- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Flintco will soon begin a nine-month renovation that essentially makes a new office tower out of downtown Tulsa’s 90-year-old Avanti Building.

Working under plans by Tulsa’s Cyntergy AEC, Flintco will install new wiring, plumbing, lighting, boiler, heat pumps, and other infrastructure within the six-story concrete and steel structure, The Journal Record reported (https://bit.ly/1nYL04W ).

“What we’re trying to do is keep it as an open design building,” said Steve Caldwell, chief operating officer of the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa, which bought the 84,000-square-foot structure in February 2013. “We’ve stripped everything off the flooring, everything off the inside of the walls, everything out of the ceiling.”

The $5.9 million project will give First Presbyterian a high-tech warehouse-styled office product - something no one else offers downtown, said James E. Turner, Cyntergy’s director of architecture.

“For us, it’s an asset,” said Cyntergy President Greg Ward, whose firm will lease the second and third floors once Flintco completes its work. “We’ve always liked the idea of a warehouse-styled office. It’s really popular. We don’t have that many around the country.”

Yet another factor will separate these offices from most competitors: While First Presbyterian will operate it as a commercial office building, all of its profits will go to missions-oriented ministry.

“It’s not being done to support operating expenses or anything else at the church,” Caldwell said. “It’s simply a way for us to increase our giving in the local missions work.”

With its new energy-efficient windows, elevators and other systems helping lower operating costs, Caldwell projects that the fully leased building may generate $900,000 a year after expenses. That would effectively double the missions money raised by the First Presbyterian congregation.

“It’s all part of our overall ministry and giving,” Caldwell said, noting the church’s long history of missions work. “This is creating something that hopefully is self-sustaining as it goes forward.”

Reflecting these efforts, First Presbyterian has renamed Avanti the 8:10 Building. The number refers not to its address, 810 S. Cincinnati Ave., but to a verse in the New Testament, Romans 8:10: “But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.”

The symbolism in that verse touches upon a key factor that brought all this together.

First Presbyterian first considered buying the Avanti Building for the parking its 0.3 acres might provide.

“And I said, ‘Whoa, wait a minute; let me see what we can do,’” said Turner, who attends First Presbyterian and has worked with it on several building projects.

While the Avanti had a long history as an office building, no one cared for the light-gauge framing and drywall partitions subdividing its 14,000-square-foot floors. So they considered many conversion options, from a parking garage (it had once housed automotive dealerships) to storage to residential. But each option involved a downside.

As First Presbyterian hesitated, and Cyntergy pursued another headquarters lease, Turner said a broken water line flooded the empty building. With the insurance coverage allowing a complete gutting of the interior, church leadership found new emphasis to buy the structure - just as Cyntergy’s relocation plans abruptly fell apart.

Thus a drenching in water, often a symbol of faith and the Spirit, created opportunity and brought new life to that dead structure.

“The more they opened it up, the more excited we were about the space,” Ward said of the demolition. “It turned out to be every bit as bright and appealing as we had hoped.”

That emersion helped First Presbyterian create a physical endowment for missions, and Cyntergy to craft the headquarters its principals always wanted.

“You feel like what you’re doing is not just saving the building,” Ward said. “You’re furthering the church’s mission.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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