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Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority Approves Plans for a 196-room Embassy Suites
 Near the OU Medical Center - But Want Stucco Facade Replaced with Masonry

By Steve Lackmeyer, The OklahomanMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 18, 2008 - Downtown's hotel room count continues to climb -- this time with the planned addition of a 196-room Embassy Suites hotel in the Oklahoma Health Center.

The eight-story hotel is being developed by Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Robert Slater and will be built at NE 8 and Phillips. The site, once home to the Bradford Commons, a Section 8 low-income housing complex, is controlled by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. It is near the OU Medical Center, the Presbyterian Health Foundation and Bricktown.

"What's very encouraging is that it's a full service hotel," Urban Renewal Commissioner Russell Perry said. "We're seeing a whole lot of hotels being built in Oklahoma City, but not full service."

What do the plans look like?

Paul Lague, president of Memphis-based LWL Architects, presented conceptual plans to the board. The plans showed limestone on the first floor and a mix of brick and synthetic stucco on the upper floors. Larger window openings are included on the top floor, which he said will be a concierge level with specialty services.

Other features include a four-story glass atrium at the entrance facing Phillips Avenue. He said the design won't include the square top-to-bottom atrium found in traditional Embassy Suites hotels.

More than 16,000 square feet of multifunction banquet and pre-function space will be on the west side of the property with its own entrance and parking separated from spaces that will be used by guests on the east side.

Full-service hotel

Slater said the hotel will offer everything associated with being full-service, including a restaurant, lounge, deli/market and ballroom. But, he added, the hotel will feature Embassy Suites' Spoons casual dining concept.

"We felt that being a mile from Bricktown, we're not going to be a destination restaurant," Slater said. "You're not going to be thinking, 'Let's go to the Embassy Suites for dinner tonight.' But it's very important for us to have food service in the hotel for our guests ... there are going to be a lot of families staying and going through with the cancer center that will be nearby."

Urban Renewal commissioners approved conceptual plans -- but not without first requesting that the developers consider eliminating most or all of the stucco.

"I don't believe that there is any other place on the health science campus where we have anything but masonry," Commissioner Jim Tolbert said. "I really hate to introduce this material onto the health science campus. A masonry building really says a lot about what we're trying to accomplish with this campus."

Tolbert said that although synthetic stucco has improved, in a decade "it won't look very good."

Developers rethink plan

Slater and Clagg estimated replacing stucco with masonry would increase their costs by 40 percent. But the developers agreed to re-evaluate their use of stucco after being told of two lower-cost hotels being built with predominately brick facades in Bricktown.

Lague said he saw synthetic stucco used in nearby Lower Bricktown, another Urban Renewal project.

"We have made compromises in Bricktown," Tolbert responded. "I'm not sure I'm glad we did that. But nonetheless, we did it for good reason, but I sure don't want to see us get started with that here."

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Oklahoman

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