Greater Oklahoma City Chamber - Lot lines: Towering glory

Lot lines: Towering glory

Friday, October 26, 2012

by Darren Currin

The Journal Record

This past week will likely go down as one of the most monumental in the history of downtown Oklahoma City. The 51-story Devon Energy Center was dedicated. After three years of work, the tower has completed its ascent above the city skyline, and will forever change the way residents and visitors see downtown.

The tower’s grand opening is probably the biggest event in downtown Oklahoma City since the culmination of the original MAPS program in 2004. The tower would have never happened had it not been for the original MAPS program, which has helped reshape downtown Oklahoma City into a new and vibrant downtown business district.

This is also the most monumental event in the downtown office market since Leadership Square was completed in the early 1980s. As Leadership Square was a symbol of the oil boom that propelled the local economy in the 1970s and early 1980s, Devon’s tower also stands as its own symbol of the resurgence downtown has experienced over the past 15 years. A new era that is emerging as Oklahoma City continues its evolution into an upper-tier city.

There were concerns for the office market when Devon Energy announced a few years ago that it would be vacating its offices at 20 N. Broadway Ave. and relocating into 1.8 million square feet in its new tower. Downtown stakeholders worried about how the move might affect downtown vacancy, considering that Devon leased space in three other buildings there.

Now those concerns seem to be a fleeting memory, with more momentum in the downtown office market than there has been seen over the past 30 years. Leasing agents are reporting a number of companies considering space in the central business district. Furthermore, there is a growing buzz about downtown being the place to office in Oklahoma City, which has not been the case since the days of the oil boom.

Granted, there will be some hiccups when it comes to downtown office vacancy in the coming quarters as Devon completes relocation, but the effect should be nominal. More importantly, the long-term positive effects the Devon building will have on the market will far outweigh any short-term challenges.

Darren Currin is an independent research analyst and consultant who specializes in Oklahoma City and Tulsa commercial real estate. He may be reached at (405) 476-0164 or dcurrin@cox.net.