The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 4, 2014

More apartments to open in downtown Tulsa in 2014

Associated Press

TULSA — This year could answer lingering doubts about demand for downtown Tulsa apartments.

Market observers project that a variety of small and medium-sized projects could inject 250 to 500 or more new downtown units in 2014, which, if true, could exceed any single year Tulsa has enjoyed since 1999, when Renaissance Uptown and the Tribune Lofts added 194 units to the Central Business District.

Even downtown office building operator Kanbar Property Management could get into the act, with three makeovers that may bring 183 units online.

“I don’t know how long it’s been since it was that high,” CB Richard Ellis of Oklahoma multifamily broker Brian J. Donahue, who with fellow CBRE multifamily broker David Forrest just finished the brokerage’s first downtown Tulsa multifamily report, told The Journal Record.

Their survey of operators with 586 units found occupancies at 97.5 percent and average rents at $1.31 per square foot. That compares to overall Tulsa apartment occupancies at 92 percent and average rents at about $1.

But those stellar performance numbers come from an area with relatively few apartments, making it easier to soar. Donahue could not estimate how many actual downtown units exist. Nor could Delise Tomlinson, executive director of downtown development for the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

First Commercial Real Estate Services, whose subsidiary Research America has surveyed the Tulsa apartment community since 1988, tracks 68 properties with 1,458 units operating within the Inner Dispersal Loop of highways generally used to define downtown. First Commercial multifamily broker Mike Marrara said this also includes some condominiums and rent-assisted living properties.

Such numbers demonstrate why many market professionals wonder if downtown can absorb that many units all at once, especially at those rental rates. These operators also will face strong competition for urban living tenants from The Enclave at Brookside when its 240 luxury apartments open later this year in that trendy midtown commercial district.

Some observers project that The Enclave may demand rents as high as $1.50 per square foot.

“It’s exciting,” said Commercial Realty Resources Co. Tulsa broker Darla Knight. “I guess the proof will be in the pudding.”

Knight pointed to the continued need for daily consumer services downtown, such as groceries and dry cleaning. She cheered news that the Folks Urban Market and Pantry would open Friday, bringing limited grocery options to downtown Tulsa’s Brady Arts District.

Downtown’s construction numbers remain admittedly sketchy, with few executives thinking they could account for all efforts going forward. Downtown apartment construction often involves more costly building makeovers that require more intricate financing and can take longer to materialize. Unexpected problems common when transforming older building may also set projects back years, as Blue Dome developer Mike Sager can relate with his First Street Lofts.

But by her own count, Tomlinson pegs the downtown apartment construction at 470 planned or announced units and 478 either recently completed or under construction.

“There’s some of these that kind of go quiet here and there,” said Tomlinson. “Until they’re out there publicly I don’t count them.”

But by her own count, Tomlinson pegs the downtown apartment construction at 470 planned or announced units and 478 either recently completed or under construction.