The biggest downtown Tulsa speculative office renovation project in years didn’t come from a traditional developer or a real estate investment trust.
It came from a church.
Bob Pielsticker, a broker with CB Richard Ellis in Tulsa, said First Presbyterian’s transformation of the Avanti building at 810 S. Cincinnati Ave. into the 8:10 Building turned out better than anyone expected, since it’s already 80 percent occupied.
“We’re a year and a half ahead of where we thought we’d be,” Pielsticker said.
Today, the six-story building is now full aside from a 2,401-square-foot suite on the first floor and the 14,364-square-foot fourth floor, which is still being completed. Architecture, engineering and construction management firm Cyntergy was the first to move in late last year, followed by accounting firm Eide Bailly.
Pielsticker said a 5,290-square-foot suite on the first floor was just leased this month, although the tenant isn’t ready to be identified.
Steve Caldwell, director of operations for First Presbyterian, said the strong interest required the church to put more resources into the $6 million renovation faster than anticipated.
“Our leasing went so well, it outpaced our funding,” he said. “We needed to pursue improvements for tenants.”
The 8:10 Building, named after the Bible verse Nehemiah 8:10, is now the fourth major property owned by the church. Beyond the original church building at 709 S. Boston Ave., the church purchased the Bernsen Community Life Center immediately to the west in 2002 and the Powerhouse building east of the church in 2006.
Although First Presbyterian’s previous acquisitions helped the church expand its own services — and in the case of Bernsen Community Life Center, provide affordable office space for nonprofit agencies — the 8:10 Building is different in that it’s purely an investment, Caldwell said.
“It’s a mission endowment for the church,” he said.
Caldwell said that when First Presbyterian purchased the vacant building in February 2013 for $2.1 million from Kanbar Properties, church officials retained Cyntergy to help develop a new direction for the building.
One year later, the project wasn’t speculative any longer, as Cyntergy signed up to be the first tenant, said Ken Hirshey, senior principal and chairman of Cyntergy.
Hirshey said the firm found plenty of good potential options when its lease at the 320 S. Boston Ave. Building came up, but the potential perks of 8:10 were too good to pass up.
“We were able to design our own space, and the fact that the profits from the rent goes to good causes was a factor,” he said.
Tom Goekeler, a partner with Eide Bailly, said the 8:10 Building was a happy find when Eidge Bailly merged with Sartain Fischbein & Co., and the combined 70 employees needed a bigger footprint.
“Even though we needed more space, the idea of this building was perfect,” he said.
Inspired by the building’s past as a Studebaker dealership, Cyntergy and the church decided to gut the building and give it an open, warehouse feel that tenants could fill in as they wished.
But removing decades of paint wasn’t easy, Pielsticker said.
“We had to use a pecan shell water blast to remove it,” he said.
The exterior now features large banks of open windows throughout, including on the lower levels. Cyntergy took one of the suites to use as a common gathering area, complete with a kitchenette, televisions, couches and banks of tables with troughs that can hold beer bottles, Pielsticker said.
“Sometimes people drive by and wonder if this is a sports bar,” he said.
While Eide Bailly designed their space with a clean, traditional look, Cyntergy went with exposed ductwork and clusters of wires in metal frames, open common areas and exposed raw concrete support pillars.
Even with the recent additional expenses needed to accommodate the influx of tenants, Caldwell said he expects the building will generate money for the church this year.