|By P.J. Lassek, Tulsa World,
Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 11, 2010 --The city has a buyer for the boarded-up former City Hall and Francis Campbell City Council Chamber, Mayor Dewey Bartlett said Wednesday.
"This is some very good news," he said. "It is a big deal -- a huge step that will lead to other steps in redeveloping that area."
Tori and Macy Snyder of Brickhugger LLC approached city officials Tuesday with an offer to buy the 2.5-acre downtown site for $1 million in cash.
They plan to spend $30 million renovating the two buildings, converting the former City Hall into a 200-room hotel and the adjacent council chamber into a restaurant, Macy Snyder said.
The purchase also includes part of the Civic Center Plaza and street-level and underground parking.
City records show that maintaining the empty buildings with minimal electricity, water, heat and cooling costs the city about $980,000 a year.
The sale and subsequent removal of the maintenance cost will provide a "tremendous savings to our budgets," Bartlett said.
The Snyder family is not new to the hotel business; the historic Mayo Hotel is on its list of accomplishments.
The city's economic development director, Mike Bunney, said, "Anyone who can take the Mayo Hotel and its state of disrepair and turn it into the fabulous facility it is, I have a high level of confidence they could convert the old City Hall into something very worthwhile."
The offer came as a surprise, he said.
"What is really neat about it," he said, "is they want nothing from the city except the deed."
The city moved its headquarters into the former One Technology Center at Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue in 2008.
Although the city had not received any previous offers on the former City Hall site since it went on the market in 2007, Bunney said that typically a developer would want the city to raze the site and help finance the development, "which clearly the city is in no position to do."
"Every hotel developer I've talked to about this site over the years mentioned some form of that help," he said.
Tori Snyder said she knew that the site was for sale and that the city couldn't provide incentives.
"We're doing this because we believe in downtown and have investments in downtown, and for the momentum of the downtown to continue, the vacant buildings need to be renovated into viable use," she said.
"This site is very significant because of its location and because it stands out there and is very visible," she said.
The site is adjacent to the Tulsa Convention Center.
Macy Snyder said the site is an "eyesore right now."
"Our Mayo residents look at it every day and say, 'Ugh, that building.'
"But we don't think it's so hideous that it has to be torn down. It just needs a face-lift."
The Snyders did not have any plans drafted when they made the offer.
Design plans are under way, they said.
Bartlett said he believed that the Snyders can get the job done.
"Look what they've already done. They not only have a great track record but enough confidence to invest $1 million in cash, and that's a lot of money," he said.
"We're not worried about this being some fly-by-night organization."
Bartlett said he thought it important to have a local developer who not only knows the city's economic climate, opportunities and capabilities but also its people.
The Snyders said plenty of studies show that downtown needs more hotel rooms.
Not only will their development provide 200 more rooms, but the hotel will generate about 100 new jobs, Macy Snyder said.
Although Brickhugger is the buyer, other local investors will be involved in the project, she said.
The group will use Phillip Slaughter and Rose, a local architectural and engineering firm that worked on the Mayo Hotel and is working with Brickhugger on the Detroit Lofts at 105 N. Detroit Ave., near the ONEOK Field ballpark.
Tori Snyder said the hotel project would take about 18 months to two years to complete.
Bunney said the city could make the sale through two processes -- a direct sale, which would require sealed bids, or by deeding the property to a city authority, such as the Tulsa Industrial Authority or the Tulsa Development Authority, to negotiate the sale.
He said he would push for using an authority because it could put together a contract to ensure that the developer completes the plan.
With sealed bidding, the highest bidder would get the property, and that bidder could be a speculator, he said.
No matter how the sale is accomplished, Bunney said, the City Council will be involved.
He said he hoped to get the offer before the council at its March 23 committee meeting.
The council will not meet next week because Tulsa Public Schools will be on spring break.
P.J. Lassek 581-8382 firstname.lastname@example.org
To see more of the Tulsa World, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tulsaworld.com.
Copyright (c) 2010, Tulsa World, Okla.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.