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Paul Coury, Developer of Tulsa's Boutique Ambassador Hotel,
Wants to Turn 95 Year Old Office Building in Downtown
 Oklahoma City into Luxury Hotel

By Richard Mize, The Daily Oklahoman
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jan. 28, 2005 - Deluxe room service could be headed for downtown Oklahoma City's historic Colcord Building.

Owners are lining up investors to help turn the 95-year-old office building into what one early developer envisioned: a hotel.

A "boutique" hotel.

That means small, by modern hostelry standards, but with higher finish and a higher level of service, said Paul Coury, president of Tulsa's Coury Properties, one of three managing partners of the planned Colcord Hotel LLC.

Coury, who developed Tulsa's boutique Ambassador Hotel and once proposed something similar for the Skirvin Hotel, said Thursday he was "75 percent" certain investors could be found and the makeover would proceed. He said plans for the Colcord came out of his involvement with trying to find a way to save the Skirvin.

Talk of the Colcord project has been circulating downtown and in historic preservation circles for some time. Coury said planning and design for the project have been in the works for two years.

Charles Francis Colcord, who came to Oklahoma in the land run of 1889 and was an early lawman, finished the L-shaped, 12 story building -- the short leg is actually 14 stories -- in 1910, after he struck it rich in land and oil. The reinforced-concrete building at 15 N Robinson, engineered to match survivors of fire following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Coury estimated that the Colcord is 50 percent to 60 percent occupied. He said he and the other managing partners, Stephen B. Browne Sr., president of All-American Bottling Co., and Steve Raupe, president of Eureka Water Co., envision it as a successful 108-room addition to downtown's stock of hotel rooms.

"Our business strategy will be adapted to the Oklahoma City market, tied to the social, business and fine arts community," Coury, Browne and Raupe said in a letter to potential investors and other interested parties. "From an investment perspective, we are pursuing civic-minded, accredited investors.

"As with the Ambassador Hotel in Tulsa, this strategy has proven very effective in making the Ambassador a market leader in occupancy and rate. We believe the Colcord Hotel will be equally successful."

Oklahoma City has ample room for such an addition to the hospitality industry, said Jeff Penner, executive director of the Greater Oklahoma City Metro Hotel Association.

"There is a need for that type of hotel, especially since you're talking about a niche in the market that Oklahoma City is lacking," Penner said. He said Coury's success with the Ambassador Hotel in Tulsa indicates that a Colcord Hotel would be a "wonderful addition to downtown and Bricktown."

The Colcord Hotel would include an independently operated restaurant and lounge run by Alain and Michel Buthion of Oklahoma City's La Baguette Bistro, Coury said.

The Buthions' "known track record" and having a fine restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel -- as opposed to having a "hotel restaurant" -- would lend a certain "panache" to the Colcord Hotel, he said.

Beck Architects and Manhattan Construction are providing services at cost and also would be partners in the project, Coury said.

Coury said the project would not seek tax credits for work done to historic properties, which would free it from the constraints of state and federal historic preservation regulations. That will raise some eyebrows among historic preservationists.

But, Coury said, the owners have no intention of doing anything that would take away from the Colcord's historic character. He said they were "100 percent" dedicated to keeping the building historically sound.

The facade of the building, which Charles Colcord promoted as "the first big building in Oklahoma City," would be respected, as would the richly appointed lobby, Coury said. Upper floors would be renovated to accommodate the switch from office use to hotel use, he said.

"The design will be elegant and sophisticated, with a classic modern approach," Coury said.

William A. Wells, who designed the simple yet elegant building -- and whose mentor was Louis A. Sullivan, considered the father of the modern skyscraper -- sketched a building sheathed in terra cotta with ornamentation typical for the era.

It was Bob Galbreath, Charles Colcord's original business partner in the turn-of-the 19th-century real estate deals that led to the Colcord Building, who wanted a hotel built on the lots, said Dr. Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society and state historic preservation officer.

Colcord and Galbreath bought the lots, which then held prefabricated buildings, from Henry Overholser, Blackburn said. Colcord wrote in his autobiography that he bought out Galbreath's interests when they disagreed on what to build on the property, Blackburn said. Colcord wanted an office building.

-----To see more of The Daily Oklahoman, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsok.com.

(c) 2005, The Daily Oklahoman. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com.

 
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