Construction set to start at First National in September

Published: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 5:00 am By: Steve Lackmeyer Source: The Oklahoman

Developers of First National Center are preparing to start conversion of two-thirds of the building into a 680-space garage in September as negotiations advance with Oklahoma City for tax increment financing assistance.

The parking is part of a $230 million redevelopment that would convert the original 1931 Art Deco tower into housing and a hotel, while the 1957 and 1972 additions built to the east of the tower will be converted into a garage with retail on the ground floor.

The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust unanimously approved a memorandum of agreement that would allow for a $15.9 million loan to be obtained by Cornerstone Development CEO Gary Brooks and his partner Charlie Nicholas.

The loan would be issued within 180 days of completion of the garage. That money would be used to pay off a new market tax credits leverage loan to be used for the initial construction.

Brent Bryant, who reviews economic development projects at City Hall, told the trust the deal requires performance by the developers before any money is lent toward the project. He said the deal is structured to provide comfort to banks in financing the development.

“We're not doing any borrowing today,” Bryant said. “They're doing all the borrowing.”

Rob Garrett, representing Cornerstone Development, revealed the name of the hotel will likely be “The National.” He told the trust Tuesday the $54 million garage will include a two-story gallery concourse on street level.

“We're looking at retail on the first floor,” Garrett said, “possibly an urban marketplace and incubator.”

Garage construction will be complete within two years of starting.

A change in plans

As part of the presentation, trustees were shown a rendering of the sleek, modern new facade where garage egress will be located facing Broadway in what was the 1972 addition. In a switch from original plans, the Park Avenue facade of the 1957 addition will be retained.

“The original intent was to build a new garage,” Garrett said. “But from a historic standpoint, we weren't able to do that, so we will repurpose what is there.”

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