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Star-studded center gets set to open in Oklahoma City

Al Urbanski
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Oak resides across the Northwest Expressway from Simon's Penn Square Mall.

Twenty-plus years ago, when Oklahoma City native Ryan McNeill graduated from college, he decided to leave the town in which his family had long held interests in banking, energy, and real estate and strike out on his own.

He landed in Sacramento where he decided to open a franchised restaurant. With his background, he knew quite a bit about the challenges of retail tenants. Still, there was much he had to learn.

“I had been in Sacramento for just a month before I walked into a planning advisory committee meeting thinking I’d walk out with an approval for my first restaurant,” McNeill recalled. “There were 50 people in there, and I was the only topic on the agenda. I walked out with a veto.”

He spent five years out west, developed two small strip centers and a relationship with a net lease platform before he returned to Oklahoma City and found it had changed considerably. The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building had resulted in higher sales taxes for public improvements. New businesses moved in as the town sprang back to life, as did the NBA’s Thunder. High-income residents and housing developments dotted the outskirts of OKC, and McNeill began thinking bigger than strip centers.

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Ryan McNeill

Next September, in concert with Veritas Development, McNeill will open the first phase of Oak, a high-end mixed-use center near the intersection of I-44 and the Northwest Expressway north of downtown. It will encompass 135,000 square feet of retail, a 132-key boutique Lively Hotel, 320 apartments and a central green space set to host 100-plus events per year.

Oak’s star-studded opening cast of retail tenants includes RH, Capital Grille, Williams Sonoma, Tommy Bahama Marlin Bar, Pottery Barn and Arhaus. Phase two eyes plans for an additional 85,000 square feet of retail and 100,000 square feet of loft office space.

McNeill borrowed heavily from the game plan used by the award-winning Avalon center in Alpharetta, Ga., in plotting his ultimate retail-based center.

“Avalon is 100 acres. We are 20 acres. You can look at Oak as if it’s like taking the retail portion out of Avalon,” he said. “We’re on Main and Main, and Simon’s Penn Square Mall is across the street. If you were to come to Oklahoma City and plant one flag for a project like this it would be here.”

McNeill sees Oak as a retail coming-of-age story for his hometown.

“The city has a 30-year year history of growth and stability, but it hasn’t added a retail destination like Oak during that period,” he maintained. “It’s a special convergence moment for someone who grew up here, moved away, studied the best mixed-use projects in the country, and then brought one home.”

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