Keep it local. Shop local. Buy local.
These have been nearly mantras in recent years as the “shop local” movement has gained increasing popularity as more people seek to support their local communities through buying and using services from local independent businesses instead of large retail stores and franchises.
While this has been true in Edmond as much as anywhere else. keeping it local requires making it local, especially when much of what a community has to offer is largely limited to chains and franchises.
Making it local has been the vision and mission of one Edmond-based development company for Edmond.
“In our opinion, the key to any successful real estate development is ‘Live. Work. Play,’” said Grant Group Commercial Real Estate principal Chris Anderson. “If you can get people living in an area, working in an area and having entertainment in an area, if you can’t get it all in one building, then try to get it all close to each other so they all feed off each other.”
Getting it in all or mostly in one building and within close proximity of that building is exactly what Grant Group did with the opening of one of its more recent projects — Park 17 in downtown Edmond.
Situated at the northwest corner of 5th Street and Littler Avenue, in the middle of Edmond’s entertainment district, this 3-story mixed-use building features retail space on the ground floor and apartments on the second and third floors — 17 residential units in all.
“Our amenities are different than most other communities, “ said Anderson. Park 17 doesn’t have an elevator, gym or pool: however, we have restaurants, bars and a grocery store are within easy walking distance, he explained, and more, Stephenson Park is just across the street.
“We have found that it’s for people that want that urban feel but they don’t want to live in Oklahoma City.”
Opening in May in Park 17’s retail space was Nashbird Chicken, the Oklahoma-based Nashville-style chicken establishment’s first expansion out of Automobile Alley in Oklahoma City. Serving spicy chicken, chicken strips, mac-and-cheese and other staples, Nashbird Chicken, he said, is perfect for a quick bite or for a family outing. Anderson said it’s easy to order a bucket of chicken and take it across the street to enjoy the park.
Next in the lineup as a possible commercial tenant is an unannounced dessert concept, leaving another 2,000 square feet of retail space available for leasing.
If tenants are not feeling like chicken or desert, it’s just a short stroll east from Park 17 down 5th Street where there is Hideaway Pizza, Tamashii Ramen and Skinny Slim’s. These buildings Anderson and his business partner Casey Massegee purchased in 2015 as part of their “keep it Edmond” vision and recently added to those properties with the purchase of the old Parkway Cleaners and all the single story buildings there except for the French restaurant.
“We are currently gutting the most recent purchase and that will soon be available for some more restaurants and retailers.”
Additionally, the Grant Group is working on a new townhouse project two blocks north of Park 17 and another mixed-use property nearby on 4th Street and Boulevard.
Anderson said the area has lots of retail and plans for more restaurants, all of which he want to support.
“We can make all these places more successful, if they have more people living here. Every one of the retailers is going to benefit from the housing we put down here because those (tenants) are going to be their customers.”
Perhaps some their more well known recent work in Edmond is the Edmond Railyard, formerly a lumber yard, renovated and opening last year featuring seven restaurant spaces, a couple of office spaces as well as large common areas and a 10,000-square-foot covered patio. Restaurants include a craft bar, wood fired pizza, a Korean barbeque, hot wings, street tacos, gourmet hamburgers and an ice cream shop, all locally based. The two office spaces are lease to a local energy company and a human resources company.
The Railyard, Anderson said, is just phase one, Grant Group just announcing phase two where the company has purchased and is renovating the rest of the block to the east — four buildings which they plan to split into seven different businesses.
“We have four of those seven already leased,” he said, saying some tenants are restaurants and some retailers, including one bookstore. “Commonplace Books just announced… they are going to be one of our retailers.”
“So we have a handful of projects scheduled for here (near Park 17) and we have a handful of projects scheduled for over there (downtown Edmond proper). This is where we focus,” said Anderson, explaining because as Grant Group self manages its own properties, they want all of their properties to be located close to their downtown Edmond office to make managing easier.
“We are creating a demand so people want to be down here. We talk to people almost daily who want to be down here,” said Anderson. He said part of creating demand is being very selective of their tenants, not allowing dispensaries into their retail spaces, for example, and limiting the number of various kinds of offering.
“We won’t lease to someone that will directly compete to one of our tenants,” he said, listing off pizza, ramen and dessert places as examples.
“It’s good for us and good for our tenants.”
Asked about how COVID-19 affected Grant Group and especially the opening of Park 17, Anderson said the epidemic and resulting shutdowns and distancing measures caused delays, but these weren’t entirely bad either.
“I don’t want to say we benefited from COVID by any means, but I think that people being cooped up in the house made it so when everything lifted, that they were just ready to get out,” he said.
Grant Group waited until April 27 to open Park 17 for leasing. Since then, the apartments have been going fast.
“We probably started showing on May 1, so the very first person we showed I think moved in three days after we showed them,” he said, saying only a handful of apartments remain un-leased.
As for the commercial side of their properties, some of their tenants closed but others, like Nashbird’s, delayed their openings while others, mostly restaurants, almost all moved to providing to-go service during the shutdown.
The biggest challenge of the opening Park 17 wasn’t necessarily COVID-19, it was construction, according to Anderson
“Nothing happens fast,” he said, saying Grant Group purchased the property for Park 17 in 2016 and it didn’t open until spring 2020.
“Think about that. That’s a really long time!” he said, recalling the initial process of buying the land, drawing the plans and submitting them to the city.
“Our plans sat at the city for six months,” said Anderson, saying Park 17 was the first building in Edmond with retail on the ground floor and apartments on top. “We had full support from the city, the planning commission and the city council. We had no hurdles at all from that side. It still took that long because they had never seen anything like this. It took over six months to get it back from the city.”
But now that Park 17 is complete, it’s just a matter of filling these spaces up and adding more attractions and businesses around it to create this small “stay in Edmond” economic ecosystem.
A lot of that is here already, said Anderson, mentioning the newly opened Frenzy Brewing Company, The Mule, 1884 and other attractions, all easily reached by walking or even quicker, a rental scooter. People can ride from their residences in downtown Edmond to any of these attractions within a matter of minutes.
Generally, that is the vision he and Casey have for Edmond — that if people want to stay in Edmond to live, to work and to play … and travel by scooter so if they so desire, they can.
“I try to not leave Edmond,” said Anderson. “My goal and Casey’s goal is to not leave Edmond. We are tired of driving to Chisholm or Midtown or whatever to experience a cool local concept.”
He said before the Edmond Railyard and the development work on 5th Street, Edmond just didn’t have many locally owned and operated restaurants, but had primarily just chains and franchises.
“That is just not where I want to go anymore and a lot of our friends feel the same,” said Anderson, saying their objective is to keep bringing local restaurants and retailers up from Oklahoma City so people in Edmond don’t have to drive to Oklahoma City anymore.
“I don’t want to leave Edmond. If you want to go down there, that’s fine, but our goal is to have everything that’s cool in OKC up here so you don’t have to leave.”
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About Thomas Berger
Thomas Berger is the owner of Ciskus Creative, an Edmond-based creative agency focused on creating marketing content for small and medium-sized businesses.
Prior to starting his own company, he worked as the communications/marketing specialist for an Oklahoma City-based office technology company. Former to coming to the Oklahoma City area, he had worked as a career journalist for more than a decade — initially reporting for several newspapers in western North Carolina and northeastern Oklahoma and later as a multimedia journalist for KJRH Channel 2 in Tulsa.
Thomas has lived in Edmond with his wife Alison since 2013. He has a passion for traveling, photography, learning languages, landscaping and coffee roasting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Western Carolina University.