The local Black Gold Group has poured about $6 million into revamping a small retail strip in Tulsa.
And it is just getting started.
The private equity firm two years ago bought the center and the storage units behind the property, which is located near South Yale Avenue and 51st Street, Black Gold CEO Kevin Jordan said.
“We literally de-skinned the old building, knocked out all the walls and started over,” he said of the area that once housed the long-running Green Onion restaurant.
Since that time, Black Gold has landed a 5,500-square foot anchor tenant, Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar, along with businesses such as Simple Simon’s Pizza and The Collaborative Coffee & Wine Bar. At the rear of the property is the recently branded Alley 51 (4512 E. 51st St.), which houses rentable, 1,400-square-foot suites.
“These were kind of an experiment,” Jordan said. “There was a 70-foot wide strip between these storage buildings of cracked-up concrete with old junk cars on blocks. It was really kind of a mess. So we tore up all the concrete, replaced it and brought the buildings out 20 feet on both sides.”
Sporting glass-accented garage doors and equipped with kitchenettes and bathrooms, the suites — which Jordan describes as ‘man caves’ — can be used for storage or co-working, office, personal or retail spaces.
“If I ever wrote a book about what COVID did for me, COVID probably helped this because people are kind of thinking, ‘OK, I kind of like alternate offi ce space. I kind of like the co-working things going on now.’ ...
“I’d like to say we had kind of a master plan. But it really evolved with usage.”
In Alley 51, businesses offer patrons opportunities like getting fit, buying a fountain pen or participating in ax-throwing. Eighteen of the 20 spaces are rented.
“People are thinking nowadays that I no longer necessarily need an impressive office,” he said. “I need a place where people can come and space out and get a cup of coffee or go work out. It’s really developed a community-type feel. We’re real pleased.”
So pleased that firm has plans for more of the same.
In the works behind The Collaborative is a $3.5 million industrial/office project that will feature air-conditioned, 2,500-7,500-square-foot condominiums for recreational or work use. Construction on the two-story, roughly 30,000-square foot structure is expected to be completed at the end of next year.
Chris Thompson, who had a shop in the area prior to its redevelopment, was the first to rent in Alley 51. The former United Methodist clergyman owns a niche store called Pen and Ink to Paper, where he creates and restores fountain pens and sells ink and stationery.
“It’s really a younger group than most fountain pen enthusiasts,” Thompson said. “…In some respects, I’m out of place there.
“But (fellow tenants) have to walk past my business. From time to time, they stop in and say, `What’s a fountain pen?’ So, I get to do the educating.”
Jon Bash, owner of Ghost Cat Productions, began moving into Alley 51 this past week after having used The Collaborative as a hub for his company since its 2020 inception.
“They were looking for a certain kind of tenant,” Bash said of Black Gold team members. “They weren’t looking just to fill space.
“They wanted young business owners and to create a community of arts. They gave us their vision, and we had already fallen in love with the community and this area. We gave them our interest and our expression to want to be involved.”