3,000 Workers To Move Into Development

One of the state’s oldest banks is one of three tenants moving their operations to a new five-story office building to be built at the gateway to downtown Oklahoma City.

The three tenants, also partners in the development, anticipate they will collectively bring more than 300 employees downtown.

Oklahoma Sate Bank, Comma Insurance and Berry Rock are moving downtown from suburban locations into the building, which also will include a rooftop restaurant and ground floor coffee shop.

The developer, Andy Burnet, most recently built the Heartland Payment Systems headquarters at NW 5 and Broadway.  The architect on that project, Rand Elliott, also is designing the newest project, which will feature a glass façade, courtyard and an LED-lit triangle facing Interstate 235.

“Rand and I have done a few deals together, and I love his approach,” Burnett said.  “Trying to design a building we’ll be proud of in 100 years while making sure the building is profitable is hard right now.  Constructions costs are high, interest rates are up and there is a lot of volatility in the market.  We believe the site is good enough to justify proceeding.”

The Urban Renewal-owned site consists of former highway easement on the west side of I-235 between NE 6 and Harrison Avenue and east of Walnut Avenue.  Burnett’s team did not bid for a second, smaller parcel on the west sided of Walnut Avenue, but will be responding to a new upcoming request for proposals.

“We have drawings done (for the smaller parcel) and will be submitting,” said Burnett, who hopes to start construction in 2023.

The office building will be built on land controlled by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority and was selected over three other proposals that included affordable housing, condominiums and a hotel.

Kenton Tsoodle, director of the Urban Renewal Authority, said he was pleased with the number of proposals and variety of uses.  He said he is in talks with Kansas City-based Cohen Esrey, which proposed a five-story, 151-unit affordable housing complex aimed at 50% to 70% of area median income, including 13 units that would have been eligible for Oklahoma City Housing Authority vouchers.

Tsoodle said he is hoping to interest Cohen Esrey in developing affordable housing in another location.

“It was a tough choice,” Tsoodle said.  “Coming down to it…the piece that sits on the east of Walnut is also an entry way to the innovation district.  Having Rand Elliot as architect and the concept they proposed was really interesting.  Having an iconic building at that entryway tied into the area around it.”

Jeff Johnson, a board member at Oklahoma State Bank, said the bank will be renamed and given new branding as it makes the move from Guthrie to Oklahoma City.

“We’re looking for a headquarters to consolidate some branches and get everyone under one roof,” Johnson said.  “Banks were often called ‘First National,’ ‘State Bank,’ for ever and ever.  That’s changed.  We want something other than old established names.”

Johnson said the bank, which has branches in Norman, Edmond and Mulhall, will retain a branch in Guthrie.

“I love the presence on the highway, along I-235,” Johnson said.  “We were looking at other sites.  This one became available, and we chose to pursue it.  It’s a gateway to Oklahoma City, and there is a ton of traffic that will pass it every day.  It’s a bookend to the innovation district across the street.”

The two other tenants are relative newcomers compared to Oklahoma State Bank.  Berry Rock, a real estate company formed by Nick Berry and Cameron Rock, started eight years ago and is active in single-family housing in Oklahoma City; Tulsa; Kansas City, Missouri; and St. Louis.

The firm, which also has mortgage and oil and gas holdings, is at 6915 N. Classen Blvd.

“Through expansions and growing our business, we’ve been needing to grow our office space,” Berry said.  “The visibility of this site is great.  It’s one of the best spots for visibility.  We love that it’s a gateway to downtown and the last thing you see when getting on the highway ramp leaving downtown.”

Brian Bomar, co-founder of Comma Insurance, and Timothy Harlin, CEO, said they, too, are looking at rapid growth as they join Burnett and the other tenants as owners.

“We’re growing, and if we are not the fastest growing insurance company in the nation, we’re one of them,” Bomar said.  “We started with nine (employees) two years ago and by the time we move into this space we will have about 100.”

Bomar said the decision to move downtown from their current location at Waterford in northwest Oklahoma City is driven by the need to recruit talent.

“Sharp talent wants to work in fun, energetic companies,” Harlin said.  “This will be easy to get to, and there are great restaurants there.”

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