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The Atlas Life Building, a Historic Twelve-story Office Building in Downtown Tulsa,
Receiving a $12 million Conversion
to a 120-room Courtyard by Marriott
By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World, Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Mar. 4, 2008 - The new owners of the downtown Atlas Life Building revealed their plan Monday to convert it into a 120-room Courtyard by Marriott boutique hotel.

During a press conference, representatives of Missouri-based SJS Hospitality said they would spend $12 million to $15 million over the next 18 to 24 months to convert the 93,500-square-foot, 12-story building at 415 S. Boston Ave.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor said during the press conference the move is a key piece of the puzzle in redeveloping downtown.

"This is one of the most exciting announcements we've had," she said.

Taylor said SJS' purchase from Maurice Kanbar, the San Francisco philanthropist and inventor who bought 16 downtown buildings for a combined $108 million in 2005-2006, shows that people are still willing to invest in Tulsa.

The purchase price for the building was not disclosed.

SJS includes managing partner Spike Ehrhardt and partner Steve Ehrhardt, both of Missouri, and operating partner Jeff Hartman of Broken Arrow. The firm constructed and operates two hotels in the area: Candlewood Suites at 10008 E. 73rd St. and Holiday Inn Express Hotel &

Suites at 2201 Stone Wood Circle in Broken Arrow.

The company broke ground last fall on a TownePlace hotel, a Marriott brand, at 2251 N. Stone Wood Circle in Broken Arrow. The $6 million, 98-room extended-stay hotel is scheduled to be completed in September. It will be the first TownePlace in the Tulsa metropolitan area.

A Courtyard by Marriott is already open in Tulsa at 3340 S. 79th East Ave., though it is not operated by SJS.

Hartman said SJS had been looking to open a hotel in downtown Tulsa, and the partners' research led them to Atlas Life.

"We focused in on the Atlas Life building because of its history, its iconic character and its location downtown near the BOK Center," he said.

The $178 million, 18,000-seat BOK Center is scheduled to open Sept. 1.

SJS has conducted due diligence on the Atlas Life Building since last summer, as well as undertaking its own feasibility study.

Tenants on the second floor and higher were given notice Friday by building manager Kanbar Properties to vacate by June 1, with offers to relocate to another building in Kanbar's portfolio.

However, not everyone on the first floor will leave. Steve Ehrhardt said the Atlas Grill and the Tulsa Press Club will remain and operate as part of the new hotel.

"We recognize that they're a critical part of this building's culture and history," he said.

He said other dining and after-hours options are being planned.

David Wulfers, president of the Press Club Benevolent Association, said he was pleased to hear the Press Club would remain.

"We're very happy to be invited to stay," he said.

Ehrhardt said no decisions have been made regarding the other first-floor tenants, which include Courtyard Deli, The Journal Record, Jackson Technical and Resume Source.

"We want to keep as much retail on the first floor as possible," he said.

Kanbar Properties will remain the building's manager during the transition period.

Though floor plans for the hotel haven't been finalized, SJS and the project's Tulsa-based architectural firm, GH2, formerly Gralla, will keep as much of the history and culture of the building as possible -- including its distinctive four-story neon sign.

The hotel itself has not yet been named.

Hartman said SJS chose the Courtyard by Marriott brand because of its successful adaptation of other historic buildings into hotels in other cities.

The company estimated the rooms and suites would range from $149 to $189. SJS is also negotiating for parking adjacent to the hotel.

The Atlas Life Building was constructed in 1922.

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Robert Evatt 581-8447 robert.evatt@tulsaworld.com

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Hotel details

What brand will it be? Courtyard by Marriott

How many rooms will it have? 120

How much will the renovation cost? $12 million to $15 million

What's the timetable for renovations? 18-24 months

Will any tenants remain? The Atlas Grill and Tulsa Press Club. Decisions on the other first- floor tenants haven't been made yet.

Will the Atlas Life sign stay? Yes.

What's the estimated nightly rate for rooms and suites? $149-$189.

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Building tenants

Atlas Grill Courtyard Deli Tulsa Press Club Journal Record Jackson Technical Resume Source EWC Inc. Cubic Inc. Baytide Petroleum Young Law Firm OK Cap Advisors LLC DD Frederick Inc. Tulsa Centrifugal Casting Machines Netbriar LLC Longbow Asset Management Co.

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To see more of the Tulsa World, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tulsaworld.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Tulsa World, Okla.

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