Tulsa developer Rob Phillips tooled around the Eastgate Metroplex in a golf cart Monday, pointing out just how far the former indoor mall had come since its demise in the early 2000s.
“This is what you’re left with in these old malls when retail doesn’t work anymore,” Phillips said. “What do you do with them?”
In Phillips’ case, plenty.
The new cost for doing business in Tulsa.
Starting with the first of three purchases of property about 13 years ago, he was instrumental in converting the mall into a mega-office complex called Eastgate Metroplex, 14002 E. 21st St. The roughly million-square-foot center now houses thousands of employees and has about two dozen tenants, including Fortune 500 companies such as Capital One and Coca-Cola.
“What a great thing for Tulsa to turn a dinosaur into having 7,500 jobs on a daily basis,” Phillips said. “It’s kind of like Woodland Hills Mall at Christmastime every single day.
“It was a very expensive process and very time-consuming. From a leasing capacity and build-out capacity, everything is brand new.”
Phillips, managing partner of EG Ventures LLC, and EG-DP Ventures LLC, announced Monday that he has sold Eastgate to Brooklyn-based Shelbourne Global Solutions for about $64 million. The property was about 93% occupied at the time of sale, Phillips said.
Gerry Chauvin, a development consultant who helped Phillips fill Eastgate, will remain that same capacity with Shelbourne.
During the early days of the mall’s transformation, Phillips remembers trying to court Coca-Cola to a space that had grass growing in it because the roof had fallen in.
“Gerry jokes that we bought 90 acres of land, and they threw in a mall for free,” Phillips said of his mall purchase, which amounted to about $4 million. “Because that’s really what it was. Nobody wanted it. Everybody else was going to tear it down.”
Eastland Mall opened in 1986. Construction had started in 1972 but was stopped, and the mall stood vacant for more than a decade. When it finally did open, the shopping center did well initially but started to lose tenants in 2001.
Chauvin, who had transformed defunct malls all over the country, was tasked to worked the same magic with Eastland, which, along with Phillips, he did. Other employers in Eastgate include Alorica, Enterprise Holdings and Hireright.
“It’s really one big shot in the arm for this area of Tulsa,” Phillips said. “It’s been a good contribution.
“It’s a little bit of a sleeper in Tulsa. Not a lot of people know about it. Quite frankly, if you stood this thing straight up, it’s as tall as the BOK Tower. You put that in perspective. If this was downtown or in south Tulsa, it would have been a whole other deal.”