New living spaces being built downtown

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Contributor: Ian Silver
Updated: 1/30 8:35 pm Published: 1/30 5:09 pm

More than 4,000 people now call downtown Tulsa home and that number is expected to continue rising dramatically over the next two years.

By late spring there will be 44 new apartments in the Vandever Department Store building, nearly 100 years after the store first opened.

That building is just one of several old buildings getting a new lease on life.

“I’m excited to move over there,” said Chris Molina, who's moving into the Vandever building.

Molina will be one of the first new renters at the building when it’s finished. He said being close to work is what convinced him to sign a lease.

“It’s convenient that it’s right here across the street,” he said.

It’s been generations since downtown Tulsa was the hub for commerce and living, but Bryan Bickle said young professionals are changing that. Bickle is the president of Sustainable Design Builders.

“The cost of fuel, is (leading to) wanting to have the old neighborhood style, where you could walk to work,” said Bickle.

“Now there are things to bring people downtown; you know the arena, the ballpark, those thing, kind of 'build it and they will come' type stuff,” he said.

Bickle is a partnered with the developers Brickhugger, LLC. Together they have renovated the Mayo, turned the old City Hall into an Aloft Hotel and are also converting the old YMCA into apartments, just to name a few projects.

Other developers are also renovating old buildings in the East Village and other parts of downtown that for too long sat abandoned.

And since these and other new apartments are being leased faster than they can be built, Bickle thinks the residential explosion is just getting started.

“How long will it run? I hope it runs forever. But in the next two to three years, iI think you’re going to see a lot of orange cones out there for a while,” he said.

In fact, close to 700 new apartment units are expected to be finished in that time.

“It’s going to take a lot of work. I hope that it gets to that point because it’s exciting, especially when you work over here and you get a chance to just walk across the street; plus all these retail shops and stuff, so I really hope it does,” said Molina.

A lot of these renovations also have a retail element. At the Vandever building they are planning on putting some sort of retail shop on thisone side of the first floor and a bar or restaurant on the other side.

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