View Full Version : Your ideas can bring Great Hall back to life

10-22-2008, 02:22 PM
Your ideas can bring Great Hall back to life
Downtown’s First National Center readied for new uses after renovation
Published: October 22, 2008

For 15 years, the Great Banking Hall has stood as a ghostly tribute to Oklahoma City’s past glory.

Abandoned by Boatman’s Bank (now Bank of America) for the sleek modern Leadership Square across the street, the space has remained a popular stop with visitors wanting a glimpse of when the hall was the hub of the city’s commerce — the heart of the once powerful First National Bank.

Previous owners entertained deals with Arvest Bank, a law firm and even restaurants to fill the space — but to date it remains empty.

Milbank Real Estate, which bought the downtown landmark in 2006, is now soliciting the public’s help in bringing the hall back to life.

Who can submit
Emily D. Dobson, senior property manager for Milbank Real Estate, said the hall is again open to the public, and the winning idea will be chosen by owners as they begin to aggressively look for a new use for the space.

"One of the things I’ve discovered is people have an emotional attachment to this building,” Dobson said.

"Their folks worked here; their grandparents worked here. It has special significance.”

Dobson said renovations in the building’s arcade and west lobby are ongoing. She said the flooring and new chandelier are almost complete in the lobby and new murals greet visitors entering and leaving through the skywalk that crosses Robinson Avenue.

Dobson said submissions do not need to be detailed or professional and can be as simple as a basic description, thought or comment.

She said owners are looking for an emphasis on creativity and usability of the space.

The most innovative and practical concept which is adopted by Milbank will be announced at the company’s annual holiday party in December. The winning submission will receive a catered private party for 50 in the Great Banking Hall after its completion.

"Every idea will be looked at,” Dobson said. "We want this space to be enjoyable to all.”

Steve, where do we submit??

10-22-2008, 03:04 PM
That information is with the story. I know it's in the paper, and I'd think it would be online too.

10-22-2008, 03:13 PM
The whole building needs to go residential and hotel. Tear down one of the annexes built in the 60s, put in a private parking garage with tennis courts and a swimming pool on top. The Great Hall becomes a hotel and residential lobby. It takes 1 million sq ft off of the market which helps off-set the space being vacated by Devon. Milbank can use my idea for free - I don't even need the party for 50

10-22-2008, 03:16 PM
That information is with the story. I know it's in the paper, and I'd think it would be online too.

Okay, sorry. Missed the sidebar.

10-22-2008, 06:49 PM
For those interested in submitting an idea...

The Contest
Submissions for ideas to bring the Great Banking Hall back to life will be accepted through Dec. 15. All submissions must be made on the form to be provided by Milbank Real Estate. Forms may be obtained from Milbank’s Web site at Milbank - Home (, sending an e-mail to or stopping by Milbank’s office in Suite 300W at First National Center.

10-22-2008, 07:50 PM
Credit to Milbank for reaching out to the community!

It also reinforces their commitment to keeping the GBH available to the public, and that is to their eternal credit as well.

I wish I had a great idea. I used to bank there when it was still First National and I took every excuse to go into that space. It always felt like I was stepping onto a movie set or into another era.

Regardless of the main use, I hope they make it available for functions. I inquired about a class reunion last summer but they weren't quite ready for that sort of thing. Hopefully that will change in the near future.

10-23-2008, 07:43 AM
I agree Pete, I think it should be available for weddings, reunions, bar mitzvah's (sp?), receptions and other private events for the public. I wonder whatever happened to the Vault restaurant idea for the bank vaults.

10-23-2008, 08:48 AM
Perhaps it could be utilized as a cafe during the day then an event facility at night.

The cafe could have tables in the middle, they could re-do the skylight so you could actually see the sky above, and then the tables could be removed and/or redistributed for functions.

That would still leave offices and rooms on the perimeter... How about a OKC history museum? A place that focuses on the vanished splendor through photos and other memorabilia? I nominate Doug Loudenback as currator!

10-23-2008, 09:00 AM
I don't think there is sky above...just more building.

10-23-2008, 09:13 AM
Actually, there is a gap in the structure and that skylight is open to the sky above.

10-23-2008, 11:03 AM
I think a history museum is a poor use of the space. It's too big to just put up some temp walls with old pictures on them. There are better places for it, IMO.

I will be compiling a detailed proposal, but basically what I would advocate would be making it the lobby for a hotel (W, Four Seasons, Intercontinental, etc) and residential.

The Four Seasons at First National, and
The Lofts at First National

...or something of the sort. Then there would be a restaurant off the space that would have some tables in the lobby area, but also overlook Park Avenue. I'd also like the teller windows to be used as an all-city box office, selling airline tickets, Amtrak tickets, theatre tickets, Greyhound tickets, etc. The vault space in the basement could be a bar/lounge and then you could have a 2nd restaurant on the top floor where the Beacon Club used to be.

10-23-2008, 11:07 AM
Now that's an IDEA jbrown!! I agree. A W or Four Seasons would be perfect and exactly what this market is missing.

10-23-2008, 11:14 AM
Thanks. Austin has a Four Seasons, so I don't think we're far off.

10-23-2008, 11:23 AM
For the museum idea, I meant the space on the periphery of the Hall... There are lots of offices and side areas that are somewhat separate from the main open space.

10-23-2008, 12:31 PM
Actually, there is a gap in the structure and that skylight is open to the sky above.

Cool! Didn't know that.

10-23-2008, 01:09 PM
For the museum idea, I meant the space on the periphery of the Hall... There are lots of offices and side areas that are somewhat separate from the main open space.

I still think there are better places for a museum. It does need to be an open area, just not THAT open. The rooms off to the side have lower cielings of course and are just that: off to the side.

A more open space, perhaps in Bricktown, might work better and be better located for tourists.

The spaces off of the Hall could be reserved for hotel administration, the restaurant and kitchen, the ticket office I mentioned, and perhaps a gift shop and other retail options.

10-23-2008, 01:18 PM
I love your ideas but they are all based on getting a hotel operator and doing massive construction to the entire tower.

That's not likely to happen in the immediate future if ever, so for the foreseeable future I'd like to see the space used in a way that would draw lots of people. It could always be adapted later if Milbank decided to go residential or convert to a hotel.

10-23-2008, 01:35 PM
True and that might be a reasonable plan. They will have to do something with the whole tower though. It's more than just the concourse and the Great Banking Hall.