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Downtown Tulsa Housing Gap Could Use Mixed Solution

Matt Trotter

Plenty of people want to live in downtown Tulsa, and it may be time for a new approach in creating residential space. 

The Tulsa Regional Chamber hosted a panel on downtown residential development today, and the discussion focused on the gap between demand for living space downtown and the supply. 

Just one in seven apartment units to be completed this year will be downtown, which has the city's highest occupancy rate. Tulsa's overall occupancy rate is 92 percent; downtown, it's 97.5 percent.

Robert Leikam with Bank of Oklahoma said it's time to seriously consider mixed-use development. 

"It's on the horizon, and how we look at that will be very interesting," Leikam said. 

Greenarch Apartments is one current example of mixed residential and retail space. Real estate expert Brian Donahue with CB Richard Ellis expects to see more starting this year. 

"You know, the success of it depends on the project, but it's part of the reason you're eyeing more people want to move downtown," Donahue said. 

This year, six new suburban apartment communities with a total of nearly 2,000 units will be completed in Tulsa, but just over 300 are expected downtown. Steve Ganzkow with American Residential Group said developers need to change focus if they're going to keep up with the demand for downtown housing. 

"Now, with this continued interest in an urban resident, I mean, we have to build a different product, and we have to learn how to manage the properties a little it differently," Ganzkow said. "There's challenges involved in it, but it's what we'll — we'll catch up pretty quick."

Affordability is also a concern. A survey found the average downtown rent is about $900 higher than the rest of Tulsa. 

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.