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Developer John Weeman Wins Oklahoma City Approval to Transform the Historic Skirvin Hotel
to a 234 Suite Hotel
By Steve Lackmeyer, The Daily Oklahoman
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Jan. 22, 2004 - Plans that call for removing the stucco facade from the first two floors of the Skirvin Hotel and gutting the room floors to create 234 modern suites were approved Wednesday by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. 

Commissioners also approved a redevelopment agreement with Skirvin Partners LLC, a group led by former Hilton Development Officer John Weeman. 

The agreement calls for the hotel to open by March 2006, but Weeman said construction, if started this year, could be completed in time for a 2005 holiday opening. 

"We've got a lot of demolition work to start before we can do construction, so that will be commencing very soon," Weeman said. "It will probably take about four to six months. I believe we'll see construction at the Skirvin starting within the next several months." 

Design concepts approved by the commission call for removing the stucco facade added to the hotel about 40 years ago and restoring the original cast-stone facade. 

Architect David Plank said enough of the original facade remains intact to allow a full restoration. The restoration effort also has been aided by original photos provided to the architects and removal of some of the stucco over the past months. 

Designs approved Wednesday include creation of a cocktail lounge on the southwest corner facing Broadway and Park Avenue and a pool, spa and fitness center in the basement. 

The developer is required to renovate a banquet hall annex on the north side of the hotel and create a drop-off and entryway that Weeman predicted will be the city's new "wedding shot." 

The development agreement requires the hotel be affiliated with Hilton or a comparable chain. The developers are required to maintain the Skirvin as a full-service hotel with no fewer than 235 rooms, a full- service restaurant and bar, and two 14th floor banquet rooms. 

The agreement does not include a sale price or an update on whether the project cost will be more than Weeman's initial estimate of $42 million. 

Since the city bought the hotel from private owners two years ago, city leaders have anticipated public grants, loans and tax credits will be needed to cover an anticipated financing gap that previously has been estimated at $10 million. 

The agreement calls for an additional public subsidy to follow construction of a planned $35 million Embassy Suites in Bricktown -- also an Urban Renewal project. 

The hotel originally was planned to be a smaller hotel not in the Hilton chain, but the project was expanded by developer John Q. Hammons last summer. Weeman said the change does affect the predicted financial performance for a Hilton Skirvin Hotel, but will provide a higher downtown room count that will attract more conventions and meetings. 

Weeman said he is getting closer to knowing the amount of the financing gap and does not believe it will be a deal breaker. 

Weeman said his partnership received construction estimate bids last week and is actively pursuing financing options. They are discussing possible use of the city's federal empowerment zone incentives and tax increment financing. 

Both Weeman and Urban Renewal director Joe Van Bullard said they believe the public subsidy should be identified within the next 60 days. The deal ultimately will need approval by the Oklahoma City Council before construction can proceed. 

"We need to keep the momentum going that we have now," Weeman said. "It's going well, and we've had no unpleasant surprises." 

-----To see more of The Daily Oklahoman, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to 

(c) 2004, The Daily Oklahoman. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. HLT, 


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