Developers wade into Uptown 23rd with The Flamingo

Published Friday, August 25, 2017
by Molly M. Fleming

When developers Ben Chamberlain and Jason Little purchased the former University Manor Apartments, they put their wives, Jess Chamberlain and Sara Kate Little, in charge of the renovation’s design.

The wives were told they could do anything.

“We asked, ‘Anything? Can we do pink?’,” said Sara Kate Little.

They were given the go-ahead without hesitation. They used pink, orange, and a neon flamingo. On the interior, they used teal. Jason Little said the Chamberlains have seen big success with their single-family and duplex renovations, which have strong designs and an eye-catching look.

“Their projects sell at higher prices and they always sell faster,” Little said.

The attractive $1 million update could help the complex lease faster and help with tenant retention.

“For us, we wouldn’t feel good about it if we did a beige, garden-style update,” Little said.

Jason Little and Ben Chamberlain bought the 32-unit complex in July 2016 for $1.1 million. It was previously Oklahoma City University’s married student housing, but it was vacant when sold.

Sara Kate Little said the goal was to make the property stand out since it has such a prominent location at 1844 NW 23rd St. With all the icons on the street – such as the Gold Dome, the Tower Theatre, and the Milk Bottle building – the development team wanted The Flamingo to look like it had always been one.

Little and Jess Chamberlain scoured Oklahoma Historical Society photos to see if they could find one that showed the 1960s-era property, or even a hotel on the street. They couldn’t find any, so they used Route 66 and Palm Springs, California, hotels as inspiration.

“We wanted the details to feel really thoughtful and special,” Little said.

One detail is the custom-made door handles with a starburst. On the interior, the wood cabinets are custom-made with teal fronts. An island with teal-metal accents was built for each unit as well.

Chamberlain said the update was more detail-oriented than she’s used to doing, so it took more thought.

“It turned out just as we imagined, which is a lot to ask for,” she said.

Ben Chamberlain oversaw the property’s construction. Since the couple often works on smaller projects, like eight-plexes or four-plexes, he was able to get materials at a lower cost.

For larger-complex redevelopers, getting their construction crews to do a 32-unit project could have been more expensive because the unit total would be smaller.

“We definitely had some economies of scale that worked in our favor,” said Jason Little. “With it being a small project, relatively speaking, we got some cost savings.”

Besides bright paint, a lot of the work wasn’t seen. The electrical wiring, heating and air conditioning units, and plumbing lines were all replaced. The complex was on a central boiler and chiller system. That was removed and individual heating and air conditioning systems were installed. The windows were taken out and new ones were installed. Little said unexpected findings were planned as well, and the budget was still met.

The development team is planning a year to get the units leased. Little said they don’t see The Flamingo as a student-housing destination, but they won’t turn away students. The one-bedroom units lease for $725 per month.

“We think we’ll attract the type of tenants that appreciate good design,” he said. “Being by the Plaza District, where creative people open businesses, the people that patronize the Plaza would appreciate good design.”

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