­mer Pref­takes cor­ner. He owns one ware­house on the south side of the street yet to be re­de­vel­oped next to an­other that was ren­o­vated into the head­quar­ters for the Ok­la­homa Ge­o­log­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Should all of these prop­er­ties de­velop as hoped, the stretch of Sixth be­tween Broad­way and the BNSF Rail­way viaduct will be trans­formed into a dense mix of re­tail, restau­rants, a ho­tel and of­fices.

Back on the east side of the tracks, con­struc­tion is well un­der­way at the for­mer Pi­o­neer Tele­phone build­ings be­ing de­vel­oped into Cen­tral Ex­change.

The brick build­ings at 7 NE 6 and 11 NE 6 were con­structed in 1909 and 1911 as the early day tele­phone com­pany’s garage and ware­house. The prop­er­ties later were owned by South­west­ern Bell and then AT&T.

The prop­erty ex­tends north to NW 7, and glassen­cased stair­way ad­di­tions will be added to both build­ings with some of the older cov­ered park­ing cov­ers to the north set to be cleaned up and painted for re-use.

Basil Rayan was un­aware of the Cen­tral Ex­change de­vel­op­ment plans when he pur­chased a garage and ware­house im­me­di­ately east at 19 and 23 NE 6. Rayan re­cently filed build­ing per­mits that show equally am­bi­tious ren­o­va­tions and rooftop ad­di­tions. “It is strate­gi­cally placed off one of the first en­trances and ex­its of the in­ter­sec­tion of two ma­jor in­ter­states,” Rayan said. “This, in a sense, makes it the gate­way to down­town Ok­la­homa City. Whether you are head­ing to work, com­ing into the city for a night out, or a tourist driv­ing into the city for the first time, we could po­ten­tially be the first thing you see com­ing in or the last thing you see be­fore head­ing out.”

Rayan said he is not ready to re­veal his ten­ants, other than 19 NE 6 is set to be ren­o­vated for a restau­rant. “With­out di­vulging too much in­for­ma­tion, the con­cept is a mod­ern Amer­i­can with con­tem­po­rary ren­di­tions of clas­sic dishes that will of­fer unique din­ing op­tions,” Rayan said. “The at­mos­phere has been in­spired by many restau­rants from around the world, and will boast an open kitchen, pri­vate and com­mu­nal din­ing ar­eas, out­door pa­tio seat­ing, and the fo­cal point, a rooftop pa­tio with an ex­quis­ite view of down­town.”

The fi­nal piece of the block, mean­while, owned by Pat Gar­rett, is also in play. The empty lot at the north­west cor­ner of NE 6 and Ok­la­homa Av­enue is lo­cated across the street from the sprawl­ing Met­ro­pol­i­tan Apart­ments that opened two years ago.

“We are in the process of va­cat­ing the al­ley that goes through it,” Gar­rett said. “We’re talk­ing to a prospect about build­ing an of­fice build­ing. We’re mov­ing for­ward to a trans­ac­tion. We’re hope­ful we will get it done.”

With all this de­vel­op­ment, the street it­self con­tin­ues to be a con­cern for mo­torists and prop­erty own­ers. The street has been largely in­dus­trial since the city’s ear­li­est days and when the BNSF viaduct was built, the city chose to save money by sim­ply cre­at­ing a dra­matic dip on the street un­der the rail cross­ing. Trucks rou­tinely get stuck un­der the low span and the ad­join­ing side­walks and safety rail­ing are crum­bling.

The street is part of a con­fus­ing set of high­way egresses cre­ated when I-235 opened amid a large aban­doned in­dus­trial and rail area. De­vel­op­ers are eye­ing im­prove­ments to the area and with traf­fic jam­ming up the nar­row Ok­la­homa and Wal­nut Av­enues cross­ing the high­way egresses, ques­tions are emerg­ing as to whether they might be al­tered es­pe­cially in light of new con­nec­tions open­ing with the Ok­la­homa City Boule­vard.

Rayan said he is work­ing with Tri­bune Cap­i­tal, de­vel­oper of Cen­tral Ex­change, on mak­ing im­prove­ments to Sixth and Seventh streets to make them more at­trac­tive and safer for pedes­tri­ans.

“At the very least I would love to see side­walk im­prove­ments, and maybe a uni­fy­ing theme to tie the area to­gether,” Rayan said. “Sim­i­lar to how Mid­town has the mon­u­ments, some­thing unique to our part of Au­to­mo­bile Al­ley would be a wel­come ad­di­tion. More green­ery is al­ways a plus as well.”

Man­del, mean­while, is wit­ness­ing the traf­fic jams along Sixth from the for­mer load­ing dock that is now her front porch. All in all, she is at peace with the chaos, es­pe­cially now that she and her hus­band con­trol their view of the down­town sky­line.

“If we didn’t want to be around all this, we wouldn’t have moved down­town,” Man­del said. “You can’t move down here and think things are go­ing to stay the way they are. That doesn’t hap­pen.”


The real es­tate game con­tin­ues along Sixth Street be­tween Broad­way and In­ter­state 235 with de­vel­op­ment to in­clude restau­rants, re­tail, of­fices and a ho­tel. Lux­ury con­do­mini­ums planned by Ni­cholas Pref­takes at the north­east cor­ner of NW 6 and Broad­way, how­ever, are dead and the cor­ner has been sold to Jonathan Rus­sell.


Basil Rayan is pro­ceed­ing with re­de­vel­op­ment of a one-story garage and ad­join­ing ware­house at 19 and 23 NE 6 into a mixed use de­vel­op­ment that will in­clude a restau­rant.


Basil Rayan’s 6th Street Mar­ket­place will in­clude a court­yard, park­ing and other im­prove­ments sim­i­lar to those al­ready be­ing built next door by Tri­bune Cap­i­tal as it de­vel­ops Cen­tral Ex­change.


A ware­house and garage once part of the city’s early day tele­phone op­er­a­tor, Pi­o­neer Tele­phone, is be­ing re­de­vel­oped into a mix of re­tail and of­fices by Tri­bune Capi­tol.


Linda Man­del is as­sured that her view of the down­town sky­line will not change thanks to a land swap with area de­vel­oper Jonathan Rus­sell. Man­del and her hus­band Pete bought a early 20th-cen­tury, three-story ware­house at 6 NE 6 when the area was still blighted and have spent the past 14 years turn­ing it into their home and work space.


Re­de­vel­op­ment of the for­mer Pi­o­neer Tele­phone ware­house and garage on NE 6 will in­clude a mod­ern ad­di­tion and court­yards ex­tend­ing the Cen­tral Ex­change de­vel­op­ment north to NE 7.

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