View Full Version : Cottage District Update

11-09-2007, 08:17 AM
Glad to see my property value going up.

Midtown neighborhood offers opportunities for city dwellers

Kelly Chambers
Journal Record
November 9, 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY – As Oklahoma City has begun to recognize the value in its downtown and Midtown areas for commercial and residential development, several local architects have moved into a rather unusual enclave on a hilly stretch just northwest of downtown.

The area around NW Seventh Street between Francis and Shartel avenues had not been a hotbed of high-end housing development until one couple bought two distressed properties in the area in 1999.

Much of the area has been blighted by decaying homes, crime and neglect, although several areas offer sweeping panoramic views of the downtown skyline.The area, unofficially dubbed the Cottage District, but within the borders of Midtown, is slowly but surely coming back after the renovation and construction of homes along NW Seventh Street. The area got the moniker when an urban planner from Houston did an assessment of the Midtown area in recent years.

In 1999, Oklahoma City architect Randy Floyd and her husband, Michael Smith, began looking for an area to possibly move to in or near Midtown. Floyd stumbled across two dilapidated buildings on NW Seventh Street and it didn’t take long to realize what she had discovered.“I got out of the car and walked up and the minute I got into the backyard I saw this view of downtown and I thought ‘this is it, I have to have these buildings,’” she said. But the process of making the buildings inhabitable was no easy task. After buying the properties, Floyd and Smith completely gutted the buildings at 812 and 814 NW Seventh St. and moved in to the 814 building in May 2006. And while the buildings are almost unrecognizable from just a few years ago, Smith said they worked to restore the exterior of the buildings as close as possible to their original appearance. Both buildings were built between 1905 and 1910. In addition to the two buildings, the couple also built two-garage apartments down a hill on the backside of the house and now rent out two town houses in the 812 building as well as the garage apartments.

And while the buildings are models of urban revival in stark contrast to many other homes in the area, Floyd said not everyone understood why the couple would choose to move to such a sketchy area.“Our friends were rather incredulous,” Floyd said with a laugh. “They couldn’t believe what we had done.”And despite poverty, vagrants and prostitutes in the area, the reason to move to the area was simple.“I’m a historic preservationist,” Floyd said. “I love old buildings and I can’t stand to see history disappear and I saw these rapidly going in that direction. I could see the potential for the neighborhood.”

The decision by Floyd and Smith was then followed by architect Brian Fitzsimmons and his wife, TiTi Nguyen. Fitzsimmons and Nguyen bought a lot at 719 N. Francis in 2004, about half a block west of Floyd and Smith, and built a new home that was completed in 2006. Fitzsimmons also runs his business, Fitzsimmons Architects, from his home. Built into the slope of the hill, the house looks as though it was perhaps plucked from the Hollywood Hills and transplanted to Oklahoma City.Fitzsimmons said he and his wife wanted a thoroughly modern home incorporating steel, brick and glass on the exterior. The total construction cost was about $320,000.The couple named the 2,400-square-foot house Okasian, as a nod to both Oklahoma and Nguyen’s Vietnamese heritage. And while Fitzsimmons said he and his wife encountered few naysayers when they decided to move to the area, some people may have initially been scratching their heads. “No one actually said we were nuts,” he said. “I’m sure a few people were skeptical but the area is actually getting better and better as time goes on.”And while Floyd and Smith as well as Fitzsimmons and Nguyen have purchased other homes and lots in the area, architect Dennis Wells is also currently constructing a new home on the southeast corner of NW Seventh and Francis.

Smith said while there is still work to do in the area, he has never regretted the couple’s decision to take a chance on the Cottage District.“We might have been a little ahead of the curve, and obviously we were, but we felt like there was no doubt that redevelopment would spread to this part of the city,” he said. “It’s a fabulous location.”
Brian Fitzsimmons and his wife, TiTi Nguyen, stand outside their home in Oklahoma City. Fitzsimmons is a working architect and designed the modern home himself. (Photo by Kendall Brown)

(this is a crappy picture if you ask me, the photographer should have had the house in the shot)

11-09-2007, 01:10 PM
If you ever get the opportunity to tour the Okasian house - do it! It was on the architectural tour last fall I think and the owners gave personal tours of their home. The view from their upstairs deck of the downtown skyline is amazing!

11-09-2007, 05:49 PM
I took that tour, and I was seriously impressed. The bamboo floors are utterly gorgeous, and the kitchen is about the least-cluttered I've ever seen.

11-09-2007, 06:22 PM
Good to hear, I hope this trend continues and the inner city really develops the Cottage District!!!!