Downtown Oklahoma City development is picking up where it left off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with construction set to start on three mixed-use apartment and retail projects.
Once completed, the projects will add 371 apartments priced for workforce housing as market rate rents spiral downtown.
John Semtner, representing Alley’s End and Boulevard Place, and Ron Bradshaw, who is developing 700 West, both indicated Wednesday they are ready to proceed despite sharp nationwide increases in steel and labor prices and worker shortages.
“Steel and lumber prices right now are fluctuating significantly,” Semtner said. “Lumber has started to come down and steady. But it’s still three times what it was when this started.”
Semtner said Boulevard Place, to be built this winter at the corner of E.K Gaylord and Oklahoma City Boulevard next to the Omni Hotel, and Alley’s End, at NW 4 and E.K. Gaylord, both being developed by Rose Rock, will start construction this winter.
Boulevard Place will be eight stories, and as the first mid-rise apartment tower built downtown in decades, it will require more steel than most recent residential projects downtown.
“Steel prices have seen a 20% increase,” Semtner said. “Boulevard took a hit from that inflation. Luckily rent is also seeing some inflation. Both projects are on track. But it makes our jobs harder; we have to be more creative to meet the price points we’re at.”
Rising steel and lumber prices prompted Bradshaw to ask the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority to approve adding provisions for not meeting contract obligations due to “acts of God” like earthquakes, hurricanes and other extreme weather, to also include fluctuation in supply availability and price hikes.
“Lumber prices seem to be going down a little bit,” Bradshaw said. “From January to now, we’ve seen a million increase in lumber just for this project. We will lock that down as soon as we sign our construction project. We’ve built a lot of contingencies into this.”
With rent at most downtown apartments rising and most already largely at market rate or higher, the new developments are adding hundreds of affordable units.
More than 70 units at Bradshaw’s 700 West will be rented to persons earning at or below 80% of area median income. Bradshaw also reported he is set to close on the purchase of the property for 700 West at NW 4 and Shartel next month with construction starting soon after.
Boulevard Place includes 36 units that will be rented as workforce housing for those in the 80% to 120% of average median income. The 314-unit Alley’s End, meanwhile, will add 264 units of affordable housing for those under or at 60% of average median income, making it the largest addition of workforce housing in the history of downtown Oklahoma City.
“Getting a low-income property of this magnitude and quality will be game changing for us and the city,” Semtner said.
Urban Renewal commissioners were complimentary of all three projects, though they suggested landscaping improvements at Alley’s End and screening of the east side of the Alley’s End garage.
They also agreed with the developers’ concerns about supply prices and supply.
“All of us understand this whole disruption of supply,” Commissioner Judy Hatfield said. “It’s scary, there are so many things we’ve been able to get that we can no longer count on.”