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Parked plans

Developers put on hold efforts to turn the First National Center’s annex buildings into parking.

Dawn Watson September 19th, 2012

Plans to convert a portion of the First National Center into parking are on hold while developers wait for the building to go into receivership.

Property owners, First National Building I and First National Building II, appear to have received an extension on the Aug. 28 deadline to pay the remainder of a $12 million settlement to lender Capmark Bank, thus preventing the complex from going into receivership.

Calls to Milbank Real Estate Group, the property management company for the building, and Capmark were not returned. Jim Parrack, the broker with Price Edwards & Company, scheduled to be named receiver of the property, confirmed Sept. 11 that he had yet to be named receiver but declined further comment.

The apparent extension has put on hold plans of undisclosed developers to purchase the building and use the center and east portions of the complex for parking garages.

“We’re still in a holding pattern,” said architect Don Beck, who has signed a confidentiality agreement regarding the identity of the prospective investors.

Beck presented the parking garage concept to the Downtown Design Review Committee on Aug 16. The project would transform the First National Center’s two adjoining annexes into parking garages for 740 cars while keeping the outside structure of the buildings. The east face of the complex facing Broadway would not be altered but the north face of the center building would change. The plan would keep as much of the first floor retail space as possible, he said.

The plan does not include the original portion of the 33-story building on N. Robinson Ave.

“There’s a real strong need for parking in the center of downtown,” Beck said. “With the growth with Continental Resources and Devon, there’s just more and more demand for parking.”

But Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus said that a parking garage might not be the best plan for downtown.

“Your central core should be people, not built around parking,” Claus said. “We have to look out for the best interests of the entire community.”

A transit system and parking away from the central core would likely be better for downtown, he said, and there is already parking a couple of blocks away. Clause said the center annex probably would be best suitable to parking if the project moves forward, but noted that the other annex building is still viable office space.

First National Center
Credit: Shannon Cornman

Tenants have heard little about owners’ efforts to pay the settlement or the possible impending development of the buildings. Ken Huor, of Golden Dragon Restaurant, said he would like to stay in the location he’s had for 20 years and he’s waiting to see what happens.

Larry Taylor, owner of LT’s Famous Gourmet Deli and Coffee Shop, said as building owners have received extensions for about a year and a half, he has tried to keep up with the process so that he can make necessary decisions when the time comes. Taylor has operated the restaurant in the east building for 20 years and doesn’t want to move.

He said he is trying to concentrate on his business in the meantime. He added coffee and smoothies to the menu about two weeks ago.

“A customer wants good food and good service. They don’t want to hear about any of that,” he said. “At this point there’s nothing to be negative about.”

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