When developer Nick Preftakes and his business partner Mark Ruffin introduced an Oklahoma City loft apartment concept in 1995, Automobile Alley and other downtown districts were defined by their past. Only a handful of people recognized their potential as great urban districts.
The once-notable automobile sales locale became an area that had seen better days. The car sales industry, once centered on showrooms and custom factory orders, morphed into expansive lots, and customers drove their purchases home. Dealerships followed the people to the suburbs, leaving a majority of the downtown businesses vacant or in disrepair.
With Automobile Alley’s prominent location near downtown — along N. Broadway and Oklahoma avenues between 13th and Fourth streets — and a nationwide trend of urban renaissance, a successful wave of redevelopment revived the area.
In 1995, Preftakes and Ruffin’s rehabilitation of a dilapidated, three-story, 1930s-era garage into The Garage Loft Apartments — New York-style rental loft units on the corner of NW 13th Street and Broadway Avenue near Midtown and Automobille Alley — became a key project in propelling the historical district’s rebirth.
Today, Automobile Alley is an economic success story. The area’s revival brought restaurants, retail development and business offices as well as luxury car dealerships and urban, loft-style housing.
The district continues to thrive. Last fall, Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center broke ground on a new, world-class campus dedicated to serving the community with arts classes, exhibitions and events. In late 2018, a modern streetcar is scheduled to launch daily service through Automobile Alley and nearby Bricktown, Midtown and Business District areas, likely spurring new businesses in its path.
However, Preftakes believes what the vibrant district lacks is higher-end residential infrastructure, he said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette interview.
Specifically, he sees a need for luxury condominiums or urban “lock and leave” homes, where owners trade maintenance for close proximity to a thriving downtown and metropolitan neighborhood.
“People are looking for urban living opportunities,” Preftakes, of Precor Realty Advisors, said. “Automobile Alley is a great place to colonize that. … We are looking forward to bringing residency to Automobile Alley, which has been missing.”
Preftakes is proposing a five-story development that will rise from a parking lot on the corner of NW Sixth Street and N. Broadway Avenue.
Preftakes believes The Broadway Condominiums — 12 luxury condominiums ranging from 1,600 to 3,300 square feet — will be the first-of-its-kind residential development in the area.
Unlike the soaring number of apartment rentals in the city’s urban core, Preftakes said his development offers something leases simply can’t.
“Certainly, this will be the first housing for sale in Automobile Alley,” Preftakes said.
The Broadway Condominiums, 700 N. Broadway Ave., will be located across the street from the former C.R. Anthony building, another of Preftakes’ projects, and Hudson Essex Building.
For this project, Preftakes enlisted Oklahoma City-based Bockus Payne Associates Architects, who designed a building with modern conveniences while preserving historic Automobile Alley’s aesthetic.
“The Broadway Condominiums will serve as an anchor for Automobile Alley and will complement the urban fabric and local vernacular of this historically unique part of the city,” Collin Fleck, project architect at Bockus Payne Architecture, wrote in a media statement to the Gazette. “The majority of the structure will be characterized by the brick aesthetic for which Automobile Alley is known, while the focal feature will be a contemporary composition of architectural metal and glass carved out of the building’s corner to distinguish the modern era of its inception and to highlight the building’s unbeatable downtown views.”
Showcasing the area’s commitment to philanthropic organizations — Automobile Alley is home to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation — and the district’s support of the arts, The Broadway Condominiums’ ground-floor window cases will display exhibits by local nonprofit organizations and local artists that are designed to introduce new ideas, broaden interests and develop appreciation and understanding of the various facets of culture and community.
The displays also will shield street-level views of resident parking.
While the development is still in the early planning stages — it has yet to be presented to the Automobile Alley Board of Directors, Downtown Design Review Committee or City of Oklahoma City — Preftakes anticipates the project’s completion during the summer of 2018. The two- to four-bedroom condos will be sold through relator Wendy Chong of Re/Max Preferred Properties.
Print headline: Home, sweet home, Automobile Alley pioneer Nick Preftakes plans a unique residential development that would showcase the district’s history and community commitment.