Portraits of a revitalization
(page 4 of 5)
John Snyder and his wife, Tori, bought the Mayo Hotel and parking lot in 2001 for $250,000.
In its heyday, the formerly posh hotel and its glorious Crystal Ballroom hosted celebrities and generations of Tulsans alike. Until the Snyders entered the picture, the 600-room hotel had been abandoned for two decades.
With two of their daughters, Macy Snyder Amatucci and Shelby Snyder, they kept the wrecking ball from smashing one of Tulsa’s iconic structures.
They gave their new real estate development company a name that embraced their passion for preservation: Brickhugger LLC.
The 18-story Mayo Hotel reopened in 2009. Historic details were lovingly preserved, but with the addition of 76 chic lofts.
Since then, the Snyders have pushed to restore other historic downtown buildings. They’ve renovated the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Building at East Archer Street and South Detroit Avenue into 16 apartments, now called the Detroit Lofts. The building also houses The Rusty Crane and soon-to-open Archer Market. They’re also turning the former Vandever’s Department Store into 44 apartments; the old YMCA into 82 apartments.
Nearly everything the Snyders hug turns to gold. Their latest project: Old City Hall, partnering with Starwood Hotels to turn what Macy describes as an “old, tired municipal building” into an Aloft Hotel.
It is one thing to make money, but another to spend it well. This is the opportunity that presented itself to Jim Hawkins.
Turns out, he’s a believer in downtown, unafraid to invest in its revitalization.
Hawkins parlayed his career in drilling oil into another as an influential downtown developer and real estate man. As a managing member of River City Development, Hawkins purchased the historic Philtower Building and its adjacent parking structure in the mid ’80s.
With Hawkins at the helm, River City completed major renovations on the Philtower and created airy, luxurious lofts in the art deco, pyramid-topped building.
The lofts, which made the Philtower Tulsa’s first mixed-use high-rise, “leased right up” after they opened to the public in 2005, Hawkins says.
Chuck Wiggin is a man who tells the tale of two cities. He has been knee-deep in the downtown redevelopment of both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
In T-town, Wiggin turned the leaking Mayo 420 building at East Fifth Street and South Main Street into a collection of 67 lofts.
Mayo 420 opened in April 2010 with a waiting list for tenants; three floors house a new YMCA, open since January 2010. The impressive renovations have earned local and national awards.
“What’s so special about (Mayo 420) is it’s just steeped in history,” he says. “In the upper floors, until you open the door into an apartment, you could be standing there in 1925.”
Bob Eggleston had to look up Tulsa on a map before he came here eight years ago. The London native arrived to oversee construction of the BOK Center and found he liked the splash it made.
A building in saturated London is just another building. Here, new construction can have a significant impact on the region, he learned.
During construction of the state-of-the-art venue, Eggleston expected a developer to snap up the property across the street. But no one did.
“I said to my partner, ‘Why don’t we just do it ourselves and build the whole block?’” Eggleston recalls, noting they have developed half of the block so far, with the other half still to go. “So, we set about it then, just excited to go do it.”
The result is the $110 million One Place, a nearly 1 million-square-foot, ultra-modern, Class A mixed-use development. The first tenant is Northwestern Mutual, which is moving its 450 employees downtown after years in south Tulsa.
“The bottom line is,” Eggleston deadpans, “it’s built, and I’ve still got my hair.”
Steve Ganzkow and Jay Helm
Ask most anyone who knows downtown, and they’ll likely tell you Steve Ganzkow and Jay Helm were building there first.
Thirteen years ago, the business partners built Renaissance Uptown, the first new residential construction downtown in decades. They simultaneously renovated the Tulsa Tribune building. Both projects were completed in 2000.
The partners transformed the former newspaper’s historic home into the Tribune Lofts, now considered Tulsa’s gold standard for historic building conversion.
But the visionary pair were a little early to the downtown revitalization party. As developer Michael Sager says, “They built and stayed here while nothing happened.”
After waiting for others to catch up, Ganzkow and Helm built The Metro at Brady, upscale lofts located at East Archer and North Main streets.
The two received $4 million from the city to jumpstart the Renaissance Uptown and Tribune Lofts projects. To date, they are the only builders to insist on paying back every dime of the initial funds to the Tulsa Development Authority.