I'm out of town for a few days, which naturally means OKC's modus operandii for these days will be to make lots of big waves - this time regarding the headquarters of American Fidelity, which had long been extremely interested in moving downtown. As it happens, a curve ball got thrown, and Pete Brzycki of OKC Talk is reporting very credible rumors that the OPUBCO tower at Britton & Broadway has been sold to American Fidelity. Other rumors are surfacing that the announcement will be soon and the move could begin immediately as the ink on the deal is now drying.
Also, reportedly, MidFirst Bank toured the same tower and made a competing offer against American Fidelity. MidFirst is in need of a new headquarters after outgrowing the old facility and also with Chesapeake (reportedly) making proactive offers to buy up their buildings. Their current headquarters is on Grand Blvd/I-44 immediately adjacent to the Chesapeake campus. American Fidelity is currently headquarters in the 3 towers along Classen Blvd between the lights on NW 23rd and NW 18th.
So many questions. Here are a few:
1. On the agenda repeatedly for the Alliance has been the ominous "Headquarters Strategy" with confidential files hidden from the agenda. Does HQ strategy mean a new headquarters for far north over downtown, or is this something else entirely?
2. Is it possible that this headquarters strategy is so heavily focused toward an out of state relocation or a specific corporation already in mind that it is either ignoring home-grown corporations or just not capable or flexible enough to address them? I am worried that American Fidelity was interested in downtown, flew under the radar, and didn't get the attention from the Alliance needed to facilitate a move downtown. Obviously flying under the radar is not the case with MidFirst, however.
3. What does this mean for MidFirst? This latest news seems to corroborate that MidFirst is indeed just as serious as we thought they were about a new headquarters, just as we thought they were more serious than American Fidelity. Problem is...
4. Could the north side still be viewed as just as attractive of a corporate address as downtown? Granted, in recent examples, there are some cases where some corporate philosophies (*ahem* Sandridge) would be better off in the burbs, but ideally corporations not only want to move downtown but also want to be good urban neighbors.
5. What is going to happen to the site being vacated by American Fidelity? Finding continuous space near downtown is tough. Also, the Citizens Bank Tower recently went from scantly occupied Class C office to booked-solid upscale condos a la The Classen. So no doubt this isn't the end of the world for this site, it has some options.
6. While OPUBCO didn't really take up that much space, there were other tenants. What will be the domino effect of American Fidelity moving in, in terms of OPUBCO moving somewhere else perhaps. Arguably, while they don't need a lot of space, for a community institution like a newspaper, it does need to be "high profile" space. However, OPUBCO is now owned by Philip Anschutz who likely won't display the same level of community commitment as the Gaylord family did.
7. With more corporate heavyweights locating around Britton & Broadway, what is the prognosis for this area? Is this area, with cheap contiguous land owned by major players like MidFirst, OPUBCO, American Fidelity, and even Aubrey McClendon personally, emerging as the chief competition for downtown?
8. Or is this all a ruse and have we all jumped at the most credible thing to come our way since we've been on high-alert for news from both of these corporations? I tend to trust the latest reports coming from some individuals, particularly Pete Brzycki, who is a shark for veracity.
9. How big of an indictment in the inner north side is this? American Fidelity has been wanting to move for a long time, the City staved it off, but apparently not for long. How will Classen rebound? Just why exactly has American Fidelity chosen to move to a location that is convenient only to Nichols Hills and Edmond?
Nonetheless, interesting times ahead for development prognosticators!