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After Years of Failed Efforts, NW 4 and E.K. Gaylord May Have a Deal in Play

This time we may have a deal.

The odd triangular block at NW 4 and E.K. Gaylord has eluded one developer after another over the years despite it being one of the last large development spots left in the downtown business district (the other being the former Stage Center site on Sheridan Avenue). Looking back, some of the proposals were just bad and better off not becoming a reality.  The challenges remained the same since this block was created as a result of car-central rebuilding of the traffic grid, creating E.K. Gaylord as part of the I.M. Pei plan in the mid-1970s.

The ownership of the block ended up with a zig-zag split with the east end owned by the Oklahoma Publishing Co., which at the time owned The Oklahoman headquarters across the street (OPUBCO sold The Oklahoman last year to Gatehouse, which is now Gannett... but I digress....). Deals started popping for the property about a dozen years ago with this football-shaped suburban building proposed by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber:

Ah yes, large open plazas, no interaction with the street, and yes, lots of surface parking was planned between the building and the BNSF Railway viaduct to the east.

The 2008 crash killed it. RIP. Or not.

The east half of the property then sold to SandRidge Energy when Tom Ward was CEO and he was overseeing not just the renovation of the former Kerr McGee tower but also buying up nearby empty lots for an expansion that would never happen.

The next pitch was Times Square, a 17-story residential tower with  36,500 square feet of retail and a seven-story garage was proposed in 2016 by Jonathan Russell and Mark Ruffin after they acquired the privately-owned east half of the block from SandRidge Energy.

The proposed timetable called for construction to start by the spring of 2018 with completion in the fall of 2019.

 The project was scrapped this past year, though the pair still owned the property when the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority put out requests for proposals for its half of the block. 

Two groups responded.

Rose Rock, which is set to develop Boulevard Place apartments and retail next to the Omni Hotel in the Park Union district (formerly known as Core to Shore) propose building a mix of parking, retail, restaurants and offices that will include a regional bank operation.

The Rose Rock proposals called for an eight-story building with a 6,600-square-foot ground floor space for a bank branch with an attached drive-through.The proposal came with a letter of interest from an unidentified regional bank indicating desire to lease up to 20,000 square feet and to lease the remainder of the building by offering the remaining space to clients.

The group, however, left the east half of the block to remain undeveloped. The design clearly intrigued folks at Urban Renewal, but the split ownership was proving, more than ever, to be a problem.

Bomasada, which previously developed The Metropolitan at NW 6 and Oklahoma Avenue, is proposed a six-story, 300-unit apartment building for the entire block. Unlike Rose Rock, Bomasada had an agreement with Russell and Ruffin to buy their eastern half of the block.

The site plan shows parking on the private property, which is under contract with Bomasada, and the six-story apartment building to be built on Urban Renewal side of the block with a courtyard in the middle of a triangular-shaped building.

Urban Renewal halted the proposal consideration and did something it hadn't  done in 40 years - it bought and consolidated ownership of the block. And then it quickly put out a new request for proposals.

Bomasada, perhaps sensing their proposal wasn't fairing well, bowed out. Rose Rock put in a new bid, but this time the offices are gone without explanation.

What changed? Nobody is saying. But note, Arvest Bank announced it is moving operations to the former BOK Plaza Tower and the tower will be named Arvest Tower following the decision by Urban Renewal to start over.

So now we have two very different proposals, which I wrote about Wednesday. Read all about it and see the renderings here.

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›