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Rise up

Big plans are in store for a retail space at N.W. 23rd Street and Walker Avenue, to be redubbed The Rise.

Kelley Chambers October 2nd, 2012

N.W. 23rd Street is on the rise.

Rendering of The Rise

More specifically, a project called The Rise is set to move into the ailing building at the northwest corner of N.W. 23rd and Walker Avenue that has been home to the Hotel & Motel Liquidation store for more than two decades.

Johnathan Russell, president of Land Run Commercial Real Estate, plans to purchase the nearly 22,000-square-foot retail building that spans nearly all of the 500 block of N.W. 23rd Street.

“We’re supposed to close on the hotel/motel liquidators building in the next 30 to 45 days,” he said. “Soon thereafter, we’ll start demolition on the property.”

Earlier this year, Russell purchased two Walker Avenue buildings behind it — a shuttered nightclub and a former gas station — with eventual plans to acquire the entire block. When the liquidators building is purchased, he will have a total of about 40,000 square feet of space and enough land for a parking lot.

Block game
As they have invested in new businesses and eateries nearby, other property owners and developers along N.W. 23rd have complained about the rundown retail center’s appearance.

Chris Lower brought Big Truck Tacos and Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs to nearby buildings. With Big Truck across the street from Hotel & Motel Liquidation, Lower said the 519 N.W. 23rd shop was an eyesore he hoped would be torn down or redeveloped. But he also had no intention of buying it himself. “It was way too big for anything I would want to do,” he said.

After seeing Land Run’s plans, he praised Russell’s efforts not only to renovate the building, but redevelop the surrounding block.

“Some new retail activity in the area will be a win-win for the developer and the people who live around there,” Lower said, “and those who patronize the restaurants and retailers that are already there.”

Russell said the building holds great potential for new tenants after the liquidation store is gone.

“This property is a big transition point on 23rd Street,” he said. “We feel like it will go down if this property isn’t renovated and it’s just refilled with tenants.”

His first challenge is finding the right tenants to stabilize it. He is in discussions with local, regional and national retailers, but did not disclose any names.

“We’re talking to a lot of tenants,” he said. “We’re interested in having the right tenant mix.”

Preserving the past
Within 30 days of closing on the property, Russell plans to start working on the building. Renovations are scheduled for the fall and winter. The first tenants could move in as soon as spring 2013. After that, he will begin to look at options for the rest of the block.

“There’s potential for more development,” he said.

His plan calls for a new face on the building, storefront retail along N.W. 23rd, and opening entrances for storefronts on the north side on what now faces an alley, for additional shops and eateries.

Anthony McDermid, principal at TAP Architecture, which is working on The Rise, said the building is well-worn, but not a candidate for the wrecking ball.

Johnathan Russell
Credit: Mark Hancock

“No one has spent any money on it for a long time,” he said. “You see deferred maintenance and a tired property, but structurally, it’s in good shape.”

Using historic photos of the 1939 building, McDermid designed awnings that resemble those of one-time tenant Cullimore Furniture. The corner will include large windows that wrap around the building while keeping much of the exterior intact.

“The intention is to reuse as much of the existing building as possible,” he said.

Lower said the next piece of the street puzzle is the Tower Theater and its adjoining properties. Marty Dillon owns the building, but has yet to get the space filled.

“That’s the next big piece of 23rd,” Lower said. “That’s really going to cement the commercial district on N.W. 23rd Street, but it’s also a challenge.”

Russell said he was drawn to the structures based on their potential for retail and the continued revitalization of the area.

“The area is a bit eclectic near the state Capitol, [Oklahoma City University], Heritage Hills, Mesta Park, Jefferson Park and the Paseo,” he said. “We felt like if we do this project, it keeps uptown 23rd on the rise.”

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