Elliot Nelson Adds to Downtown Projects

Managing Editor

DEVELOPMENT TRAILBLAZER: Local restaurateur and developer Elliot Nelson stands in the McNellie’s Group’s headquarters in the old Brix warehouse, 608 E. 3rd St. Since opening McNellie’s Public House in downtown Tulsa in 2004, Nelson has launched additional restaurant and entertainment concepts, spearheaded restoration projects, and introduced residential developments.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Managing Editor

Elliot Nelson and downtown Tulsa have come a long way since Nelson first opened James E. McNellie’s Public House in 2004 in an urban core that went lifeless after the workday.

As a native Tulsan, Nelson’s passion to see downtown Tulsa flourish comes naturally.

“I’m passionate about downtown Tulsa and making it better,” he says.

It’s that desire that moved him to open McNellie’s in a downtown that was crying out for development yet had none, and it motivates him still.

“Business was tough for a while,” admits Nelson, a Union High School graduate, regarding his first downtown venture.

Yet, he stuck it out and, in the process, created a name for himself as a downtown Tulsa trailblazer.

He has, since, grown his business empire in both size and diversity, with 16 restaurant, bar and entertainment concepts in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman, nine of those businesses located specifically in downtown Tulsa. His ventures have included residential and restoration projects, such as the recently-completed renovation of the former Brix warehouse, 608 E. 3rd St., into his McNellie’s Group headquarters.

With all of his efforts, his endgame remains identical: to transform downtown Tulsa’s potential into reality.

Five months after opening McNellie’s, Nelson set his sights on a much more expansive, far-reaching project. “I knew we had to get more going on downtown to create growth,” he says.

That project, Nelson could not get off the ground, and he was forced to sideline it, though never forgetting it.

“It’s tough when you know what Tulsa needs in order to make it more of an attraction to visitors,” he says. “But these things take a long time.”

What Tulsa needed and still needs is more density, more people.

What brings people?

Attractions, entertainment destinations, living spaces. Thus, spurring further attractions and residential projects.

Nelson’s long-held dream project to create more density, which he brainstormed 12 years ago, appears to be finally becoming a reality in the form of Santa Fe Square, a 600,000-square-foot mixed-use development.

But this is not “his” project, Nelson reiterates; “this is a project made up of a conglomerate of local developers.”

The development will be located on the block between Elgin and Greenwood Avenues and between 1st and 2nd Streets and will be filled with retail, apartments, restaurants, office space, a hotel and parking, making this “the biggest mixed-use project in Oklahoma if we pull it off,” he adds.

The building that currently sits on the southeast corner of 1st Street and Elgin Avenue will be used for additional office space.

Hotel Indigo is confirmed as the 105-room hotel, and American Residential Group will manage the property’s apartments.

The project is in its final design phase. Manhattan Construction will serve as the project’s construction company. Once construction begins, it will take about two years.

In April, Santa Fe Square developers gained approval to make the area a (Tax Increment Financing) district. When asking for approval, one of the factors the developers presented was the “catalytic value of this project,” Nelson says.

“It’s going to help increase land values and therefore increase tax revenue, bringing more money for Tulsa Public Schools and the City of Tulsa.”

Another passion project of Nelson’s, this one much nearer on the horizon, is Elgin Park Brewery, a microbrewery that he and Eric Marshall, owner of Marshall Brewing Company, have long discussed and dreamed of creating together.

“It’s always more fun to be working with your friends,” Nelson says of Marshall, whom Nelson met during the opening weeks of McNellie’s.

Their mutual love of beer created the framework for their friendship and eventual business partnership.

Elgin Park, located in the Gates Hardware Building across from ONEOK Field, has been another of Nelson’s restoration projects and will open in July.

Five beers will be brewed on site, and the menu will consist mainly of sports bar fare.

Also coming down the pipes is the Boxyard, a Nelson+Stowe Development project, to open in the fall at 3rd Street and Frankfort Avenue. The project will involve more than 30 metal shipping containers to house retail and restaurants.

In addition to filling up one of the remaining empty lots on the eastern edge of downtown, leading into the East Village, the project aids in spurring local retail development, something downtown desperately needs, says Nelson.

The 320-square-foot containers “allow small business owners to get started.”

Updated 06-28-2016

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