Kaiser Foundation to renovate two Brady District buildings for bakery, apartments, restaurants, pub

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“Mixed use” doesn’t do justice to what the George Kaiser Family Foundation plans to put in two Brady District buildings they’ve just begun renovating.

An all-star lineup of restaurateurs, including Elliot Nelson, head of the McNellie’s Group; Josh Royal, owner of R Bar; and Molly Martin, owner of Antoinette Baking Co.; will open new or expanded locations in the Fox Hotel and Universal Ford buildings on the east side of Main Street between Brady and Cameron streets.

On top of that, the buildings will feature 31 new apartments that will be rented out to participants in Teach for America and the foundation’s new Tulsa Artists Fellowship, 5,000 square feet of office space for small start-up companies and the main workspace for a new entrepreneurial hub.

Stanton Doyle, senior program officer with the foundation, said work has already begun on the $16 million conversion.

The Kaiser Foundation, which had previously built 12 apartments for Teach for America above the Living Arts of Tulsa building and another eight above the building on the west side of Main between Brady and Cameron, believes strongly in bringing more activity to the Brady District, Doyle said.
“We think it’s important more people live downtown in the arts district, so we believe we need to activate the buildings to keep pushing toward the critical mass,” he said.
Nelson will use the renovation to expand his existing Tavern on Brady restaurant, he said. The new 5,000 square feet will add more seating, private dining rooms, storage, an expanded kitchen and a wine cellar that will augment the restaurant’s wine offerings.

Additionally, Nelson will create a speakeasy lounge connected to the north with an entrance facing the alley between the buildings, he said.

“We’ll build a piano into the bar, so it’ll have a lounge feel,” Nelson said.

The original Tavern space will also be renovated. Nelson said the restaurant will remain open during the renovation, which is scheduled to wrap up in November.

Martin’s contribution will be an additional location of Antoinette Baking Co. in the Fox building, which has its original location at 3305 S. Peoria Ave. When finished in October, it will feature a similar bakery and pie nights as the first location, only with lunch specials, brunch, expanded bread baking and more.

“We’ll be getting a liquor license, so we can offer adult beverages like spiked milkshakes,” she said.

The new, 4,000-square-foot Antoinette location will face Main Street, with Nelson’s speakeasy lounge behind it.

Royal, in collaboration with Pauly Sorrentino, plans to be principles with a new 5,000-square-foot restaurant and brew pub within the Universal Ford building, Doyle said.

The yet-to-be named brew pub will be opened in conjunction with Tulsa’s Prairie Artisan Ales, which will brew new beer on-site. But Prairie won’t be the only group brewing there.

“On a regular basis, we’re going to invite any Oklahoma brewer to brew with us,” Sorrentino said. “We’re not about competition; we want to embrace brewing.”

Though plans are to brew beer at 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, he said they’re closely watching the progress of Senate Bill 424, which was introduced earlier this week by state Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa. The legislation would allow breweries to sell any beer they produce on premises, no matter the alcohol volume.

“We’ll be ready to do whatever the law says by the time we open,” he said.

Sorrentino, who has partnered with others on the Old School Bagel Cafe and the Boston Avenue Grill, said they’ll reveal what kind of food they’ll serve closer to the brew pub’s fall opening.

Doyle said the apartments will range from 400 to 1,000 square feet. The apartments above the Fox building will house the studio apartments, with the larger ones above Universal Ford.

“We wanted smaller footprints to keep them affordable,” he said.

Rents on the apartments are estimated to be $1.15 per square foot, though that price will include some utilities. All 31 apartments will share a laundry facility within Fox Hotel.

Some of the apartments are another feature of the Foundation’s Tulsa Artist Fellowship Program, which will award five to 15 artists with merit-based grants of up to $40,000 per person and include housing, work space and a stipend.

Teach for America is a nonprofit based in New York, New York, that seeks to encourage college students to teach.

Though much of the lower floors will be taken up by the restaurants, 11,500 square feet in the Universal Ford building behind the brew pub will become an entrepreneurial hub and resource center, in partnership with the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation.

Finally, 5,000 square feet above the existing Tavern on Brady will be converted into a number of office spaces. Doyle said they’ll be relatively small suites with shared conference rooms meant for start-up companies.

Doyle said the office conversion will be less of an intrusion on the Tavern’s ongoing business than more apartments, though the foundation had an additional motivation for offices.

“It helps keep the building active during the day when the people who live there are out,” he said. “We want to keep activity going at all hours.”

Chris Lilly, architect for the conversion, said they’re working toward retaining as much of the original look as possible on the inside and outside.

“It’s representative of the historic main street that used to be downtown.”

Though three existing businesses to the east of the Tavern facing Brady are technically part of the Fox Hotel building, they won’t be affected by construction. These businesses include Chrysalis Salon and Spa, Gitwit Creative and Tulsa Artists Coalition’s TAC Gallery.