Be my neighbor
A booming downtown means its surrounding neighborhoods are a must for those wanting a short commute without sacrificing their residential needs.
Tulsans love the idea of living downtown — walking to work, stopping for a bite or a drink on the way home, having a regular spot at the Guthrie Green. It’s the metropolitan fantasy so many automobile-dependent residents have dreamed about for decades.
Then after that brief daydream, most families still prefer three bedrooms, a yard for the dog and extra closet space. Tulsa is still mostly a single-family residence kind of town, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But in 2017, that vision of a downtown-adjacent lifestyle has become a feasible reality, and the demand for real estate in near-downtown neighborhoods proves it. Tulsans have been snapping up fixer-uppers in historic neighborhoods — Brady Heights, Owen Park, Tracy Park, Crosbie Heights and Riverview — for the last several years, and the demand continues to grow.
“It’s the ripple effect of what a vibrant downtown does — it makes property around it become desirable in a different way,” says Realtor Anne Pollard James, who specializes in downtown Tulsa real estate. “People don’t want to necessarily live in downtown, but they are buying that single-family housing that allows them to take advantage of all things happening downtown and still be a part of a small neighborhood community.”
Pollard James says she hasn’t seen the demand so high since she began working with downtown real estate in the early 2000s.
“Within the last 12 months, I have seen pricing for housing in the areas near downtown — in Brady Heights, Owen Park, Riverview — that are commensurate with many midtown Tulsa neighborhoods,” she says. “Folks are interested in buying housing not just to be near downtown, but to be near an interesting group of people of social, ethnic and economic diversity.”
The reason for the boom now? As downtown Tulsa’s revitalization began to build momentum in the mid-2000s, the global economic downturn of 2008 hit. People who were thinking about making the move downtown from suburbs, or even midtown neighborhoods, became cautious.
“I think we had to settle our growth a little bit after that happened,” Pollard James says. “Tulsa never had the inflated housing stock pricing that a lot of other communities had, but it had enough for people to be fearful.”
Ashley Wozniak, a Realtor for Coldwell Banker Select, says she and her husband moved to Tracy Park about seven years ago, and near-downtown areas have been steadily growing as destination neighborhoods.
“You’d think (buyers) would all be younger people with kids, but I’m seeing all ages,” Wozniak says.
Wozniak says Brady Heights homes that need a lot of work are going for around $20-$40 per square foot in her experience and that fully remodeled homes are selling for about $120 per square foot, on average. In Owen Park she’s seeing “full-project houses being sold for $30-$40 a square foot and remodels are selling for over $100 a square foot.”
“Just like the people who want to live there, investors see the great things happening and such a big change in downtown over the years,” she says. “They really see the growth and want in.”
Although some near-downtown neighborhoods, such as Tracy Park and Riverview, have been well or moderately established for longer, Brady Heights and Owen Park neighborhoods have been experiencing a steady increase that doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. And Crosbie Heights could be right behind.
For these Tulsans, it’s not only about location and diversity — it’s about making a positive mark, she says.
“There’s a huge pride in these neighborhoods that people invest in,” she says. “You’re investing because you believe that what you’re doing is making a difference to the neighborhood. You’re not just improving a property, you’re bringing this thing that was once rough around the edges and that may have been forgotten to its original beauty. It’s Tulsa’s history.”
Established: 1911; The district was added to National Register of Historic Places in 2007
Key landmarks: Cry Baby Hill; McBirney Mansion, 1414 S. Galveston Ave.; Riverside Studio (aka Spotlight Theatre), 1381 S. Riverside Drive
Boundary streets: 13th Street to the north; Elwood and Denver Avenues to the east; Riverside Drive to the south; and Jackson Avenue to the west
Types of homes: Craftsman Bungalows, Tudor Revival, Prairie School and Colonial Revival
With a passion for history and architecture, it is no wonder Amanda DeCort’s home reflects her interests.
When she moved to Tulsa from Pennsylvania about 11 years ago, DeCort chose to rent a house in the Lortondale neighborhood, near East 31st Street and South Yale Avenue.
“I used to live in an apartment in Philadelphia that was built in 1748,” says DeCort, who is the executive director for the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture. “I’ve always been an old-house girl — I’ve never been a suburban person.”
She moved to Brookside a year later and was happy living in the area close to Riverside for about six years. Then a 1924-era home further north in the Riverview neighborhood found her. The historic neighborhood, a compilation of several smaller areas founded in the early 1900s, is something of a hidden gem. It’s just north of Maple Ridge and earned its name from Riverview Elementary School, which was demolished in 1975.
Now, people interested in renovating and enhancing historic oil-boom-era homes are finding the location a prime spot right on the edges of downtown and a perfect match for their lifestyles.
“I was out walking my dog and saw a for-sale sign in the yard of this house. It really did find me,” DeCort says. “I stood in the front yard and said, ‘There’s the river, and there’s the skyline.’”
She was sold on the area for its proximity to the river and downtown, where she now works. The house needed some TLC, but that also suited her.
“I’d rather live in a house that maybe someone’s grandmother didn’t do anything to rather than someone who did too much,” she says. “I look for the historical details — the good stuff that tells the story of a house, not the bad ’80s stuff you have to undo.”
Since she’s lived in Riverview, she has had a 5-minute commute to her office and a 2-minute walk to RiverParks. Walking to downtown isn’t ideal yet.
“I wish we’d do a better job of connecting people to downtown,” she says. “We have work to do for pedestrians and cyclists because the sidewalks just aren’t there, and when the IDL was constructed, it was convenient but it cut off the residential area.”
Still, she wouldn’t live anywhere else.
“I love the historical details. I’ve found a lot of historical stuff in the attic the former owner removed,” she says. “It’s great — I’ve been able to find all these little clues.”
Why is this house you? I’ve filled it with things I love, many given to me by people I love. Most of my “stuff” has a story. It’s happy and personal and comfortable.
What’s your favorite detail of the home? The kitchen cabinets, the 1920s light fixtures and all the wavy cylinder glass in my original windows.
What was unexpected about living in this particular home? Uncovering original details and fixtures as I went about making the home my own. I found the original dining room light fixtures in the attic. I figured out the kitchen cabinet doors were originally the back porch windows. I found some original wooden storm windows with fantastic hardware in the garage. That sort of thing.
What made you fall in love with the home? The first time I walked in the house, I realized that my vintage 1940s stove fit perfectly in the kitchen. I said to my Realtor, “My stove will fit. Let’s make an offer!” Ha! I’d been in the house about 2 minutes.
Does owning this home check any box in your life-must list? I need to live near water. I need to live near downtown. Done and done.
Boundary streets: Between Highway 412 (Sand Springs Expressway) and the Arkansas River and between the Inner Dispersal Loop (IDL) and South 25th West Avenue
Key landmarks: Nogales Avenue Baptist Church, 102 S. Nogales Ave.; the Cave House, 1623 Charles Page Blvd.
Types of homes: Craftsman Bungalows
Like many people who stumble upon their dream home, Dr. Miriam Mills wasn’t looking to buy a house when she found her 1914 Craftsman home in Crosbie Heights in 2000.
“A Native American architect built it and I’m only the fourth owner,” says Mills, a clinical professor at OSU Health Sciences Center and practicing pediatrician and osteopathic manipulative therapist. “The previous owner updated it and kept it authentic. It’s been my experience that a neighborhood close to downtown is a wonderful investment, but the neighborhood has taken off much slower than I thought.”
Founded in 1908, the diverse neighborhood west of downtown was believed by many to be “the next Owen Park,” come the 21st century, but the global economic downturn of 2008 didn’t help matters.
“People are paying attention. I’d say it’s where Owen Park was five or six years ago,” says Realtor Anne Pollard James. “It’s in that cycle. It has all the benefits of being near downtown, but it hasn’t had quite the number of rehab projects that Owen and Brady Heights have.”
While the development of renovated homes has been slower than she would have expected, Mills says it’s attaining momentum.
“Crosbie Heights is one of the most heterogeneous neighborhoods in Tulsa — economically, socially and racially. Three or four landlords bought and held a lot of land years ago, but some are finally letting go of properties,” Mills says. “The reality is that it takes a lot of money to renovate here.”
Mills owns the property next to hers as well — the PH Community House, formerly the Blue Jackalope Grocery and Coffee. Progress from the 2015 Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission’s small area plan is encouraging, she says, and neighborhood crime watch groups are helping neighbors and property owners feel more secure about their investments.
“The last two or three years, you can really feel a better sense of a community,” she says.
Mills’ home has many unique features she couldn’t find anywhere else — such as a full basement and access to the roof from a door off the second floor, which provides her a view of WaterWorks Art Center and the hills to the west. And the view of downtown Tulsa?
“Oh my gosh, the view of downtown is the best view in town,” she says.
Why is this house you? I treasure the fact that it is old and sturdy, pretty but not lavish, and has character, some of it rather quirky, and is very functional.
What’s your favorite detail of the home? Of the neighborhood? I love the view of both downtown and the river and beyond from the porte-cochere, which has access from my upstairs bathroom. I see beautiful sunrises and sunsets all the time. And the proximity to downtown has gotten more and more valuable — especially now that the trail to Riverside has reopened. And I like the fact that the houses have basements and the neighborhood has alleys.
What was unexpected about living in this particular home? The historical significance of the neighborhood, from its having been part of the Creek allotment, to the changes wrought by cattle drives, railroads and then the discovery of oil. It is a microcosm of the history of Tulsa. I also liked the fact that a doctor and his family once owned it for almost 80 years.
What made you fall in love with the home? Its proximity to the river. Also, the cartoonish fat columns in front.
Does owning this home check any box in your life-must list? Living in a more than 100-year-old house. Being a part of something (the neighborhood) larger than me over a long period of time.
Established: 1906; Placed on National Register of Historic Places in 1980
Key Landmarks: Tate Brady’s Arlington mansion, 620 N. Denver Ave.; Tisdale Food Forest along Tisdale Parkway
Boundary streets: Marshall Street on the north; the Inner Dispersal Loop on the south; the alley between North Cheyenne Avenue and Main Street on the east; and the Osage Expressway (LL Tisdale Parkway) right of way on the west.
Types of Homes: Inspired by Queen Anne, Prairie School, Victorian, Georgian Revival and Bungalow
Brady Heights has been gaining a lot of Tulsans’ attention as one of the most up-and-coming neighborhoods in the city for at least the last decade. As Tulsa’s first neighborhood placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it has seen a steady influx of invested property owners who love the location for its Craftsman Bungalows and historical significance.
They’ve been rehabbing once shabby — even severely dilapidated — houses and turning them into the vibrant homes they once were in the early 1900s, when it became one of Tulsa’s first neighborhoods.
People who grew up in the neighborhood are moving from other cities to come back to Brady Heights, and residents from Tulsa suburbs and south Tulsa are leaving their gated communities to move to the area just north of downtown.
Dani Widell, a local home remodeler, and her husband Will lived in downtown Tulsa long before many of the newer apartments and condos sprung up. They lived in an apartment at the Tribune Lofts, so they both could walk to work downtown and enjoy the lifestyle.
But they started to outgrow the space and struggled with guest parking, especially on a busy evening with a concert at the BOK Center or a game at ONEOK Field.
“It got to the point where we couldn’t invite my mom down for dinner on a Tuesday,” Dani Widell says. “We wanted a driveway, and a garage and a guest bedroom.”
They knew they wanted to buy in either Brady Heights or nearby Owen Park, and after a year of searching, they found a house that needed some hefty renovating in Brady Heights. They bought it the day it went on the market and lived there a little over a year, until they heard about another home just down the street going up for sale, so they bought it and sold their first home for a good profit.
“But I did a lot of the work and labor myself,” Widell says.
Their current home is different — they don’t plan to sell it anytime soon.
“We bought it to flip, but my husband and I just fell in love with it. This is a forever house,” she says.
The couple has put a lot of labor into the home, which had been converted into a duplex when they bought it. Once it was even a triplex after World War II, much like many homes in the area that were transformed out of the need for multi-family housing.
The Widells adjusted the floor plans to make it a four-bedroom home, removing and adding walls to make a more modern space, while putting thought into keeping the home’s historical features alive.
“We pulled out a wall to reveal the staircase — it had been covered to have a private entrance for the upstairs unit,” she says.
They reconfigured the upstairs to include a master, a spare bedroom, an upstairs laundry, a large bathroom and a private suite area for guests. They transformed the basement into a workout area and storage space, and they even remodeled a guesthouse in the back.
“You make a budget, pick a wish list and then think about what makes the most sense for a family; you have to be flexible,” she says. “You know in a 100-year-old house, the closets aren’t going to be huge.”
But living in Brady Heights is much more than just having a quick commute — by car or by foot — to work. It’s about the community; one that has a reputation for diversity and community involvement.
“Our neighborhood association is a nonprofit, so it exists not only to help the neighborhood but to help the community of Tulsa,” Widell says. “We support local Brady Heights residents and Tulsa businesses.”
Why is this house you? I spent hundreds of hours planning and designing every aspect of the home. Not only materials, colors and finishes but, more importantly, salvaging every bit of the original craftsmanship of the house and, at the same time, providing 21st century functionality and still maintaining a budget. Old houses are never finished; there is always more to be done. It becomes almost an obsessive hobby. You spend so much of your time thinking about what has to be done and how to do it that the house can’t help but take on your personality.
What’s your favorite detail of the home? The original coffered ceilings. In over 100 years, nobody ever decided to take a paintbrush to them. I can’t tell you how rare that is.
Of the neighborhood? The Community Garden. It’s the social hub of the neighborhood. Not only do we grow food together, but in the summer, we have movie nights for the kids and cookouts.
What made you fall in love with the home? One look at this house tells you that the original owner loved the warmth and natural feel of wood. Craftsmen hand-cut and laid the hardwood floors in intricate patterns and the wood glows with age and life. The ceilings are coffered throughout the entirety of the ground floor and original wood windows make the house feel warm and inviting. I bought this house because I saw the wood and had to bring it back to life.
Established: 1920s; Tracy Park was placed in the Oklahoma Landmarks Inventory in July 1978, and the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Key landmarks: The Adah Robinson residence is at 1119 S. Owasso Ave.
Types of homes: Bungalows, mixed styles, cottages and eclectic styles
Boundary streets: East 11th Street and Tracy Park on the north; South Peoria Avenue on the east; IDL/Broken Arrow Expressway on west/southwest; and East 13th Street on the south
When Mary Atkinson found her home in Tracy Park nearly 20 years ago, she was something of a frustrated renter.
She had sold her home in Maple Ridge and then rented for a few months until she could find a permanent residence.
“I thought surely I can find something, so I never really unpacked,” Atkinson says. “I spent every free minute, when I wasn’t working, out driving around. I had lived in Tulsa for 20 years prior, but I never saw this neighborhood.”
When she lived in Maple Ridge, Atkinson loved its proximity to Utica Square, where she owned a store for many years. Now that she’s working downtown at the
Tulsa County Courthouse, she enjoys her quick commute — but living in an apartment or condo downtown wouldn’t suit her.
“I’ve never even thought about not having a house,” she says. “Being one who has always had dogs — I like having a yard. I just like to have that spot of greenery as opposed to living on, say, a third floor with a cement balcony.”
Tracy Park is small and tucked away near the Inner Dispersal Loop, which required razing most of the original neighborhood for its construction. The area was created in the early 1920s as single-family homes for oil industry workers — not the barons, but the likely middle class management and other professionals.
Now it consists of a few dozen houses between East 11th and 13th streets, near Oaklawn Cemetery.
“It’s a very desirable neighborhood and will continue to evolve,” Pollard James says. “It’s a lot like Riverview in that it’s got a dedicated fan base.”
Atkinson says when she drove by her soon-to-be-home and saw the for-sale sign, she was intrigued by its appearance, best described as an English Cottage style.
“It was kind of serendipitous,” she says. “This neighborhood has a very good mix of things. I have found it to be wonderful with great sidewalks, and lots of houses have front porches, so in nice weather people are all out. People walk all about the neighborhood, too.”
And Tracy Park neighbors keep an eye out for each other, she says. If someone spots trouble, they don’t hesitate to investigate or call the police.
“I have been here almost 20 years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere,” she says. “There’s a reason — it’s my absolute favorite house, I love everything about it.”
Why is this house you? I like things that are out of the ordinary. There are so many little quirks, from the original hardware to the nonsymmetrical layout.
What’s your favorite detail of the home? I love the kitchen sink. It’s just incredible, as is the bathtub, and both are original to the 1920s home. I love the art deco style.
Of the neighborhood? For me, it’s perfectly located. I like that it’s small and contained, and not going to grow. And, there are so many different styles of architecture.
What was unexpected about living in this particular home? I took out a wall upstairs to form a master bedroom, and put in a nice closet. I hadn’t thought about how old houses wouldn’t have big closets.
What made you fall in love with the home? I liked the architecture, and I didn’t have to do a lot to it.
Key landmarks: Owen Park and its Stone Bridge and resting site of Tulsa’s Oldest House on West Edison Place; Washington Irving Monument, West Easton Street and North Vancouver Avenue
Boundary streets: Owen Park on the east, the Keystone Expressway (Highway 412) on the south, West Edison Street on the north, and Zenith Avenue on the west
Types of homes: Mostly Craftsman Bungalows
Robin Steinberg is a long way from home, but found her first permanent residence in Owen Park just west of downtown. The New York City native started visiting Tulsa through her work with Bronx Defenders, but for the past six months Steinberg has spearheaded the creation of Still She Rises, Tulsa. The nonprofit, which originated from the Bronx Defenders, advocates for and legally represents women from north Tulsa in the criminal justice system.
The office opened its doors in January in north Tulsa, and because Steinberg was working and representing women in the area, she wanted to live close to where
“I’ve never owned a house before. Growing up in New York City, I always rented apartments,” says Steinberg, who bought her two-story home with her husband David Feige last May and moved permanently to Tulsa in November. “I felt like this was the right place for me. I looked at the ZIP codes and looked for economic and racial diversity. For me personally, I didn’t want to live in a homogenized or gated neighborhood.”
Owen Park was founded in 1910 and most of the homes are over 100 years old — mostly Craftsman Bungalows.
Steinberg says the home reminded her of her grandmother’s home in Pennsylvania and “the upstairs floor creaked and I can see a view of the tall buildings. That view reminded me of New York, in a way.”
The large home was in perfect condition when she bought it — a must for her because she was busy opening the new Still She Rises office, and her team from New York would be staying with her so much that she needed the extra sleeping space.
The original stained-glass windows and designs in the upstairs bathroom tile were also an added touch, as well as the two porches.
“I’ve always wanted a porch, and the upstairs one especially drew me in; it even has a swing,” she says. Feige, a television writer, also is partial to the second story porch and spends much of his writing time on the swing, even in winter.
Since she had to practically furnish the home from scratch, Steinberg wanted to choose things that weren’t from a big-box store, but rather pieces that seemed to go with the home, so she started searching through local second-hand and consignment shops.
“It taught me so much about Tulsa,” she says.
The master bedroom is a great space for Steinberg because during the winter when the trees are bare, she can wake up and look out to see the downtown Tulsa skyline.
“It’s like New York,” she says. “I didn’t want to live in a bubble here in Tulsa because I knew we were going to be working with people with real needs and people with different backgrounds. That’s everything I like about here.”
The one thing Steinberg is still getting used to has nothing to do with her view or her neighborhood. It’s the noise — or lack thereof.
“For me the quiet is complicated,” she says.
Why is this house you? It feels very homey; it’s important to me to feel like I’m nested somewhere.
What’s your favorite detail of the home? The beautiful light you can get everywhere in the house. The second-floor porch really sold me and my husband on the house.
Of the neighborhood? The neighborhood is filled with interesting homes. Each is unique and different, though unified by architectural style. That’s what I love about it — it’s not cookie cutter. People made it their own. And the duck pond. The ducks are extraordinarily well fed and extraordinarily aggressive.
What was unexpected about living in this particular home? The experience of having so much space is unusual for people from New York City. To have people stay over is a treat. The lack of grocery stores, restaurants and other resources in this area is surprising. It’s a real trip to get to a grocery store; it’s surprising no one has invested in north Tulsa in things that would be frequented.
What made you fall in love with the home? It was warm and welcoming and a little old-fashioned in a way we found comforting. It makes it feel like a home.
Does owning this home check any box in your life-must list? Homeownership was never on my list; neither was Tulsa. I was happy living in apartments. But the work we’re doing drew me here. It seemed the natural thing to do.