Hat’s off

She
purchased the former Downtown library in early 2008, with plans for
lofts and retail space. For those not paying attention, 2008 was a bit
of a tough year in the financial markets, and many projects, Carnegie
included, ground to a halt.

Now
the only thing holding up the start of construction for the $7.4
million project at 131 Dean A. McGee Ave. is clarification of a federal
tax credit issue. Despite setback after setback, Hatfield says she was
never ready to throw in the towel.

“Perseverance has become my middle name,” she says.

The
renovation was set to move forward in early September when a ruling by
the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned a
federal historic tax credit for a project in Pennsylvania, which halted
every project seeking federal historic tax credits that had not already
closed.

Hatfield is working with her lender, U.S. Bank, to iron out the details to secure financing and comply with federal guidelines.

When that is done, work will begin on the Carnegie.

Other
financing has come from state tax credits, new market tax credits and
tax increment financing. The TIF was approved by the Oklahoma City
Economic Development Trust in August. It will provide about $370,000.

“This
is an important step for the future of the redevelopment of the
Carnegie Centre,” says Cathy O’Connor, OCEDT surrogate general manager.
“I look forward to working with the public and private entities as we
move forward with this project.”

An
early rendering of the building showed decorative features such as
balconies and abundant windows. The existing building is four stories,
with concrete block windows on the north and south sides, and an
additional row of windows on the west side of the fourth floor. When
historic tax credits came into play, it required the exterior stay more
or less intact, which meant no additional windows could be cut out.

“The structure on the outside stays the same,” Hatfield says.

To
abide by those requirements, and still provide natural light in the
units, Hatfield went back to the drawing board. Planned units are
strategically placed to stretch toward existing windows with bedrooms
tucked into the center of the building.

New
market tax credits required the units be rental for at least seven
years. Hatfield says that is actually good for the project and for her
efforts to lease the 19 units.

“I don’t want to sell condos today,” she says. “They’re not selling. People don’t have the down payments to buy condos.”

Other
rental developments have been popping up Downtown, including Level in
Deep Deuce, which quickly leased up. A recently completed Housing
Development Strategies and Implementation Plan for Downtown found that,
of those between 18-34 looking to move Downtown, 60% wanted to rent. Of
everyone polled on Downtown housing options, the most desired housing
type was historic. That brought a smile to Hatfield’s face.

When
the financing agreement is tweaked, and the Is are dotted and the Ts
crossed, construction will take about 10 months, Hatfield says. The
first floor will be office space; the second floor will be parking; and
the top two floors will house the residential units.

With
the setbacks in financing, and having to scrap the original designs,
Hatfield says the project has been a lesson in patience. When all is
said and done, she says the project will be the best it can be, and it
had better be, because she plans to live there herself.

“My
love of this kind of project is taking something that nobody else
wanted and making it into something that everyone wants,” she says.

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