Developers in the Central Business District are stacking vehicles at a breakneck pace.
Between now and autumn, at least $25 million in private investment is being poured into parking garages that will accommodate a total of about 1,100 cars and trucks.
“It’s pretty clear that the new garages are a direct result of new office projects, new residential projects and more visitors that are coming into downtown,” says Brian Kurtz, executive director of the Downtown Coordinating Council.
Price Family Properties is expected to finish up its artistic offering next month.
The $12.8 million complex at 419 S. Main St. has seven levels, including two underground, and at least 500 parking spots. The exterior features vertical aluminum fins and lighting that will enable it to morph into color schemes.
It also will include 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
“Historically, the (Tulsa) Parking Authority has spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies as to whether or not they are meeting the needs of downtown as far as parking,” says Stuart Price, chairman of Price Family Properties, which owns and manages more than 2.2 million square feet of office space downtown. “In all of those studies, they’ve always said we need an additional structure parking.
“I believe that our growth is going to continue and continue and continue. It has temporarily relieved the pressure valve on parking downtown, and it’s going to allow for easier access to the amenities downtown.”
Exclusively for First Place tenants, the parking garage has a taxpayer component, as it is using a municipal loan of $1.67 million. The Downtown Development and Redevelopment Fund loan is providing First Place LLC, a business arm of Price’s, a six-year exemption on local property taxes and allow it to repay the zero-interest loan over a 12-year period, documents show.
At an August news conference that detailed plans for the facility, Mayor G.T. Bynum said, “We’re rethinking the way that parking facilities in downtown Tulsa work, how they operate.”
Price Family Properties has plans for a breakfast and lunch restaurant on the building’s ground floor, Price says.
Just southeast of his facility, Arvest Bank is building a four-story, roughly 180-spot parking garage for its employees at the southeast corner of Boulder Avenue and Fifth Street. It is expected to be completed in early July, Arvest President and CEO Kirk Hays says.
“I really do believe Fifth and Main is the epicenter of downtown,” Price says. “It’s a great opportunity and a good momentum builder to get the Price Family Properties parking garage online because I really believe it will help the other building owners, the other residential buildings and the retail as we move forward.”
Farther north in downtown is a similar project.
In coordination with the six-story building Vast Bank is erecting for its new executive offices, the bank is constructing an $11 million, 399-space public parking garage at 2 N. Elgin Ave.
The four-story parking garage will accommodate tenants and customers of the $33 million office building, also known as Block 44, as well as patrons of ONEOK Field, the recently opened Holiday Inn Express, and the Tulsa Arts and Blue Dome districts.
“Between Vast Bank employees and other tenants, more than 300 people will work at the new Vast Bank headquarters in downtown Tulsa,” bank Senior Vice President Doug DeJarnette wrote in an email to the Tulsa World. “As we designed the building, we were well aware that parking was already at a premium in the Tulsa Arts and Blue Dome districts and that we would have to address this issue.
“While the Park Mobile app has been a welcome convenience for downtown parking, it ultimately did not add any new parking spaces. We knew that erecting a dedicated parking facility would be essential,” he said.
“We are thrilled that this new garage will meet the long-term needs of Vast Bank’s employees, customers and other tenants. The fact that the greater community will benefit from both parking and added retail options is a nice bonus.”
As with the Price Family Properties facility, Vast’s garage has a mixed-use element. A total of 6,000 square feet is reserved for retail, which will include a coffee and beer lounge, grab-and-go sushi, and rooftop restaurant.
“The city was really excited to have the chance to partner with them to ensure that visitors to the ballpark have access for high-demand parking in that area,” Kurtz said of Vast Bank officials.
Tulsa has dealt with downtown parking issues for some time. It is still smarting from a 2013 national blog that handed the city the “Golden Crater” award for the proliferation of surface parking lots resulting from the razing of so many buildings.
Kurtz, however, believes better days are ahead.
Aside from the recent private investment in parking garages, the Tulsa Parking Authority makes available a total of more than 5,500 spaces at public parking garages at 520 E. Third St., 100 W. First St., 410 S. Main St., 11 E. First St. and 20 E. Second St., according to information provided by TPA Executive Director Peyton Haralson.
TPA also owns a surface lot at 311 N. Boulder Ave. on which it would like to plan a mixed-use development that includes a public parking component that benefits the Tulsa Arts District, Haralson says.
“As we work with new developments in downtown and new investors, we are already discussing with many projects how we can assure that garages in active areas incorporate public parking into the design and functionality,” Kurtz said.
“It is also to ensure that garages aren’t built for single uses and single users. We also want to encourage as much as possible that garages are not stand-alone, that they are incorporated into larger mixed-use projects that have activity and have vibrancy within them.”
Expected to aid downtown flow further is Tulsa’s new Aero Bus Rapid Transit system, the first phase of which is expected to be online in late summer.
The BRT system will run along Peoria Avenue from 54th Street North to 81st Street South. The route was selected because one in seven Tulsans live within a mile of Peoria Avenue and 1 in 5 work within a mile of it.
“If we can begin to help people feel more comfortable shifting their mode of transportation into this BRT that’s going to have this consistent service, that will do a lot to free up additional parking spaces and help encourage people to walk a little bit more downtown or utilize other modes of transportation like bike share and Lime scooters and Bird scooters,” Kurtz says.