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OKLAHOMA CITY-Countering the downturn of other secondary and tertiary markets, the Greater Oklahoma City metro is seeing a positive investment climate with its office space. The fundamentals, combined with Devon Energy Corp.’s 1.9-million-sf headquarters project in the Downtown, are waking up local and out-of-state investors.

One recent transaction was the 103,017-sf Lake Park Tower Office building at 6525 N. Meridian, acquired by a buyer from San Antonio for $6.9 million. Another was the 21,400-sf Woodlands Office Park I at 1401 S. Douglas Blvd. in Midwest City, a suburb of the capitol city. A California investor has paid $2.5 million for the recently finished building. Tim Strange, managing director with Sperry Van Ness in Oklahoma City, worked with adviser Zach Martin on the recent deals.

Strange was quick to point out the differences and similarities between the two sales for GlobeSt.com. The Woodlands is a fairly new, class A office building at 100% occupancy while Lake Park Tower was a value-add opportunity at 50% occupancy.

Both, however, share one thing in common: out-of-state investors on the buy sides. Also in recent months, the 100,000-sf Landmark Towers at 3535-55 NW 58th St. and 93,176-sf Registry were sold to out-of-state investors for $19.2 million and $6.3 million, respectively.

“Some of the press we’ve been getting lately is that we’re a recession-proof area because we’re in the Energy Belt,” Strange says. “I think that’s start to open some minds.”

News of the Devon Energy headquarters building also is intriguing investors although David Bohanon, senior associate and operations director with Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services’ Oklahoma City office, acknowledges the project presents a double-edged sword. “They’ll be emptying out five or six offices when that headquarters is ready,” he says. “But the good news is there’s enough advanced notice. Everyone has enough time to prepare.”

The brokers suggest most investors in the area are leaning toward Oklahoma City’s value-add assets. “Most of the investors we’re seeing want stuff with value-add vacancy that they can buy at the current cap rates for better cash flow,” Bohanon says. And, much of the value-add properties trading hands is doing so because buyers are coming in with all-cash deals due to the difficulty in lending, he says.

Strange adds that investors with solid financing behind them are also intrigued by the newer stuff. He points out that the Woodlands buyer paid approximately $135 per sf for the asset, which had a 7.5% cap rate. “He was an exchange buyer, who’d sold an asset in California for $300 per sf,” Strange says. “In this one deal, he’s already improved the cash flow. It’s a newer property with no cap-ex.”

According to Grubb & Ellis Co.’s second-quarter office report, the citywide vacancy is 16% in the 144.4-million-sf inventory. Submarkets with low vacancy rates are Midtown, with a 4.6% vacancy in a one-million-sf inventory, and the north submarket, which has at 6.8% occupancy in its 1.5 million sf of stock.

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