POSTED ON NOVEMBER 28, 2012:
New hotel in Brady Arts District designed to blend with surroundings
The sunlight streamed in through the wall of windows on a warm November afternoon, illuminating both the dark walls and white tablecloths in the dining area of what Justin Thompson hopes will be Tulsa's first great steakhouse.
Barely more than a year ago, painted lines and concrete were the most noteworthy features at North Main and East Brady Streets. Construction began in October of last year to transform a corner parking lot into a Fairfield Inn & Suites with 104 rooms on the second, third, and fourth floors.
Thompson's dream of first-class steak and service is housed in the same building as the hotel, but "it doesn't feel like it when you're sitting here," he said. His Prhyme steakhouse, set to open Nov. 28, is one of three tenants occupying basically the entire first floor of the building -- guests check in at the second floor lobby -- making the site more than a destination for travelers.
"This is Main Street. It's kind of the hub," Thompson said.
The hotel may help cement what's already been apparent to Steve Fischer -- its general manager -- since he moved on site in preparation for the hotel's Nov. 20 opening.
"I'm just amazed at the pedestrian traffic," Fischer said, hours before the hotel checked in its first guests.
Sparks flew from the staircase, as construction crews had yet to move into the cleanup stage for all parts of the structure.
Fischer wanted to emphasize the Fairfield offerings that might be considered the basics for hotels in its class: an indoor pool, free parking, a complimentary breakfast, and rates starting at $109 a room.
But he also added that the hotel's owners have taken extra steps to ensure that the brick building fits in with the revitalization of the Brady Arts District. The main parking lot sits behind the structure, with guest traffic diverted through a street-level slot in the middle of the structure to reach the lot.
The mix of businesses on the ground floor also marks a departure from the typical Fairfield Inn design, Fischer said, noting that the hotels rarely rely on such a mixed-use model.
Inside, Fischer showed off the spaciousness of the rooms, awash in shades of orange and yellow as well as modern design flourishes like a slightly-slanted wall facade dividing sleeping room from sitting area.
Outside the window of a corner room, however, the most rewarding feature for travelers might be having the BOK Center in plain sight. The hotel hopes to capitalize on its proximity to the burgeoning night life of the Brady Arts District and the broader downtown area, Fischer said, adding that the hotel has already struck up a partnership with the Brady Theater to offer both lodging and admission to that venue's New Year's Eve party. More such synergy could be on the way with other venues, he noted.
The $10.5 million project is reportedly on budget and on time. David Sharp, Greg Oliphant, and Jeff Hartman own the building under the name Brady Hotel System LLC. Sharp and Oliphant own several other properties in the Brady Arts District.
Sharp is the landlord for Bob Fleischman, president of the Brady Arts District Business Association.
"I know David Sharp has had a commitment to the area for many, many years, and I'm excited for him to see this opportunity present itself and for him to be able to put it out there," Fleischman said.
As far as the hotel fitting in with the neighborhood, Fleischman praised the building's design.
"With the architecture, with the use of brick, that's really something that brings it into the district right away. And the styling of the building itself, with the parapets, it's really an attractive addition," Fleischman said. Just across East Brady Street, the Metro at Brady apartment building has a similar brick design.
The project is far from the only construction to take place in the last 12 months in the Brady Arts District. Within sight of some of the rooms is the Guthrie Green, the outdoor park and concert venue that opened this summer. Also in view is the yet-to-be unveiled Hardesty Arts Center, a reported $18.3 million project which will house various community arts programs and galleries.
"It's all happening simultaneously," Fischer said. "Everybody's kind of pooling together to make this a fantastic area."
Prhyme's Thompson said he aims to provide Tulsans with the sort of fancy beef found only in larger cities, with offerings to include 40-day dry-aged beef, which offers an "intense" flavor not found in typical steak, as well as cuts of Kobe beef considered by many connoisseurs to yield top shelf steaks.
Neighbors on the ground floor include another restaurant, Laffa, which will offer Mediterranean-style meals and, when the weather permits, an open garage-style door to convert sections of the dining area into patio seating. For the late night crowd, food may also be ordered from a walk-up window.
Also to open is Blu, described as a "very upscale, Vegas-style" cocktail lounge by co-owner John Demko, known to Tulsa radio listeners for his on-air work, including his current job at 106.9 FM, known as KHITS.
The goal is to offer "something different that this area hasn't seen before," Demko said. Work continues on before opening, which Demko said is planned for December.
A fourth space doesn't yet have a tenant, but may be a retail outlet.
The mix of businesses only adds to the mix of neighborhood activity, Fleischman said.
"The Brady Arts District is establishing itself as what I would call an integrated activity district," he said, describing how daytime businesses and restaurants transition to clubs and nightlife. Adding a hotel means "just bringing more people into the Brady Arts District," he said.
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