Bob Eggleston's planned $80 million multiuse project just east of the BOK Center has been operating since its inception under the name One Place. Eggleston has described the name many times as placeholder, a temporary moniker until he and his partners thought of something they liked better.
But on the morning of June 24, as a variety of city and county leaders and downtown boosters gathered at the site for a groundbreaking ceremony, Eggleston finally acknowledged what slowly has become increasingly apparent to observers of the project.
"I think it's permanent," he said of the name, smiling while standing on a baking asphalt service that soon will be ripped up to make way for an 18-story office tower, the first new high rise to dot the downtown skyline in approximately 10 years. "It speaks for so many things here. It's a place where you can come and park once, stay in a hotel and take advantage of so many things. You can work here, eat here, live here, play here. It seems to be a natural name for it."
Last week's groundbreaking may have been purely ceremonial, but it was an important milestone for a project that already has been in the works for more than two years. On a city block bordered by 2nd Street, Cheyenne Avenue, 3rd Street and Denver Avenue, Tulsans will watch over the next couple of years as that new office tower, an accompanying five-story tower, a hotel, apartments, retail space, restaurants, more than 400 parking units and a public courtyard are constructed.
Place in Time.
Eggleston -- one of the principals in One Developers LLC, which reached an agreement with the Tulsa Development Authority in March 2010 to develop the property -- has described One Place many times as the first large-scale multi-use development in the city's history, a harbinger of things to come under the city's newly adopted comprehensive plan.
But even with that unprecedented mix of activity planned for the site, Eggleston knows it's the 18-story office tower that will anchor the project. It will feature 300,000 square feet of top tier office space, all of which already has been leased, with the Denver-based oil-and-gas exploration company Cimarex Energy serving as the primary tenant.
"When we started this project, there was no office space in it at all," Eggleston said. "It was all retail and residential. We did not think there was a market for office space. We were wrong."
As Eggleston and his partners examined the market more closely, they noted that while the vacancy rate for downtown office space has hovered at approximately 20 percent for a long period, the vacancy rate for top tier "Class A" space was much lower -- approximately 7 percent, he said. That convinced them that adding Class A space to their venture would be a good bet.
They were right. Cimarex signed on last fall to lease 220,000 square feet for 12 years, and Dick Dinkins, the company's vice president of human relations, believes the firm will be there much longer than that. Approximately 350 people -- about half the company's total work force -- already is stationed in Tulsa, and Dinkins said those employees will be moving to the One Place tower when it opens in the first quarter of 2013.
"When you have a tenant that takes 300,000 square feet, that's a bold statement," Eggleston said.
Dinkins said Cimarex's decision to commit to moving into a building that doesn't exist yet may seem like a risk to some, but Eggleston and partner Hank Pellegrini quickly eased any concerns company officials may have had.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Hank and Bob," he said. "It felt like a gamble at first but not now."
The mere scope of the project makes it a notable one, but Dinkins said it is equally exciting to be part of something that will be entirely new to Tulsa in terms of the style of development. The building will feature retail space on the first floor, parking above that, then office space.
"I think it will provide a really good place for people to work," he said. "They'll be able to go to a nice restaurant, a new restaurant, and do other things, as well. It'll be a really nice atmosphere once the project is completed."
Those same amenities helped attract a large tenant for the five-story tower, as well. Lance Franczyk, managing partner of Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in Tulsa, which will move its 100 employees from its headquarters in south Tulsa into the new structure, said he believes One Place is going to be the tipping point for development in that corner of downtown.
"Tulsa's ready to take off," he said. "I grew up in Fort Worth, and the way it was 20 years ago reminds of where Tulsa is now. It's going to take off, and I want to be in front of it."
Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. was just one of the local dignitaries attending the groundbreaking. He peppered his remarks with expressions of regret that the building wasn't already in place last March when the BOK Center hosted the second and third rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The project would have helped create a positive image of the city among visitors, he said, and he looks forward to One Place welcoming those basketball fans at some point in the future when the tournament returns to Tulsa.
"It is going to happen," he said. "It's going to be a reality."
Bartlett pledged the city's cooperation with the project and said he was pleased to be a part of the ceremony.
"What a great place to put such a beautiful building," he said.
Actual work on the site will begin almost immediately. Eggleston said demolition of the existing structure will take place at the end of July, while crews also will be busy relocating PSO and AT&T utility lines over the next couple of weeks.
Excavation work and the pouring of the footings for the 18-story tower will take place in November and December, Eggleston said, while a groundbreaking ceremony for the project's second phase, the five-story tower on the west side of the property, tentatively is planned for September.
"The interesting thing is that phase two actually will be finished before phase one," he said, noting that retail and office workers already will be occupying that structure before the 18-story tower opens.
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