The city has selected a developer to design and build a Route 66 mixed-use development on two acres of city-owned land at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside Drive.
If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the city has been here before. In 2015, then-Mayor Dewey Bartlett announced that the Route 66 Alliance would build a $19.5 million Route 66 interpretive center on the site.
The Route 66 Experience never got off the ground due to a lack of funding. And after flirting briefly with building the project near 11th Street and Lewis Avenue, the city last year went looking for new development proposals that could be constructed at the original site along the Arkansas River, across the street from Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza.
Developer David Sharp was ready, and on Friday the city will formally announce that Sharp Development has been selected to do the project.
“All of the proposals were excellent, and so we had a lot of great ideas to choose from,” said City Attorney Jack Blair, who served on the selection committee while in his former role as the city’s chief operating officer. “But for the Sharp proposal, one, it is very eye-catching.”
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Nothing is more eye-catching about the proposed development than its multi-story classic car vending machine, which will stand in front of the hotel and interpretive center facing historic Route 66.
Visitors will be able to rent the classic cars to take them for a spin along historic Route 66.
The project is expected to open in mid-2026 to coincide with the Route 66 centennial.
Kimberly Honea, vice president of hospitality and development for Sharp Development, said the company focused on creating a sustainable project that would capture the hearts of travelers for generations to come.
“With this in mind, we feel our ‘Ride the Road’ experience is thinking outside the box,” Honea said. “We want our travelers to get their kicks on Route 66 (by) offering multiple classic car rentals in a neon lit glass tower.
“Not only will it be a destination site unlike any other, but it will also be visually remarkable.”
The exterior of the hotel and interpretive center will include neon and other classic Route 66 design elements, creating a large-scale illuminated facade.
Plans call for the second floor of the hotel and interpretive center to include 17,000 square feet of outdoor terrace and amphitheater space that will face the Arkansas River, along with restaurants and a glass-enclosed event center.
The first level will have themed retail, including bike rentals and other businesses.
The 40-room hotel is expected to be named Hotel Avery, after the “Father of Route 66,” Cyrus Avery. On the top three floors of the six-story building will be 55 apartments, including one-story, two-story and studio units.
“The exterior and interior thematic elements of the entire project allow us to showcase the Route 66 portion of our city and state on a whole new exciting level,” Honea said.
David Sharp has been building in Tulsa for decades. His work includes $4.5 million in projects along Route 66, and $15 million in buildings and land in the Riverview neighborhood where the Route 66 development will be constructed.
Blair said that experience — along with how the Selser Schaefer Architects-designed project took into account the needs and concerns of neighborhood residents — played a key role in the selection committee’s decision.
“We paid a lot of attention to scale because we want to make sure this development fits in well with the neighborhood,” he said. “We didn’t want to overwhelm the neighborhood, so that was an important consideration.”
Honea said the Riverview neighborhood is near and dear to the Sharp Development team and that it is committed to working with all neighborhood residents and businesses to ensure that the project is a positive addition for everyone.
“We live, work, have kiddos in the local school and are actively involved in the neighborhoods,” she said. “We will ensure our neighbors are heard in the process of this construction and after its opening.
“The overall architectural design focus was to ensure the neighborhood was not cannibalized by the site, but still visually attractive to Route 66.”
The selection committee included City Councilors Jeannie Cue — who also sits on the Route 66 Commission — and Kara Joy McKee, who represents the district in which the project will be built, as well as Dennis Whitaker with the Tulsa Planning Office and Casey Stowe with the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity.
The other developers to respond to the city’s request for proposals (RFP) were Continental Overseas LLC, Ross Group Development and Hund Capital.
Proposals were scored on a 100-point system based on the following standards: Understands and represents the RFP’s goals (maximum 30 points); developer qualifications and experience (maximum 30 points); financial resources (maximum 30 points); and conforms to submission requirements (maximum 10 points).
McKee said she is looking forward to discussing the project with her constituents.
“Sharp’s creative ways to showcase Route 66 really rocked,” she said. “The other finalist (Hund Capital) was also excellent, and I want to see what they do next.
“Sharp’s familiarity with the area and experience also gave me confidence that they will definitely go above and beyond to collaborate with the Riverview neighborhood.
Blair said Sharp’s proposal is based on reasonable financial assumptions that gave committee members confidence the project will get done. The city is contributing $5 million toward the project, funds Blair said would not be released until the city is sure the project will be built.
“We wouldn’t commit public funds or the property without commitments on the other side,” he said.