Widgets Magazine
  • Tour of First National Center reveals more details on redevelopment

    A recent tour of First National Center with new owner and developer Gary Brooks revealed more about the massive renovation that will see the historic structure converted to a boutique hotel, apartments and commercial space.

    Work has just started to clear debris and the next step is to remove asbestos from the complex before any serious construction can begin.

    Standing in the glorious Great Banking Hall, Brooks said over $5 million will be spent in that area alone.

    Tests have been conducted on the various marble and painted surfaces to determine the safest and most effective way to remove almost 100 years of grime, much of it from smoking which was allowed in the structure up until the last few decades.

    Brooks pointed to several spots on the walls that has been cleaned and the contrast was quite noticable.

    Every surface in the hall will be painstakingly cleaned by experts, then sealed for future protection.

    The elaborate wall murals will be cleaned in place and the intricate painted ceilings will be methodically restored.

    Also, the massive skylight that spans the center of the hall will be made operational.

    Due to leaks, the huge glass structure was covered sometime in the 60's and then illuminated with artificial light.

    Part of the renovation will involve removing that cover, restoring all the glass and steel in the skylight, and once again letting natural light flood the space.

    The banking hall itself will be the lobby for hotel and apartments and will include a cafe on the south end, behind the existing teller windows and through the glass doors behind. Brooks has been soliciting input to name the cafe and will later announce the selection.

    On the north end of the hall will be a cocktail bar which will serve guests and visitors. As the space will be available for private events such as weddings, the bar will be configured to also serve event space just to the east of the lobby area.

    As you pass through the art deco metal doors of the main west entrance, the escalators and stairs taking you up to the Great Banking Hall will remain, as will the half flight of steps taking you down to the massive basement area.

    In that lower level, the huge vault will be transformed in to a dinner restaurant, which several bars of its own.

    The existing vault rooms, doors and gates will all remain to lend character to a unique dining experience. The old stalls for viewing safe deposit boxes will be converted to booths.

    Brooks said his team identified hundreds of similar projects then physically toured many around the country to learn as much as possible and to benefit from creative adaptation.

    Above the main public spaces on floors 2 through 8 would be the hotel, 149 rooms to be operated by Coury Hospitality, which currently runs the historic Colcord and Ambassador hotels in Oklahoma City.

    The former Beacon Club on the 31st floor is envisioned as a grand hotel suite.

    The very top floor the 33rd will likely become a bar.

    200 apartments would be above the hotel floors.

    Two levels of commercial space will run along Park Avenue and the old First National internal arcade will be largely maintained.

    With parking at an extreme premium in the middle of the central business district, the plan is to convert the 1950's Center Building into a massive parking structure that will be directly accessible from the rest of the complex.

    The garage will retain the facade along Park Avenue but the East Building, built in the 70's and fronting Broadway, will be completely razed to create a ramp structure for the new parking.

    When asked about the ability of the office floors of the Central Building to support the heavy load of cars, Brooks pointed to a massive array of moving file storage that Devon Energy had installed in that same building before relocating to its new headquarters. The point being that that weight was much more concentrated than auto parking and that in general, office floors are engineered to handle a higher load than parking garages.

    Various details are still taking shape and may change over time but the entire renovation will take two to three years before the entire complex once again is open for business.

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