Hotel Online  Special Report

After Being Vacant for 15 Years the Redevelopment
Plan for Historic Skirvin Hotel Approved by
Council in Oklahoma City
May 18, 2004 – OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The historic Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City is about to undergo a transformation on a scale that would make the hotel’s namesake William Balser "Bill" Skirvin proud that his “225 room hobby” as he called it is finally getting the attention it deserves after being vacant for more than 15 years.  
A final redevelopment plan prepared by Skirvin Partners LLC, the joint venture group that was awarded the project last year for redevelopment of the historic Skirvin Hotel, was approved by the city council at its May 18 meeting.  The presentation to the council, and the council’s subsequent approval of the redevelopment plan, is the final step before financial arrangements can be made and actual restoration work can 
begin. A tremendous amount of effort has

Skirvin Hotel
Photo Credit: The City of Oklahoma City
been logged by both the city and redevelopment partners in producing a restoration plan and crafting a financing package that made sense for all the project stakeholders since the creation of the Skirvin Solutions Committee in September 1999 – the group created by the city and charged with reviewing all redevelopment options for the hotel, including demolition.

In July 2003, the contract was awarded to Skirvin Partners LLC for the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Skirvin Hotel, which is the oldest existing hotel in the state of Oklahoma.  

Along with redevelopment manager FaulknerUSA, joint venture equity partners on the Skirvin project include hotel franchise and public relations consultant John Weeman of Partners in Development located in Irving, Texas, and hotel operator Marcus Hotels and Resorts Worldwide with corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, WI.  

Scott Whiles, Vice President Finance at FaulknerUSA, who has led the company’s effort in Oklahoma City, shares the city’s enthusiasm for the Skirvin Hotel redevelopment.

“There’s a saying that ‘old buildings are like old friends – they reassure us in times of constant change,’ “ Whiles said. 

“I think that sentiment rings true for the people of Oklahoma City when you talk about the Skirvin Hotel.  The history of this hotel, and its place in the hearts and minds of the citizens of Oklahoma City is real. There is a passion for this project not only seen within City Hall, but within everyone in the City with whom we’ve discussed this project.  I’m proud of FaulknerUSA for recognizing the merits of this opportunity, and for our role in seeing this challenging project through to completion.”

A recognized expert in orchestrating public-private developments for public sector clients, FaulknerUSA offers turnkey design-build, development and construction services, and is a leading national developer of public-private hospitality projects.  FaulknerUSA recently completed the 800-room Hilton Austin and the 450-room Hilton Omaha.  In addition, the company has other hospitality projects currently underway, including the 1,100-room Hyatt Denver and the 226-room Hilton Vancouver Conference Center and Hotel in the state of Washington.  FaulknerUSA also provides its clients with schools, correctional facilities, commercial and retail developments and military housing. Additional service offerings include program management, public-private financing and asset management.  FaulknerUSA has its corporate headquarters in Austin, Texas.

John Weeman, President of Partners in Development (PID), managed development for Hilton Hotels Corporation in several capacities from October of 1987 through May of 2000.  While at Hilton, Weeman was directly involved with the addition of more than 10,000 rooms to the Hilton system. Weeman formed PID after leaving Hilton to take advantage of development opportunities for the Hilton brand within the Central United States and to bring a preferential franchise fee arrangement to the developments in which PID has an equity position. Weeman’s company assembles equity, and identifies appropriate players for development, operation, and ownership roles in developments it undertakes. 

“So many people are passionate about saving the Skirvin – and with good reason,” said Weeman. “The Skirvin Hotel is a throwback to old world opulence and design that is often not possible today with new construction.”

“However, more importantly, the Skirvin is part of the fabric of Oklahoma City, and part of our collective cultural and historical character as a country and a society.  We have an absolute duty to preserve buildings like the Skirvin so that future generations will have a connection to history and a tangible understanding of what makes this country great. This restoration and preservation effort in Oklahoma City demonstrates what can be accomplished when the public and private sectors work together. It’s also gratifying that many of the key players in the restoration effort have roots in Oklahoma City,” Weeman said.

The other joint venture equity partner is hotel operator Marcus Hotels and Resorts, which has more than 14,000 rooms under management including 3,100 that are full-service.  Marcus brings more than 60 years of innovative, profitable expertise to owners/investors, and focuses primarily on full-service hotels and resorts nationwide. Senior management at Marcus has more than 211 years of combined expertise developing and operating upscale resorts and urban properties. 

“The Skirvin Hotel, soon to be the Hilton Skirvin, is a grand hotel in the tradition of other historic hotels operated by Marcus including the 307-room Pfister in Milwaukee; the 217-room Hotel Phillips in Kansas City; and the 730-room Hilton Milwaukee City Center,” said Bill Otto, President and Chief Operating Officer of Marcus Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.

“We are very excited about our involvement with the grand dame of Oklahoma City – the Skirvin Hotel,” Otto said. “We believe the restored Hilton Skirvin will be a tremendous addition to our portfolio, and a welcome sight for citizens of Oklahoma City when they see the Skirvin restored to its former glory.”   

Marcus has special expertise in historic renovations and historic tax credits – two main components of the Skirvin Hotel project.  Marcus has a variety of hotels under national and international flags across the country. In addition, Marcus has extensive experience with public-private partnerships – another characteristic of the Skirvin Hotel project. 

The Skirvin Hotel redevelopment project includes the efforts of many Oklahoma City based companies and city departments, including: 

  • James D. Couch, City Manager, Oklahoma City
  • Catherine O’Connor, Assistant City Manager & Finance Director, Oklahoma City
  • JoeVan Bullard, Executive Director, OKC Urban Renewal Authority
  • Leslie Batchelor and Dan Batchelor, Center for Economic Development Law, Batchelor & Powers, legal counsel
  • John Williams, Williams, Box, Forshee & Bullard, P.C., legal counsel
  • Brent Bryant, Interim Business Manager, Oklahoma City
  • Bob Blackburn, Ph.D., Executive Director, Oklahoma Historical Society
  • Melvena Heisch, Deputy, State Historic Preservation Office
  • Catherine Montgomery, historic preservation architect
  • PSA Consulting Engineers, mechanical, electrical and plumbing design
  • GMR & Associates, Inc., environmental survey and design assistance
  • Trumble Dean LLC, structural engineers
  • Standard Testing, geotechnical investigation and report
The historical consultant for the project is Marcel Quimby Architecture/Preservation of Dallas, Texas.  

Additional local companies involved in the Skirvin Hotel redevelopment are investment banker Wells Nelson & Associates, which has its corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, and construction manager Flintco, Inc, which has an office in Oklahoma City and corporate headquarters in Tulsa.  

Flintco, Inc. is a proud Native American company with a long-standing tradition. Originating in March 1908 as Tulsa Rig, Reel & Manufacturing Co. (TRR), Flintco, Inc. has evolved into a full-service commercial construction company, offering design-build, project management, pre-construction, construction management, and general contracting services. With an average annual volume of more than $450 million per year, Flintco, Inc., the largest Native American construction firm in the country, is consistently ranked in the top 20% of Engineering New Record's Top 400 Contractors, as well as the Top 20 Contractors of correctional and healthcare facilities nationwide.

Mark Grimes, Senior Vice President at Flintco, said he is looking forward to working on the redevelopment of the Skirvin Hotel.  

“The Skirvin Hotel is an important cultural icon in Oklahoma City, and deserves the attention it’s receiving,” Grimes said.  “Myself and countless others used to know the Skirvin Hotel as the place to go for meetings, parties and other functions.  I’m pleased that Flintco was chosen for this project, and I look forward to getting started.”   

Investment banking services are to be provided by Wells Nelson & Associates (WNA), a regional investment-banking firm headquartered in Oklahoma City. WNA, an operating subsidiary of F&M Bank and Trust Company based in Tulsa, focuses on fixed income investment banking including public finance, institutional and retail bond sales, and the underwriting and placement of a variety of tax-exempt and taxable fixed income securities. WNA’s corporate office and trading desk is located directly across the street from the Skirvin Hotel providing many of the firm’s banking and trading staff with a view of the once grand hotel.

Craig Cunningham, Senior Vice President at WNA, has worked on a number of public-private ventures and says this particular opportunity has a unique level of excitement surrounding it.

“I have spoken with a number of people who have fond memories of weddings, honeymoons, prom nights and other memorable events at the Skirvin,” Cunningham said. “Everyone that I’ve spoken with about this project is excited about the restoration and supports it enthusiastically. WNA is proud to be part of this next phase of downtown redevelopment.”

Project architect is Kahler Slater Architects, a leading national design firm for historic hotel restorations. Because the Skirvin Hotel has been remodeled several times in its history, the building’s current incarnation includes many layers of period elements and design styles.  This, combined with the fact that the building has been vacant for more than 15 years, presents a unique design challenge.  
“The Kahler Slater team is thrilled to be involved in the restoration of the magnificent Skirvin Hotel,” said David Plank, project architect with Kahler Slater. “It is such a joy, and so satisfying professionally, to be able to work on a project of this scope with so much historical and cultural significance.  It will be a proud moment for our firm and the citizens of Oklahoma City when the doors of the new Hilton Skirvin re-open, and the words 'meet me at the Skirvin' are once again a part of the local vocabulary,” Plank said.

Some of Kahler Slater’s extensive design plans call for a restoration of the original exterior finish, installation of historically appropriate, yet energy-efficient windows, reconfigured guest rooms, and new guest elevators. The project will also feature an elegant lobby and restaurants as well as state-of-the-art meeting space, including restoration of the exquisite fourteenth floor Venetian Room. Whenever possible, historical elements such as moldings, tile, and ceiling treatments will be incorporated into the new design.  
A core area of expertise for the firm is new hotel design and the restoration and revitalization of existing hotel properties, similar to the Skirvin Hotel. Kahler Slater has completed several successful projects in conjunction with Marcus that include the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, a 730-room hotel that first opened in 1928; the historic Hotel Phillips in Kansas City, MO; and the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace.
Kahler Slater Architects, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a creative, multi-disciplinary design enterprise of architects, designers and consultants working with visionary clients throughout the United States.

Restoration work on the Skirvin Hotel is expected to be complete sometime in spring 2006.  The restored hotel will fly the Hilton flag as a franchise operated by Marcus. Subject to final Hilton franchising approval, the hotel will be called the “Hilton Skirvin.”  The new Hilton Skirvin will support the Cox Business Services Convention Center in Oklahoma City with 235 rooms and 25,000-square-feet of hotel meeting and pre-function space.  

The financing package that the city and the Skirvin Partners LLC crafted to make the restoration of the Skirvin Hotel possible is considered to be one of the more complex financial structures in the country. The restoration financing consists of private equity, federal and state historical tax credits, a private taxable bond issue, and public assistance from a variety of sources issued to the project as a repayable loan. These public sources include a federal economic development initiative grant, federal section 108 funds, OKC development authority funds and tax increment financing. The building will be sold to Skirvin Partners LLC, with the land being retained by the city and made available on a long-term lease to allow the city to recover its initial investment.  The May 18 council vote secures Oklahoma City’s commitment to contribute approximately $18.5 million to the project financing structure through sources identified above. The funds from the city will be repaid based on an anticipated 15 year “hold and sell” strategy whereby the city will receive annual participating payments with the balance being repaid at the time of a future sale of the asset.

The pending restoration is not the first time the Skirvin Hotel has undergone a major upgrade since the hotel opened in 1911.  And while nothing as dramatic as adding a fourth tower or additional floors, which remain part of the Skirvin Hotel history – the planned $46.4 million restoration will certainly be extensive.  Plans calls for a complete updating of the hotel with 21st century amenities and restoring much of the period ambiance that has made the hotel a beloved fixture in downtown Oklahoma City for nearly 100 years.  

Much of what is known about the hotel was compiled by historian Bob L. Blackburn, PhD., executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, who wrote a history of the Hotel Skirvin for a 1982 celebration marking the 70th anniversary of the hotel’s opening.

The original Skirvin Hotel opened its doors on September 26, 1911 with two, 10-story towers containing 225 rooms. For ventilation, each room had an outside window and a transom above the door.  Skirvin built his own gas pipeline to the building, dug three wells for a water supply, and built his own electric plant. Later, these innovations would allow Skirvin to operate his own laundry and cooling system. The hotel was one of the first public buildings in Oklahoma City to provide air conditioning or “iced air” as it was called.

By 1930, the Skirvin added a third wing and raised the entire structure to 14 stories, increasing the hotel capacity to 525 rooms. The price tag for the 1930 additions was $3 million – almost twice the cost of the original building, according to Blackburn’s research. The Skirvin Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.



Terri Dusek
 1700 Rio Grande 
Austin, Texas  78701 

Also See: Developer FaulknerUSA Incorporated Latest Advances in Design and Construction for 800 room HIlton Austin / December 2003
The Best Developers, the Best Deals and the Best Conversions within Hilton Hotels Corporation's Full-Service Brands Named / April 2003
Fort Worth Officials Pick Four Hotel Developers to Interview for the Convention Center Hotel Project / November 2003

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