POSTED ON FEBRUARY 1, 2012:
It's About Time
Downtown Tulsa sees first major construction in a long time
According to Chinese astrology, 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon, a year of new beginnings that starts Feb. 4. The symbol of the dragon is considered a symbol of good fortune, and has the honor of guarding the Eastern sky. As the East's guardian, this mystical creature brings the "Four Blessings of the East": wealth, virtue, harmony and longevity.
The last water dragon year was 1952, the same year American troops pulled out of Japan, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president, Mother Theresa began her charity work in Calcutta, and Queen Elizabeth II began her reign in the United Kingdom.
And, it was about the time Tulsa was thumping its chest as America's Most Beautiful City.
A lot has happened since then, but the city's population is about the same. Growth has gone to the suburbs, who are rockin', but the metro's heart is an infrastructure clogged with as much cholesterol as all its carpetbagging fast food joints can produce.
In the hubris of that bygone, pre- "city on a hill" era, locals here would snub the likes of a Rust Belt City like Buffalo, NY., for it's crumbling streets, bridges, and overall Yankeeness.
Now, with Buffalo thriving and reinvent; Tulsa is trying to rebuild.
So it is not coincidental that the stars are aligned and we have devined them. Your Chief Medium is the message here and we're looking forward to a revolutionary Year of the Water Dragon for our downtown. Since mid-November, there have been 23 announced projects underway.
These projects are building on the momentum growing in Tulsa's downtown in recent years. In 2010, Tulsa was ranked as a top 10 metro area in 17 publications for its economy, real estate and quality of life.
What does everybody else know that we don't? Some reports have us at a 73 in the top 100 city economies worldwide! Then, in the same breath, our downtown commercial real estate is at an all time low for vacancies.
We're looking for love.
More than 1,000 businesses are open downtown, where about 26,700 people work. In the '70s it was 30,000 plus. Some of the biggest employers in the area include Public Service Company of Oklahoma, AT&T, Bank of Oklahoma Financial, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, ONEOK, Samson and Williams Cos.
It used to be the center of retail, surrounded by residential property, i.e., houses and apartments hugging highrises and department stores.
Of the $350 million in planned investment, about $100 million is going toward renovated spaces and construction for new Tulsa workplaces.
A tv station compound is under construction for KOTV-Channel 6 that has stopped and started for the past few years. The helipad appears to be finished, while its TV tower and station are in the works, all at 106 E. Cameron. Estimated cost of the project: $20 million.
One of the biggest projects our downtown has seen in years is the mixed-use development between 2nd and 3rd Sts. and Denver and Cheyenne Aves. One Place will feature an 18-story office tower, which will be occupied by Cimarex Energy, plus a new four-story building on Denver, to be occupied by Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. Additionally, restaurants and retail space will open up in One Place, which has a projected completion date of spring 2013 at a cost of $80 million.
UTW, having looked for enough space in the DT area, kept it's midtown vibe anchoring the easternmost Pearl Area and Whittier Square space just outside the IDL (Inner Disperal Loop)
Tulsa has the second-shortest commute time in the U.S., which should make it easier for T-Towners to speed down the highway toward state-of-the-art business complexes.
To make parking a little less hectic, the city of Tulsa is constructing an $8 million parking garage on 1st St., between Boston Ave. and Main St. The eagerly anticipated Boulder Avenue Bridge project is scheduled to begin construction in 2012, too. The $8.2 million bridge renovations (also under the auspices of the city of Tulsa) are designed to accommodate pedestrians, cars, rubber-tire trolleys and fixed-rail streetcars.
About 3,100 residents call downtown their home sweet home, but with more than a dozen new plans for lofts and housing that number may soon skyrocket. With Tulsa's cost of living hovering around 10 percent below the national average, many T-Towners can check into posh new digs in our burgeoning downtown.
The Metro Lofts in the Brady Arts District (also called Tribune Lofts II), is a new addition next to the Tribune Lofts on the corner of Boston Ave. and Archer St. The $12 million project is under construction and will feature 75 units and a parking garage.
The Riverbend Gardens is also under construction at 529 W. 11th St. A two-story building will house 40 low-income housing units, with a price tag of $5.6 million for out-of-state developers, Arrington.
Two historic downtown buildings have been completely converted into apartments for young educators through the Teach for America program. The Kaiser Foundation is behind the two projects. The top two floors of the Tulsa Paper Co. building (210 N. Main St.) have been turned into 12 apartments, while a historic building at 105 N. Detroit now features 16 apartments. The Kaiser Foundation is behind both efforts for young teachers.
Another conversion effort, this one of the old Vandever Department Store, is under construction at 16 E. 5th St. The long-empty building will see new life again with the addition of 40 loft apartments, a $3.7 million project.
Tulsans like to work hard and play hard. What would a refurbished downtown look like without a few amenities? Pretty paltry. Luckily, developers are coming to the rescue with several new art-centric projects.
Probably the biggest new development in town right now is the state-of-the-art Hardesty Arts Center. The new building for the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa is under construction with a projected completion date of Fall 2012. The center will feature multi-use exhibition spaces, studio spaces for artists, classrooms, offices and a catering kitchen. The $18.3 million project is located on the northeast corner of Boston Ave. and Archer St., in the heart of the Brady Arts District.
The space next door to the new arts center is under construction as well. Brady Park will include gardens, a covered pavilion, a stage, canopy, fountain, trellis and café--all on top of 120,500-foot deep geothermal wells. The wells will heat and help cool the Tulsa Paper Co. and Hardesty Arts Center.
So, where will all your out-of-town relatives want to stay when they come visit these new developments in T-Town? You might want to have them check into the brand-spankin'-new Fairfield Inn and Suites, also in the Brady Arts District. The $11.4 million project is under construction on Main St. between Archer and Brady Sts., and will soon feature 11,500 square-feet of ground floor retail and 104 rooms on floors 2 through 4.
Also under construction on Brady St. (between Boston and Cincinnati Aves.) is the future home to Philbrook Museum's satellite facility and Zarrow Center for Art and Education. The Mathews Warehouse building is being brought to life through the $18 million project with funding from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Tulsa's Old City Hall is getting a major facelift, too. Major renovations are currently underway to convert the old city building into a 200-room hotel with a large capacity banquet hall and new retail construction (suitable for a restaurant). The $25 million project is located at 4th St. and Frisco Ave.
Happy building and Kung Hei Fat Choi, Tulsa (translated from Cantonese the phrase means "Congratulations and wishing you prosperity!")!
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