Downtown housing quickly developing

Tuesday, October 21st 2008, 7:02 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- At the heart of the nation's slumping economy is the nation's slumping housing market. But, Oklahoma's housing market, like the local economy, has been insulated, to some extent, even in Oklahoma City.

The housing market downtown makes up just a tiny fraction of all the housing across the metro, but its high profile, high priced, and apparently, still highly sought after.

Developer Grant Humphreys said he's now sold three quarters of the units at his recently completed, upscale Block 42 development in Deep Deuce.

"Ya know, we're ahead of projections," Humphreys said. "I'd just say, on a national level, we do have a crisis on our hands, in certain markets, certain property types, Oklahoma City has defied the trend."

Indeed, construction continues just down the street on a 157-unit townhome development called The Hill, while Humphreys is moving forward with several other housing projects, including the Flatiron building, just north of Deep Deuce.

One criticism downtown developers have faced is that the majority of these new units are affordable only to the very wealthy, but city officials said that's to be expected. The more moderately priced housing will come.

"That's what we see other cities are doing," Oklahoma City Urban Development Director Robbie Kienzle said. "You always have to start, you have to set the market somewhere, and with a standard product, so you find out what those sell for, and then you work downwards."

City planners said as the housing market grows, it's becoming clear that the demands of potential downtown dwellers are changing, which is why they're planning on doing a new downtown housing study early next year.

"We're hoping to actually talk to the largest employers downtown, and ask them to host an open house for their employees where we can have direct contact with them about, ya know, what they can afford, what housing style would they like, what are some other options they need, do they need downtown schools, daycares etcetera, what are the things that would make them willing to be downtown," Kienzle said.

Relatively speaking, there still aren't very many people living downtown. There are just a few hundred owner-occupied units, and a thousand or so apartments.