The Tulsa Development Authority on Thursday unanimously approved a proposal from Tulsa-based developer Ross Group for mixed-used development on a 1-acre tract of TDA land just west of ONEOK Field.
The project beat out one submitted by Houston developer and Tulsa native Michael E. Smith, president of Pine Place Development LLC. Smith’s group had proposed constructing a $32 million, seven-story office building named for B.C. Franklin, a longtime Tulsa attorney and prominent African-American leader who died in 1960.
TDA’s 4-0 vote for Ross — Commissioner Steve Mitchell was absent — came after an 105-minute executive session during which three other items were discussed.
Following the public vote, Commissioner Nancy Roberts asked that TDA general counsel Jot Hartley negotiate a redevelopment agreement with Ross Group that recognizes the historic nature of the property and allows the project to “commemorate the moving forward that we as a city plan to do.”
Dubbed America’s “Black Wall Street” by Booker T. Washington, the 35-block Greenwood District became a prosperous center for black commerce in the early 1900s, housing more than 300 black-owned businesses that included hotels, theaters and restaurants.
“We’re very excited to be able to partner again with the Tulsa Development Authority on a very important piece of land that’s going to tie a part of our history with our future of Tulsa,” said Matt Newman, Ross Group’s director of development, following Thursday’s TDA meeting.
The Ross Group proposes a multi-phase project, the first of which would be a five-story office building, according to TDA records. The first story would be for retail use with the rest reserved for office space. Design on Phase 1 could begin by October, with Ross Group envisioning a completion by the end of 2018.
Ross Group President Warren Ross said the company’s anticipated jumpstart on construction is due to its owning a three-quarter block around the site, also known as Block 44. The contractor also is partnering with Promise Hotels to build a Holiday Inn Express — construction is set to start later this year — at the southeast corner of Archer Street and Detroit Avenue.
Warren Ross said 50 percent of occupancy for Phase 1 has been secured.
Phase 2 is scheduled to be a parking garage at the existing Workforce site that sits next to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks, and the third phase — another planned mixed-used space — will be developed based on demand, Warren Ross said.
Ross Group has made its mark with Department of Defense construction, but over the past five years the firm has concentrated on downtown Tulsa development, Warren Ross said.
Ross Group converted the former International Harvester building at Second Street and Frankfort Avenue into its corporate headquarters, and it was contractor for the revitalization of the historic Gates Hardware building across from ONEOK Field. Another Ross construction project, the Hampton Inn & Suites next to the BOK Center, is set to open next month.