Eight-story Midtown condo tower approved

Published Thursday, March 21, 2019
by Molly M. Fleming

The city will soon see its first high-rise condominium project break through the skyline.

The Downtown Design Review Committee on Thursday approved The Elliott, an eight-story, 77,000-square-foot building with 30 housing units. Architect Rand Elliott designed the building for the Willoughby Ridley development company, led by Grant Willoughby and John Ridley.

Willoughby said there are nine units already purchased. Construction will start when 12 units are sold.

The project was on the February DDRC docket but continued to March. Willoughby said the continuance worried some potential buyers. The developers have had a small shipping-container office set up at the 1305 Classen Dr. site for about four months.

Willoughby said the buyers are empty nesters from Heritage Hills, Mesta Park, Nichols Hills and north Edmond. They also have sold homes to young professionals who want to live in the urban core. The units will range in size from 1,300 square feet to 4,300 square feet, with a $450,000 starting price. The top-floor penthouse is priced at $2.5 million.

The development drew protest from Villa Teresa developer Marva Ellard and her investment partners. Villa Teresa is on the west side of Classen Drive, while The Elliott is on the east side.

Attorney J. Kelly Work, who represented the Villa Teresa development group at the meeting, told The Journal Record there hasn’t been a decision made about protesting The Elliott project to the city’s Board of Adjustment.

Ellard said she’s fine with the development being condominiums, even though the Villa will also have condos.

“I don’t dislike the building,” she said. “I dislike the building being on this site.”

Work said the group believes the building is not consistent within the context of a four-block area.

“This building, as proposed, would significantly alter the area,” he said. “It would adversely impact our properties and other properties in the area.”

During his presentation, Elliott showed the changes he made to the development to ease concerns presented at the February meeting.

But he spent most of his time reviewing a protest letter written by Ellard. Elliott presented 18 points and read through every point.

Developer Richard McKown is developing The Bower, a 32-unit for-sale project at NW Fourth Street and N. Lee Avenue. The project has 24 condos and eight town homes. McKown’s career centered on suburban development before shifting downtown to build apartments. He understands the difference between the two areas.

“Downtown is hard,” he said. “The suburbs: It’s easy out there. That’s a cakewalk.”

McKown said he looked at the 1305 Classen site previously, but he’s familiar with only wood-frame construction. He couldn’t make a wood-frame-built project work on the site. He said The Elliott will require construction technology that we haven’t seen in Oklahoma City.

“What’s going to create a condo market is lots of projects,” he said.

Having more projects means there are more price points for appraisers to consider, he said.

He talked about the Urban Land Institute’s trip to Austin, Texas. While there, the group visited with a multi-story condo developer. He said smaller projects have to be first before the taller condo buildings are constructed.

He said downtown is competing with the new homes being built in the suburbs, so it needs more options.

Read the story on JournalRecord.com.

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