POSTED ON NOVEMBER 14, 2007:
Let Us Count the Ways
How the Glass Cube will benefit Tulsa
If certain predictions pan out, city leaders' decision to purchase the One Technology Center won't just result in a new City Hall when they move in next year, but will practically amount to a new downtown Tulsa as well.
"There are a lot of tangential benefits to this move, and some of them are quite substantial," said the city's Economic Development Director Don Himelfarb.
Last spring when Himelfarb and Mayor Kathy Taylor were campaigning for public and City Council support for the move, those "tangential benefits" were given only brief mention, with most of their sales pitch focused on the expected reduction of city operating costs and the benefits of getting a state-of-the-art office building on the cheap.
In the days to come, though, Himelfarb said they planned to contract for an independent study to determine the true extent of one of some of those peripheral advantages, and how to get the most bang for taxpayers' buck through the sale and development of the existing city properties to be vacated.
He said requests for proposals were sent out in the first week of September, with four bidders responding since.
Jones Lang LaSalle, "the world's leading real estate services and money management firm" according to the company's website, won the bid.
By the time this goes to print, they'll likely have a contract hammered out with the firm to determine the best use of the five properties the city will vacate with its consolidation into the One Technology Center.
Those properties are the current City Hall building at 200 Civic Center, a lot owned by the Tulsa Development Authority across from 3rd and Denver, the Hartford Building at 2nd and Franklin, the Public Works building at 23rd and Jackson, and an approximately 20-acre site north of the Inner Dispersal Loop.
After an estimated three to five months, Himelfarb said the company would "either confirm our thinking for how those properties should be developed, or disabuse us of that thinking and give us ideas for best use."
He said he'd be "absolutely shocked" if the firm didn't recommend a hotel be built on the lot at 200 Civic Center, due to its proximity to the new BOK Arena.
"There doesn't seem to be any difference of opinion among all the experts on that," he said.
All bets are off for the other properties, though.
Himelfarb said he and other members of the Mayor's management team "are not in full agreement internally" on the best use of those assets.
He has his own ideas but declined to share them.
"Since we're going to all this trouble to find out with an independent contractor, I don't want to color the debate," he said.
On the other hand, there isn't much debate about the advantages expected to result on the other end of downtown from City Hall 2.0, as most are agreed on the jumpstart it will provide to businesses and property in the area.
"This helps the Blue Dome district--all those thousands of employees are going to need somewhere to eat," said Himelfarb.
Also, the move is expected to revitalize the downtown real estate market, which is why Maurice Kanbar, who owns a pretty healthy chunk of it, publicly supported the move since its initial proposal.
"By absorbing OTC, we'll reduce vacancy and will immediately tighten up the real estate market," said Himelfarb.
"This is a great move for our downtown office market," concurred Ken Tooman of Tooman Partners LLC, a commercial real estate firm located downtown.
As a 30-year-and-counting guru on all things commercial real estate, Tooman said he was also an early advocate for the move.
"I've been a supporter of this ever since the concept came to life," he said.
For the past two decades, Tooman's company has produced a yearly Office Market Review, which developers and other real estate consumers and purveyors use to determine property values for downtown Tulsa.
He said the city's move from its old digs at 200 Civic Center into the big glass cube on the northwest corner of 2nd and Cincinnati would amount to a "positive net absorption" of currently unused office space.
"It takes off the market all the space the city's going to occupy at the One Technology Center, but the current City Hall has never been in our numbers, because we never include government numbers," said Tooman.
As a result of the hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space suddenly taken off the market, he said downtown office space would become more attractive and, with fewer vacancies, would have less competition for tenants.
As a result, he expects there to be a lot of competition for remaining vacancies, especially in the proximate BOK Tower and the two Williams Center towers.
"I think it changes the dynamic of the east end and improves the desire for those buildings," said Tooman.
He said it also complemented the long-discussed and far-from-materialized East Village development, and would likely be the spark that sets fire to the kindling that's so long been arranged.
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