- Associated Press - Sunday, April 6, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A building once slated for demolition and considered one of Uptown’s worst eyesores has caught its owner and future tenants by surprise as they tore off green-painted brick from the front of the former nightclub and discovered an intact art deco cast stone original facade.

The building at 2415 N Walker was for years home to clubs like Paseo Underground and the Bora Bora Club. Developer Jonathan Russell initially considered razing the building and a neighboring boarded-up former Texaco gas station and just renovating the main shopping center facing NW 23 just west of Walker Avenue into The Rise, an upscale mix of shops and restaurants.

“Before the concept of the shopping center sank in, we had more response to those two buildings,” Russell told The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/1gyhqx3). “It didn’t take us long to realize we were on the wrong track.”

The old Texaco is being redeveloped as “The Pump,” a bar and outdoor venue by Ian McDermid. Chris Lower and Kathryn Mathis, whose other restaurants on NW 23 include Big Truck Tacos, Mutts and Backdoor BBQ, eyed the former nightclub for their newest eatery, Pizzeria Gusto.

“We both love pizza, and the style I’ve always loved is the Neapolitan style,” Lower said. “It’s a certain dough, it’s a certain thickness, and the ingredients have to be sourced from certain places in the world. And nobody has done it here.”

The old nightclub was within walking distance of two of Lower and Mathis‘ other restaurants on NW 23 and also came with parking. Lower also supported Russell’s effort to redevelop a block that was best known as the home of a hotel furniture liquidation store.

“We knew the Rise was our best chance to get rid of something that was an eyesore and turn it into a centerpiece for 23rd,” Lower said “The freestanding building they had was the right size for us, and parking was important for us as we’ve had issues with our other restaurants.”

Neither Lower nor Russell knew of an original facade on the former nightclub that was hidden behind the green painted bricks. It was only when Lower had part of the shingled awning removed that he caught a glimpse of what awaited him.

“We saw this old art deco, cast stone and blonde brick and we were pretty excited,” Lower said. “There are a lot of unpleasant surprises that can be encountered. But this is in pretty good shape. We may need to fill some holes they drilled to install the ugly awning.”

Efforts to redevelop The Rise meanwhile have taken longer than first estimated, but Russell says the development is on track to start seeing its first tenants opening up by late spring. He is in talks to lease the last two remaining spaces, which, when leased, will bring the shopping center to 100 percent occupancy.

Gusto Pizza, which will be operated by Lower, Mathis and fellow restaurateur Shaun Fiaconne, is expected to open by August. The Rise, meanwhile, will include an upscale men’s and women’s clothing store, Red Square Apparel, which will be operated by the owners of Twisted Stitch in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Other tenants will include The Drake, an oyster bar restaurant to be operated by The Good Egg Group; an Old School Bagel shop; Fedora, a whiskey and cigar restaurant and lounge; Urban Tea house; Urban Core Pilates; Anytime Fitness; At the Beach tanning salon; Flashback Retropub, a furniture design store and a T-shirt design shop.

“It’s really shaping up to have some unique elements,” Russell said of the development.

“All of the discoveries are not fun, but all have been pleasant surprises of old aspects of this property.”

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