By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing
Richard Tanenbaum has lived and breathed real estate development and ownership for as long as he can remember. More than 60 years ago, his family owned the largest department store in Havana, Cuba, before the property was taken by Fidel Castro, which left them penniless and run out of the country.
The Tanenbaum family rebounded in the United States, building a new life and seizing real estate development opportunities. At just 14 years old, Tanenbaum began learning the family business that would give him the business acumen and wherewithal to seize a good opportunity when he saw it.
After college, Tanenbaum built 18 restaurants in Houston and married Glenda Sue Gardner. Gardner’s father was in real estate development in Oklahoma City and suggested Tanenbaum take a look at what the city had to offer. “For the first 20 years we visited Oklahoma City there was nothing to do,” Tanenbaum remembers. “We wanted to leave Houston, so I sold my restaurants in 1997 and we moved to Oklahoma City, realizing the new MAPS program would be effective.”
Tanenbaum began buying land along I-35 and I-40 that ranged from 11 cents to 20 cents per acre. Under Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings, Tanenbaum secured 900 acres that were adaptable to 100,000- to 300,000-square-foot distribution centers and manufacturing facilities. Once the MAPS program stated in 1997, Oklahoma City turned a corner with 12 projects downtown that were funded by a penny tax.
“There was a new civic center, ball park, etc., that came downtown to give the city dignity, culture and pride,” Tanenbaum remembers. “The city had a great run from 1997 through 2015 because of the oil and gas industry. We ran contrary to the U.S. recession and were doing better than the rest of the country. A lot of multifamily developments got built. We developed luxury mid- and high-rise apartments.”
From 2001 through 2017, Garden Tanenbaum Holdings developed more than one million square feet of multifamily properties and six million square feet of industrial and office space that have brought business and jobs to the market. Today, the company has an inventory of more than 250 acres of strategically placed land holdings for development.
Oklahoma City is ramping up again as a third round of MAPS program projects near completion. These projects include a new city park, convention center and hotel properties. “The public development brings on private development, and as we move into the last quarter of the year, we are busier than ever,” Tanenbaum says. “As we get into 2020 and 2021, we will have a brand-new convention center, an Omni Hotel & Resorts that connects to the convention center and the second phase of city park will begin next year. It’s a big deal and there’s a lot of pride downtown. People are excited and the chamber has done a lot of work.”
In Oklahoma City, the aerospace industry is “hot as a pistol” right now, Tanenbaum says. In addition to well-known companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin operating in Oklahoma City, Tinker Air Force Base is also located in the city and rapidly expanding. The base is expected to add 10,000 people over the next five years.
To support this growth, Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings is developing Liberty Creek Village, a multifamily community with more than 500 units that is expected to open in spring 2020. “It will be the nicest multifamily community in that area,” Tanenbaum says. “I bought 80 acres years ago and only 50 acres are usable. The space allows for an amenity park area and one hell of a water feature. We are excited about that project because there’s nothing like it in the city let alone in the southeast quadrant around Tinker Air Force Base.”
Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings will also be redeveloping Lincoln Plaza into the Forum at Lincoln Plaza, which will feature 310 luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments, and office space. Tanenbaum purchased Lincoln Plaza in 2011 for $2.6 million, which was turned into a Historical District.
Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings is also is also developing a couple spec buildings in Britton Road Commerce Center that will host multiple warehouse solutions, including Corken Inc., which will open its new manufacturing plant later this year. The company does not usually develop spec buildings, focusing more on securing a client and exceeding their expectations. “I have never built a building to sell it,” Tanenbaum explains. “I have no equity partners; it’s just me. I take on the debt, put up my own money and I take the risk, so I build like I will keep the property for the rest of my life.”
Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings is also working on developing Westgate Park, a 100-acre property that is currently home to a 200,000-square-foot Class A office building. The final product is designed to be a mixed-use campus with office, retail, restaurants, industrial and multifamily specs.
Moving forward, Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings will continue to develop real estate throughout Oklahoma City and self-perform a majority of the work to ensure its buildings enhance the city. “I have great finance people in Dallas who find me a matrix of finance opportunities that I can turn over to my team here. COO Cindy Murillo and her team gets the deals done and I don’t ever have to worry about it getting done,” Tanenbaum says. “I’ll keep doing it as long as they keep going. We will continue to put out excellent products with high visibility that will have a positive impact on the quality of life and hopefully bring new jobs to the community.”
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