Downtown Tulsa is set to get a new upscale hotel if recently announced plans for the historic Atlas Life building play out.
Maurice Kanbar sold the landmark at 415 S. Boston Ave. to Missouri-based SJS Hospitality on Friday, February 29.
Within days of the transaction, Mayor Kathy Taylor publicly introduced the new owners before a gaggle of reporters gathered at the Tulsa Press Club, located on the first floor of the Atlas Life building.
Jeff Hartman, the Tulsa operating partner of SJS, announced last week a $12-15 million project to adapt the building into a 120-room Courtyard by Marriott-brand hotel over the next year and a half to two years.
The Mayor, for one, was pleased with the announcement.
"Downtown Tulsa is back and it's here to stay," she declared, celebrating the announcement as a major development in "ensuring the revitalization of downtown Tulsa," along with the soon-to-be completed BOK Arena, the conversion of Boston Ave. to a two-way street, and the City Hall move into the One Technology Center.
Said SJS' Hartman, "My partners and I pursued this project because we want to aid the revitalization of downtown Tulsa and provide a unique hotel unlike any other in the state."
The announcement, though, incited some initial panic over the fate of some of the landmark's popular features, both modern and historic.
"The biggest question I've gotten was not 'how many rooms' or anything else, but 'Are you keeping the Atlas Grill?'" Hartman said.
To a great collective sigh of relief, Hartman answered, "Yes."
The Atlas Grill and the Tulsa Press Club will remain on the first floor of the building, he said.
"We recognize that they are a critical part of this historic landmark," Hartman said.
The other tenants on the second floor and higher will be relocated to other Kanbar-owned downtown properties by June 1, after which time the renovations will commence.
Other than the first floor, Hartman said the interior of the 86-year-old, 12-story building will be "completely gutted," but also assured that "preserving the Atlas Life building's historical integrity is among our goals."
He said the four-story neon sign above the main entrance and the crouching statue of Atlas at the building's crown will both be retained.
Hartman said he and other SJS honchos decided on the Courtyard by Marriott-brand precisely because of the company's experience of successfully adapting historic buildings.
He said the Atlas Life building was chosen because of its iconic name and architecture, its history, and its location downtown and proximity to the new BOK Arena.
Steve Ehrhart, another SJS partner, said the Courtyard by Marriott at the Atlas Life building will be the fourth project by SJS Hospitality in the Tulsa area.
The others are the Candlewood Suites at 10008 E. 73rd St. South, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites and the TownePlace Suites by Marriott, both in Broken Arrow.
The company is based in Missouri, and will contract with the Missouri-based Thomas Construction for the renovations.
The architect, though, is the Tulsa-based firm GH2, formerly known as Gralla.
The name of the new hotel at the Atlas Life building has yet to be determined, but rooms and suites will range in price from $149 to $189 per night.
The SJS partners said accommodations for hotel parking at the Philtower parking garage immediately behind the Atlas Life building are under negotiation. Hartman said they hope to conclude those negotiations by the end of April and, if they're successful, plan to build a skybridge from the Philtower garage to the second floor of the Atlas Life building.
Also, they said dining options for hotel patrons other than the Atlas Grill and the Tulsa Press Club are in the initial planning stages.
"We look forward to making several announcements in the coming months about the hotel's name, employment numbers and opportunities, architectural renderings, food venue plans and additional retail tenantship of the building," said Hartman.
The purchase price of the building was not disclosed.
Kanbar purchased the landmark from the Pearson Group for $1.5 million as part of his 2005-06 buy-up of downtown Tulsa buildings, comprising 2.57 million square feet and 32 percent of the city's downtown office space.
He bought the buildings as part of a plan to revitalize downtown by developing them for mixed-use, retail, residential and entertainment venues. Those plans were halted, however, when Kanbar had a falling out with business partner Henry Kaufman, resulting in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against him.
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