By CHARLES CANTRELL
GRIFFIN COMMUNICATIONS NEW HOME IN THE BRADY: Work has begun on what promises to be a spectacular addition to Tulsa’s historic Brady District.
Anyone still doubting downtown Tulsa’s revitalization need only take a drive or better yet a walk through the Brady and Blue Dome districts in downtown. In past issues Newspapers have published articles foretelling things to come. A tour of these two bustling districts shows that most of what was foretold is fast becoming reality.
Let’s begin with what promises to be a cornerstone of the rapidly revitalizing Brady District, the 57,000 square foot, green built, glass exterior Griffin Communications Media Center that will serve as the new home of Tulsa’s oldest television station and Channel 6. The station was the first on the air in Tulsa in 1946 and has since maintained a presence in downtown. The new facility will feature a special focus on green technology. lighting will be used to minimize the carbon footprint of a facility with high lighting demands. Street beautification and extensive landscaping will finish out the look of what promises to be a spectacular addition to the district on a three-acre plot of land. This land was once a part of the original 40-acres purchased in 1906 by O. W. Gurley, a wealthy African-American landowner from Arkansas and founder of what became the Greenwood District, once the wealthiest black community in America before it was destroyed in the city’s 1921 race riot.
To the south of the Griffin Communications Media Center construction site is a new geothermal park being developed by the George Kaiser Family Foundation. It will provide power to the former Mathews Warehouse to the south, as well as the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa’s new Hardesty Arts Center at Archer and Boston. This city block of new construction is one of the most ambitious projects in the district and is destined to once and for all define the Brady Arts District as the regional showcase center for the creative arts. When completed in late 2012, the 42,000 square foot, $14 million Hardesty Arts Center, or , will be the new home of the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa. According to Executive Director Ken Busby, “It will be an arts hub for every person in Tulsa; a central place where creativity and dreams thrive; and a place where persons of any race, class or culture are welcome to express themselves. With this facility we will further our mission to facilitate and broaden the community’s access to the creative arts.”
The building will house artist studios, galleries, classrooms and offices. Busby and his board and staff have been hard at work making this dream a reality since 2006. They formed a partnership with the City of Tulsa to secure a lease on the west half of the former Mathews Warehouse and then began working with the George Kaiser Family Foundation. This foundation brought together Philbrook Museum of Art, Gilcrease Museum/the University of Tulsa, the Brady Craft Alliance and other organizations to transform the entire Mathews Warehouse into an arts-focused facility.
The Center will feature a contrasting blend of weathered urban brick with new age glass and steel while showcasing the unique creative and artistic energy of Tulsa. It will also serve as yet another symbol of how this city moves into the future while respecting and preserving the past.
Nearby is the Metro At Brady District apartment complex, which will open in December. The five-story building is a project developed and managed by American Residential Group out of Michigan and will feature 75 units with monthly rental rates from $800 to $1,700. Most notable about this structure is the blending of architectural style with that of the iconic Tribune Building next door to the east, a well-established residential apartment complex also managed by American Residential Group. This building once housed the printing press of Newspaper Printing Corporation, publishers of the Tulsa World and Tulsa Tribune newspapers. These two residential buildings sit on Archer between Main and First Street overlooking the Brady District to the north and the Tulsa’s skyline to the south.
Crossing the street to the north one finds yet another construction site. A once lightly used parking lot on Main Street between Archer and Brady is being transformed into a site for a 104 room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott scheduled for completion in the fall of 2012. Although the hotel will fall within the parameters of the Fairfield Inn model, it will feature many unique amenities for the Brady District due to a concerted effort by Tulsans David Sharp, Greg Oliphant of Interak Corp, Jeff Hartman of Hartman Partners, and Tye Turman of Marriott International. During the design phase, attention was focused on the needs in the district for additional retail spaces to support the growing urban population. Consequently the hotel will include 11,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Local businesses and retail chains are lining up to secure these spaces, according to Hartman.
Downtown Tulsa development owes a lot to both Interak Corp and Hartman Partners. They are responsible for other successful renovations, restoration and recycling of older downtown structures. In doing so, they have developed a clear picture of the bright future ahead for downtown real estate once considered too far gone to develop.
According to Hartman, “Brady’s becoming a self-sustaining little city, and it was past time we put a hotel there.”
Most everyone knows a self-sustaining little city must have a grocery store and that piece of the puzzle is being addressed in a very unique way. Cam’s Grocery will be a one-of-a-kind store located in the heart of the downtown revitalization on Detroit between First and Second Street.
It is the vision of Daniel Cameron, one he brought back to Tulsa from Eugene, Oregon where he attended the University of Oregon. There he managed a natural food grocery store for six years and learned about organic farm produce, natural food and sustainable products. Cam’s Grocery will offer not only unique organic products, free-range meats and locally grown seasonal produce but also local and regional products like Marshall Beer, Double Shot Coffee, Luna Bread, Hardesty Cheese. There will be a café and sandwich shop, healthy-living cooking classes and demonstrations. Home grocery delivery will also be available. The store will further round out the quality-of-life prospects of downtown living.
Newly elected City Councilor of District Four and Owner of Jo Momma’s Pizza Blake Ewing has his sights set on a location at Archer and Denver for a café and convenience store concept that will further address the shopping needs of downtown residents, workers and visitors.
No doubt the Blue Dome District, with its many restaurants and small venue bars and clubs, is reaping benefits from all the activity in the Brady District. Lunchtime walk-in customers, evening dining and an increasingly vigorous nightlife continue to make this area of downtown a go-to place for Tulsans.
Call it the tipping point, the critical mass or minimum threshold; the Blue Dome and Brady Districts have arrived. Real estate speculators looking to snatch up a bargain plot should know that train has left the station. Property values are on the rise in both districts. And now all of the early developers who believed it would happen are now in the thick of it. They were the believers and they put their money and their efforts where their dreams were and it’s paying off. But don’t forget the other players who helped make it happen. There’s the brand new ONEOK Field built through public and private funding, the rejuvenated Cain’s Ballroom, the Old Lady On Brady, Living Arts of Tulsa, John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park and many more. Because of so many resourceful, ambitious entrepreneurs, the city is enjoying a downtown rejuvenation many thought would never happen. But that was probably because they didn’t really understand that unshakable Tulsa spirit.