First National renovation a special project to Brooks as well as to OKC Sub

Published Thursday, December 17, 2020
by Nate Fisher

It's a question Gary Brooks has heard many times over the past few years.

"What made you decide to take this on?"

As the renovation of the venerable First National Center continues, Cornerstone Development’s Brooks took some time to take a group of downtown stakeholders on a one-of-a-kind “virtual tour” a couple weeks ago via the magic of a combination of an iPad and the videoconference technology we’ve all become so familiar with lately.

The large numbers commonly used to describe the project—32 stories, 1.1 million square feet, 45 million pounds of debris removed, 2,600 windows to be cleaned or replaced, one of the largest asbestos removal project in the U.S. of 2017, a total cost north of $275 million—do little to explain what the renewal and rebirth of the First National Center into housing, apartments, retail and dining actually means to OKC. Originally built in 1931, for decades the iconic 31-story art-deco style building was a focal point of downtown activity, with its hallowed Great Banking Hall serving as the heartbeat of Oklahoma City commerce, deal-making and business large and small. After falling into the hands of a series of out-of-state owners and neglect, downtown observers worried about the fate of the landmark as occupancy plummeted and necessary maintenance was deferred. When Brooks and partner Charlie Nicholas came forward with a plan to purchase, save and revitalize the building in such a comprehensive, imaginative manner cheers and relief openly followed.

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