Monday, August 4, 2008

Mum's the word on the Colcord

In March Devon made history in OKC by announcing the undertaking to build a skyscraper that will become a new symbol of a city that has outgrown its comfortable symbols, and one that will not only be the city's tallest, but surely the entire State's, and believe it or not (@ incessant Oklahoma detractors), that's saying something. The state's 4 tallest buildings, all in Tulsa, range from 514-663 feet, which is far taller than anything in most states our size (SC and OR are closest in size). But skyscrapers in both OKC and Tulsa got a much humbler start, as they did everywhere they are found. The first skyscraper ever proposed in Oklahoma was the 12-story Chicago School-style building at the corner of Robinson and Sheridan. Interestingly enough the Colcord Building was planned by Charles Colcord to be a hotel, and while it began construction 2 years after statehood in 1909, it wasn't until being redeveloped in 2006 that it actually became a hotel.

Furthermore the 12-story hotel building was originally planned to have a 'Phase 2' of construction during which the L-shaped building would be a U-shaped one, as shown in this rendering (from Doug's blog).

Today Devon Energy Corp announced that they are purchasing the Colcord Tower and that it will be incorporated into their new mixed-use headquarters campus that will break ground later this year, and change more than just OKC's skyline for quite a while. While mum is the word on their official plans, the following are evident:

  • It will be an integral part of their corporate headquarters
  • It will remain open during construction on the tower
  • Devon clearly has a unique opportunity with the Colcord
  • The Colcord was never actually completed
  • The building will remain an upscale boutique hotel
Furthermore ironic is how those of us in the blogosphere and that regularly post on the OKC forums have been blabbing wet dreams of completing the U-shaped Colcord Hotel some day. This is also further evidence that proves that Devon is sincere about their wish to have a significantly positive community impact with their new headquarters. It's believed that the new Devon Tower will have features like a multi-story enclosed arboretum, perhaps an auditorium for the community, and lots of community meeting space. They have also pledged to incorporate the park across the street, and now the Colcord. They have said they will do significant improvements to the Myriad Gardens, and just like the Gardens, they will likely have some plans that make the Colcord even better, because that's what Devon does.

Now IMAGINE, for a second, the new Devon headquarters at this site. Imagine a 700-footer here at this corner, complete with the things I mentioned above, plus only the best in corporate creature comforts (employee food court, gym, etc) and what he's described as what will be "Oklahoma's grandest lobby" (though nothing will ever be as grand as the Art-Deco Great Banking Hall of the historic First National). Imagine an iconic plaza where the tower meets the Gardens, which you must imagine after significant Devon-funded improvements. Now imagine the U-shape of the Colcord finally coming to fruition. The construction could try to closely match the existing half (and show Bricktown a thing or two) or it could go contemporary, for contrast, which would be better for actually incorporating the Colcord into the site plan.

The benefits of incorporating the Colcord into the Devon's headquarters site plan could be incredible. For one, Devon could further impact downtown, especially the area surrounding the park. All of downtown's corporations benefit if downtown gets something it desperately needs, which right now, downtown needs to bump up its hotel count dramatically as it soldiers on toward becoming a Tier 2 city. More directly this gives Devon a place to lodge visiting employees, shareholders, public officials, etc., and with the excess rooms, Devon can use them to make partnership deals with other local partners of theirs. We know cross-town rival, Chesapeake Energy would scoff at the suggestion, but there are probably over a hundred energy companies located downtown, and Devon has to be on friendly terms with some of them!