By Thomas Berger
August 4, 2020

Kelly Center revitalization focused on building community among tenants

In January, Rock Capital Partners purchased the Kelly Center in Edmond and is renovating the space.

Location. Location. Location. That’s the age old cliche used by many in real estate. Why? Because a property’s placement, whether commercial or residential, is used as the prime determiner for the value of a property.

But location, no matter how great, has little value if it doesn’t have the community and relationships to support it and to help it to thrive to its full potential. 

It is under this idea that Rock Capital Partners, an Oklahoma City-based real-estate investment and management company, in January purchased the Kelly Center in Edmond and is currently renovating the space to attract more community interaction and foster relationships.

Updating the look

Andrew DeRamus, Matthew Hodge, and Ted Holmes with Rock Capital Partners (Photo: Thomas Berger)

Situated on the 600 block of S. Kelly Avenue, just south of the 2nd Street intersection, the Kelly Center shopping center had location going for it, according to Ted Holmes, managing partner at Rock Capital. It just didn’t have good looks.

“I had seen the building and had been in several of the tenant spaces for years and always thought it was a great location. The building just needed a lot of work to update it to something the area deserved,” he said.

Built in the early 2000s, the shopping center offers 42,000 square feet of space, with 70 percent now occupied. 

The center is unique in that each unit offers a storefront area in the front for office or retail use and garage space in the back. 

“We really like having the diversity of the building the way it is so we can appeal to people wanting office and industrial space or just store front and retail,” said Holmes.

Holmes said the corner on Kelly and 2nd is the third busiest intersection in Edmond, behind the 2nd and 33rd intersections with Broadway.

“You get a lot of traffic flow that basically takes Kelly all the way to Broadway extension. So you have an extremely large amount of traffic that passes through on Kelly,” he said.

So while location has been optimal for businesses operating out of the Kelly Center, the building’s design elements had left much to be desired.

“We heard a lot of feedback from tenants where they felt the color scheme was outdated, and the signage on the building and the monument sign out front didn’t really serve them,” said Holmes. 

He explained many tenants told him the main reason they leased at the center was the low cost of rent.

“The previous owners were relying on cheap rent in order to fill some of the space instead of doing some of the things we felt like we could change to get it to be a more attractive and usable space.”

So what are those things being done?

In June, Rock Capital began its work to breathe new life into the outdated and easily ignored shopping center. 

Providing tenants better service

Among the changes made were some updates to the building’s facade, including staining the building’s brick red exterior to a charcoal black, the store front areas to a contrasting cream white color, and adding a new “wood-look” aluminum soffit system to cover up the building’s dated stair-step crown design. All the changes together give the building a clean, minimalistic yet bold look — essentially bringing the building out of the late 20th century architecturally and well into the 21st. 

Render of Kelly Center (Image provided)

Furthermore, tenants are receiving new roadside marketing, thanks to a new monument sign featuring not only the name of the center but also carrying designated space to display tenant business names. The former sign only bore the center’s name.

“This has been a big issue for a lot of the tenants,” Holmes said, saying the new sign should help draw more patrons to the shopping center.

Another problem has been the center’s landscaping, which concealed the shopping area from the road.  

“We’ve removed a lot of the bushes and the things that were keeping the visibility of the shopping center down,” said Holmes, explaining how new landscaping work will be completed once summer temperatures begin to subside.

Holmes said as the center was, people likely drove by everyday and likely never saw the businesses there due to the property’s condition. That won’t be an issue any more.

“I think there will be a lot of people that drive by on Kelly on a daily basis that will point to our shopping center or that will be asking next month or two going ‘What did that used to look like?’ or ‘What was that?’ because I think it’s going to be that dramatic of a change for people,” said Holmes.

“We just really want to give the tenants as much exposure as possible because their success is our success.”

What drew Rock Capital to this property most was its mix of service and retail businesses — all locally owned — qualities he and his partners want to preserve. 

“Our goal is to try to keep as many locally owned businesses as we can,” he said, adding that as rents had been pretty low, Rock Capital will be able to offer affordable rent rates to new tenants, but now giving them spaces comparable to the Bryant and Spring Creek shopping centers at almost half the price.

A major focus is to foster relationships and community between the center’s tenants.

Holmes, himself the vice-president at HotelBrokerOne, an Edmond-based commercial property broker dealing primarily in hotels, draws from his 12 years’ experience in commercial real estate, and particularly in hotels, to help shape Rock Capital’s interaction with its tenants.

“In hotels, it’s a daily lease,” he said, explaining how bad treatment of customers results in those customers not returning the next day. Unfortunately, with longer residential or commercial properties, tenants often never hear from their landlords again once a lease is signed, especially when they need service. 

In commercial properties especially, this lack of relationship and care between a landlord and tenants is bad for the tenants and, ultimately, bad for the landlord.

Ever since Rock Capital’s founding more than two-and-a-half years ago, Holmes and partners, Andrew DeRamus and Matthew Hodge, aim is to provide high service and to build meaningful relationships with their residential and commercial property tenants. 

The objective is the same at the Kelly Center.

“We don’t want our tenants just to hear from us on the day before their lease expires, trying to renew them for another however long. We want to have a relationship,” he said. “We want to have customer appreciation lunches . . . so we have a relationship with our tenants.”

Holmes mentioned how recently Rock Capital hosted a get-together where tenants could meet him and his partners while connecting with the other tenants and even touring each other’s spaces.

Community opportunity

Next, he would like to organize some community-focused events to draw people to the shopping center. 

“Eventually, we would like to have a little bit of a block party here where we can have a bunch of food trucks and some music and maybe have the dance studios do some dances for their family and friends,” said Holmes. “We are just kind of waiting for COVID.”

When it comes to the Kelly Center, while all the new upgrades and the updates give the well-situated but formerly forlorn shopping center new life and a new look, for Holmes and his partners, these improvements amount to simply treating tenants right and laying a foundation for a better community. 

“We want to provide community — that’s community among tenants and community with customers. We want our tenants to be able to share their customers. We want tenants to have good relationships with their neighbors because we want people to go where there’s community. People thrive in community,” said Holmes.

“We want to try and provide that place that people want to be. People were designed for and want to have community.”

Andrew DeRamus, Matthew Hodge, and Ted Holmes with Rock Capital Partners (Photo: Thomas Berger)

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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.