With an architectural rendering of the Glenpool Conference Center in front of him, Jim Tapp of Edmond-based Tapp Development speaks to the crowd gathered to accept a gift of 9 acres to build the center. (Photo by Rip Stell)
TULSA – Tapp Development has adopted a page from the Remy Cos. playbook.
One month after Bixby’s 5,000-seat SpiritBank Event Center opened as the anchor to Remy’s Regal Plaza shopping center, the city of Glenpool announced plans Tuesday to start construction next summer on a 30,000-square-foot conference center in the heart of Tapp Development’s Southwest Crossroads project at 121st Street and U.S. Highway 75.
That comes as the city of Broken Arrow works to start construction next summer on its three-story convention center just north of the Bass Pro store and the St. John Broken Arrow hospital, itself now under construction.
Analyst Mendy Parrish considers Tapp’s move a creative way to anchor a commercial mixed-use complex during this period of national economic uncertainty and tightening credit.
“It is a very creative way, because Tulsa has had a lot of new construction come online, so all the landlords are competing for the same tenants who are in fact pulling back a bit,” said Parrish, a senior associate and retail specialist with CB Richard Ellis of Oklahoma. “Some are pulling back entirely.
“That’s a good way to create some traffic to that area,” she said, “and it might actually help create some additional retail, even though retailers like other retailers.”
Other industry executives apparently agree. Edmond-based Tapp has started construction on a 16,000-square-foot retail space overlooking both the Glenpool Conference Center and the anchor on which Tapp founded the whole project, a prototype Wal-Mart Supercenter opened earlier this year.
Unlike most projects going forward today, that retail center is already 100-percent pre-leased, said Mandy Vavrinak, owner of Crossroads Communications and retail development advisor to the city of Glenpool.
“That is remarkable,” Parrish said of the leasing activity.
The conference center also spurred Tulsa-based Leisure Hospitality Management Inc. to build two hotels at Southwest Crossroads instead of one, straddling the conference center alongside one of several ponds under construction in the Tapp mixed-use complex. Caryl Kuykendall, Leisure’s district director of sales, could reveal no details about the second hotel, although some officials at the Tuesday morning press conference said its size would exceed the 90-room Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites first planned for the site.
Both hotels will start construction in 90 days, said Kuykendall, whose firm has seven other Tulsa-area projects either under construction or preparing to break ground within a year.
That optimism flowed through Tuesday’s press conference, the speakers standing beside a gurgling waterfall with the walls raised on a neighboring Santa Fe Cattle Co. restaurant and the ground cleared for a soon-to-rise International House of Pancakes.
“It’s fun to be a part of something with so much momentum,” said Jim Tapp, president and chief operating officer of his namesake company, who has several other retail complexes under way in the Tulsa area. “It’s nice to have something to do in these challenging times.”
Glenpool’s estimated $12 million conference center takes a different slant from either the Bixby or Broken Arrow projects. The three-story structure will include 30,000 square feet of office space for about 30 city workers, making that 60,000-square-foot complex Glenpool’s new City Hall.
That will allow the city to adapt its current municipal building at 141st Street and highway 75 into a new Tulsa Community College community campus, said Mayor J. Shayne Buchanan.
The city hopes that will anchor new retail development. At this week’s International Council of Shopping Center conference in San Antonio, Vavrinak and other city representatives will tout the neighboring 36 acres acquired by the city for commercial development.
“We see it anchoring the south end of a new retail corridor,” said City Manager Ed Tinker, with the 140-acre Southwest Crossroads as the northern anchor.
Buchanan said Glenpool’s convention hub also takes a different focus than the SpiritBank center, which boasts an auditorium suitable for Broadway shows, Tulsa 66ers basketball games and ZZ Top concerts.
While it will offer a 15,000-square-foot room, Buchanan said the Glenpool center is designed more for band concerts and wedding receptions than big shows.
“We’re not in the convention business,” he said. “That’s not really where our attention is.”
But as the anchor for two hotels, the mayor expects the city to benefit from conventions attracted to Glenpool’s northern gateway.
“If we bring people into the community and they use this conference center, then they also are coming to shop at our stores, eat at the IHOP and spend money in this community,” he said. “This will bring people into the community that we haven’t had in this position before.”
Based on her experiences with the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites in Jenks, Kuykendall expects conventions at the Glenpool Conference Center to provide a definite boost to both hotels.
“It will give us more room nights,” she said. “We have the hotel in Jenks that has a 5,000-square-foot ballroom and we’re selling that out every week. We have groups every weekend.”
Kuykendall also has landed three or more regional conferences at the Jenks hotel, the groups interested in meeting near the Oklahoma Aquarium, RiverWalk Crossing and other area attractions. She thinks the Glenpool facility will be able to draw from these as well, even with potential competition from new facilities in Bixby and Broken Arrow.
“I think each community has their own draw,” she said. “Obviously Robert (Patel, president of Leisure Hospitality) has done his research. He’s done his studies in every area.”
Broken Arrow, under a convention center development agreement with Stoney Creek Inn, has awarded a $5,300 contract to Mike Hughes Architects to design and oversee construction of both a three-story convention center, with banquet seating for up to 1,000, and an adjoining eight-story, 225-room hotel. With $6.5 million set aside from a 2004 bond proposal, the city hopes to open its complex near the corner of Elm Place and Albany in the summer of 2010.
“A lot of times we have to turn away events to Tulsa because we don’t have a facility large enough to hold them,” said city Director of Communications Keith Sterling. “So this will fill a void, to be sure.”
The Glenpool center also remains in the development phase, with Matrix Architects developing the project. Steve Murphy, managing partner for Glenpool developer Monument Trading, expects the city to put out bids for a contractor in February or March. That would allow workers to lay down streets, clear ground and start construction on the estimated $12 million project in June or July, with one year to 18 months anticipated for completion.
“What we’re building streets for today is not for today’s economy,” he said in answering questions about this season’s financing challenges. “It’s for a future economy.”
That sentiment points to why the Glenpool project is advancing, said consultant Rickey Hayes.
“Every suburb in Tulsa that’s looking forward is trying to grow its retail base,” said Hayes, owner of Retail Attractions Economic Development Consulting and a contractor to the city of Glenpool. “Glenpool really has a council and a city manager that is looking to grow their economy and that’s why this is happening in Glenpool and not happening in other places. That’s really the emphasis behind it.”