Kanbar bailing out of Tulsa?
There are indications that downtown Tulsa's biggest property owner is looking to sell and get out, despite big plans announced last fall and very recent affirmations of his commitment to Tulsa.
Last month's Tulsa People had a Q&A with Maurice Kanbar, the San Francisco inventor who owns over 2 million square feet of commercial space in downtown Tulsa. Kanbar's shopping spree in 2005 and early 2006 gave many Tulsans (including your humble blogger) hope that exciting things would be happening soon in Tulsa's downtown core, now that someone with means had made such a big investment.
Most of what has happened downtown in the meantime has been accomplished by other building owners -- the Mayo Hotel, the new Courtyard by Marriott in the Atlas Building (once owned by Kanbar), the revamped Holiday Inn, the lofts at the Mayo Building, and on-going activity in the Blue Dome and Bob Wills Districts.
Two of Kanbar's smaller buildings between 4th and 5th on Main were demolished. In 2007, Kanbar Properties turned back the Vision 2025 money it had sought to convert the Transok building at 6th and Main to lofts. But last November, plans were announced for a "Deco District," attracting specialty retailers to Kanbar's historic properties in the downtown core. It appeared that the hopes raised in 2005 would finally be realized five years later.
I received word last week that Kanbar Properties has asked Tulsa's Barthelmes Conservatory to vacate their home on the third floor of the Avanti Building at 8th and Cincinnati. The conservatory, which offers a rigorous program of instruction to talented young musicians, is in the process of finding a new home adequate for the special needs of a music school (soundproofing, practice space, performance space).
According to a letter sent to the school's community from conservatory President Joseph L. Hull, III, Kanbar Properties is attempting to sell its entire Tulsa portfolio at once, rather than one building at a time, and so the conservatory's overtures to buy the Avanti Building have been rebuffed. (Built in 1926 as a car dealership, the building's thick reinforced concrete floors help to keep sound from traveling. In later years, Brown-Dunkin and Edison's used it as a warehouse.) According to the letter, Kanbar is mothballing the building while awaiting sale of the entire portfolio because of the building's low occupancy rate and deferred maintenance issues.
A May 26, 2011, blog entry by Tulsa World food columnist Scott Cherry reported that the restaurant Impressions had to vacate its space in the Kanbar-owned Oil Capital Building (507 S. Main) by the end of July.
I phoned and left a message for Clay Clark, whose firm Fears & Clark had been acting as leasing agents for Kanbar and promoters of the Deco District plan. Clark had contacted me last fall and talked to me at length about Kanbar's exciting plans. I have yet to hear back from him. The headline of a June 2 story in the Journal Record (subscription required) suggests that the firm is no longer working with Kanbar Properties.
I also tried yesterday to contact a leasing agent for Kanbar Properties by phone for comment. I left a message, but as of noon today I have not received a reply.
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