First National Center to be Restored
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's not the tallest building in Oklahoma City, but it is probably the most recognizable.
The historic First National Center has been part of the city's skyline since 1931, and now an LA real estate company is working to keep it that way.
The First National Center is actually three buildings, with a total of one million square feet so renovating it is a major undertaking, but that's exactly what's being done.
"It's a big job, it's not gonna happen overnight," Aaron Yashouafar said.
Yashouafar says, when his family's business -- Milbank Real Estate -- bought the First National Center in 2006 for $21 million, they saw an opportunity to restore a building that has great historic significance, a building that has great potential for the future, but a building that had been greatly neglected.
"It called for help and we came to [the] rescue," Yashouafar said.
Work is well underway. The arcade, which connects all three buildings, is the focus right now. The west entrance is mostly complete. New elevators are coming, as is an overhaul of the Park Avenue entrance and eventually the building's signature room.
"We're trying to do the right thing, we're trying to be patient, find the right use, the right preservation to bring back the glory of this great banking hall," Yashouafar said.
The project is quite literally opening up a storehouse of local memories and because of that, local officials say, there are higher expectations for what's done with the First National Center.
"It, in so many, personifies what earlier generations were about in Oklahoma City," Yashouafar said. "They were reaching for the sky, they were building big buildings and big dreams and it's really not much different today."
Yashouafar says he understands the stakes, is prepared to do what it takes to bring the building back, and hopes the city and its people approve.
"After all, for many, many years, we're the only ones who've dared to step up to the plate and put our money where our mouth is and actually spend the money rather than talk about spending the money," Yashouafar said.
And they are spending money, already more than $10 million.