Developers plan to turn high-rise into apartments

Jun. 27--The former home of Citizens National Bank, Muskogee's Manhattan Building, 323 W. Broadway, may be getting dozens of new tenants if a pending sale goes through.

In a special meeting Thursday afternoon, the City Council approved a letter of support for the Garrison Development Co., headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. In the letter, the city pledged its support for the Manhattan Lofts, a proposed 43-unit housing unit for senior citizens.

The Garrison firm also was the developer that restored the Surety Building and turned it into affordable housing for senior citizens.

The letter of support approved Thursday is very similar to the letter the city approved for the Surety Building, said Gary Garvin, city planning director.

There is a maximum financial commitment of $14,000 from the city, Garvin said. Mostly, it calls for the city to do things like set up barricades during the construction phase or help with drainage plans.

Typically, the city's out-of-pocket expense on such a project would amount to about $1,000, Garvin said.

The Manhattan Building has had about 20 percent occupancy over the last several years, according to information in the property's listing on the Internet by Interstate Properties.

Built in 1911 and standing eight stories, it is listed for sale at $250,000, according to the real estate information.

Earnie Gilder of Interstate Properties said no papers have been signed, and so far, the proposed apartments are just that -- a proposal.

Tony Krsnich, development associate with the Garrison firm, said it likely will take several months to finalize the purchase of the property. The company hopes to make application by July 3 with the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority for affordable tax credits. It will be two or three months before the OHFA acts on the application. And, if the July 3 deadline is missed, it will be January before an application can be filed again.

There are several other details, like historical tax credit to be secured as well, he said.

Krsnich is hopeful the project will be approved and become as successful as the company's Surety project.

"We are 100 percent occupied, and there are more than 20 on a waiting list," Krsnich said. "It's just turned out to be a fabulous development."

Without the affordable housing and state and national historic preservation tax credits, rehabilitating buildings like the Surety and the Manhattan wouldn't be feasible, Krsnich said.

The Garrison company believes the "historical fabric of any city's downtown is very important to the city and, in many cases, the backbone of the city's history," Krsnich said.

"Where in many cases, it is the American way to tear down and build new, we take a lot of pride in not doing that and in really restoring the historical essence of the building," he said. "It's much more expensive to do a historical re-development than it is new construction because you're dealing with old mechanical, electrical, plumbing -- a lot of different challenges in terms of floor layout."

Jonita Mullins, executive director of Downtown Muskogee Inc., said she is pleased with the prospect of the Manhattan Building getting a new life.

"We hope to see new investment in Muskogee's downtown," Mullins said. "We believe our downtown is poised on a major revitalization that will bring new retail, office and residential additions to the community. A vital downtown will also bring additional industry and retail to other areas of the city."

Building history

The Manhattan Building is also known as the Phoenix-Manhattan Building.

It was built by Manhattan Construction and designed for the Phoenix Clothing Co., a popular retailer.

Citizens National Bank became an anchor tenant in the building in 1926.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as being of Chicago-style architecture.

Copyright (c) 2008, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.