This is the seventh installment in Inman’s “12 in ’21” hot neighborhoods series, which explores areas with both booming real estate markets and dense amenities. To read previous stories in the series, click here.
The wind isn’t the only thing sweeping down the plains in Oklahoma.
An affordable cost of living, robust job opportunities in the energy, aviation and biotechnology industries, a booming arts and entertainment scene, and a welcoming spirit that’s earned the city the nickname “The Big Friendly” have catapulted Oklahoma City to the 25th biggest metro in the nation — a huge achievement for a place that began as a wild pioneer town.
“To have finally arrived in the Top 25 is obviously a major milestone for our city,” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt told KFOR News last May. “People vote with their feet and your population growth is sort of the ultimate judgment of how well you’re doing as a city — whether you’re a place where people desire to live in and work in.
“We’ve been moving in the right direction for a good two decades now, and it’s always nice for us when these numbers come out because it’s usually a validation that what we’re doing is working,” Holt added. “People want to live here and they’re moving here.”
RE/MAX Preferred team leader Heather Davis said she’s experienced an uptick in out-of-state buyers (the metro approximately experienced 10,000 inbound moves in 2020). Some are natives who’ve decided to come back after years living on the coasts or who came for a temporary job assignment and fell in love with the city.
“I have a classmate that went to high school with me, and she went to USC film school in LA and has been living there for 30 years,” she said. “She and her husband are looking to buy something here as an investment property to start, but they want to be back here living full time within four years.”
“[Before the pandemic], people were already saying, ‘Oh, gosh, Oklahoma City is like Austin was 10 to 12 years ago,” she added. “We sell all over the metro, but Midtown is where it’s at.”
What is the Midtown District?
The Midtown District is a few miles northwest of downtown Oklahoma City and is sandwiched between I-235 and Classen Boulevard — one of the city’s longest and oldest thoroughfares that connects the north and south sides.
Midtown includes several historical neighborhoods and newly-minted micro-districts, such as Mesta Park, Gatewood, Classen Ten Pen, Park Plaza, Paseo, SoSA (the new name for an up-and-coming neighborhood south of St. Anthony’s Hospital) and the Asian District.
“I remember when Oklahoma City really laid out all those districts that they were going to do, and it was like ‘Well, that’s cool. We’ll see if people actually start calling them by those names,’” Davis explained. “And look at us now. We kind of take for granted that’s only been going on for the last 15 years.”
“When out-of-towners come here, I think they get a good feel for where to go,” she added. “It’s like, ‘Oh if I’m in my 20s and I’m going to go out and sit on my patio with all my friends, I’m going to the Midtown area and the entertainment district.’ It’s just now really taking hold.”
The Midtown District is a place for up-and-coming young professionals with small households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data. The average resident is 32 years old and pulls in a median annual salary of $48,373. Midtown has 22,551 residents and only covers 5.1 square miles, making it one of Oklahoma City’s most densely populated areas.
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Although Midtown is small, it has more than enough amenities to keep residents’ schedules packed between restaurant happy hours, outdoor music festivals, sidewalk bazaars hosted by local retailers, and several well-known annual events, such as the Paseo Arts Festival and the Oklahoma City Arts Festival, happening each summer.
“You’ve got nightlife, you’ve got retail, you’ve got bakeries, you’ve got coffee shops and you’ve got tree-lined streets,” Sage Sotheby’s International Realty Managing Broker Rob Allen told Inman. “Of course, you’ve got the new streetcar system, which still needs some work, but is cool, right?!”
“Then you’re a stone’s throw away from catching a Thunder game or a Dodgers game in Bricktown,” he added. “Then you can hop in an Uber and get over to Park Plaza real quick for a bite to eat. [Midtown] is so central and there’s a lot of new development.”
A portion of the development is due to private real estate investors remodeling old commercial and multifamily residential buildings, Allen said. However, part of the development boom has been led by Oklahoma City’s 28-year-old MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) program.
Since 1993, residents have continually renewed a one-cent sales tax to fund the renovation of cultural, sports, recreation, entertainment and convention facilities across the city. “Using a pay-as-you-go structure allowed Oklahoma City to build world-class facilities without the burden of debt for future generations and city leaders,” the MAPS homepage reads.
Midtown benefitted from the third iteration of the program called MAPS 3, which included a new streetcar system, the construction of the city’s largest public park, a new convention center and upgrades to the Thunder arena. These upgrades have spurred new interest in the Midtown area, with a locally owned film studio and the Omni luxury hotel chain setting up shop a few minutes away in nearby Bricktown.
“People don’t really know what it’s like here, and then when they get here, they’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I do want to live here,’” Davis said of all the development. “It’s just been it’s been very different from what it was 10 years ago. I mean, we are seeing the Californians move here. It’s an exciting time to be here.”
Midtown real estate
Chamberlain Realty agent Adalia Sosanya said Midtown has a diverse property mix, with homebuyers looking for new construction, century-old historic mansions, condominiums, small multifamily buildings or a fixer-upper being able to find what they want.
“Looking at from that hot commodity standpoint, there’s definitely an audience for people that are desiring that access to be able to walk, shop, eat and just walk back to their home,” she said. “So we’re definitely seeing that trend in Oklahoma, which I think is unique.”
“I’m starting to see more of a unique buyer that’s arrived, even in areas like Mesta Park [in Midtown],” she added. “Traditionally that area has been known for seniors and people that have been in their homes for a long time. But we’re starting to see a trend with new millennial buyers going there.”
“There’s a little bit of something for everybody.”
Realtor.com, Zillow and Redfin’s May annual home price growth projections for Oklahoma City range between 6.3 percent and 15.8 percent with the median sales price hovering between $200,000 and $230,000. Between the three platforms, Redfin offered the most bullish view of Oklahoma City’s real estate, with a 78 out of 100 score on buyer competitiveness.
“Many homes get multiple offers, some with waived contingencies, and the average homes sell for around list price and go pending in around four days,” Redfin noted. Hot homes can sell for about 3 percent above list price and go pending in around two days.”
Davis said homes in Midtown have been selling like hot cakes well before the pandemic, with her team having to “dig deep” to find available listings in the area’s historic Mesta Park, Crown Heights, Edgemere Park, and Crestwood neighborhoods.
“We were having to really dig deep even before the pandemic started. We were calling fellow agents just to see if anything was coming available,” she said of Edgemere Park and Crown Heights. “Those neighborhoods were getting [offers] close to $200 a foot because they were historic and had all these gorgeous features.”
“On the other hand, the outlying [neighborhoods in Midtown] were not quite surging in demand,” she added. “Well now, Crestwood and Gatewood and all those other outliers are seeing the kind of price per square foot you’d see in Edgemere. It’s kind of mind-blowing.”
Redfin shows 14 available listings in the Midtown District, including a $254,000 condominium in a 75-year-old renovated multifamily building, a $549,000 newly-built townhome, and a $1.16 million townhome in an upcoming luxury development. The cheapest listing is a $140,000 condominium in Classen Glen, one of Midtown’s oldest condo communities.
Inman-requested listing data for Midtown’s three ZIP codes revealed there’s even less existing single-family home inventory in the area. As of June 13, Homesnap data showed three available listings in Midtown, with one new listing recently added to the market. Zillow data for Midtown ZIP code 73106 (there was no data for 73103 or 73102) showed 54 available listings as of May 1.
Homesnap’s median listing and sales price data for Midtown was on par with city-wide estimates provided by Redfin, Zillow and realtor.com. However, Zillow data’s median listing price for 73106 was $349,133 — $150,000 more than the city-wide median listing price.
“There are multiple-offer situations everywhere, but especially in [Midtown] SoSA,” Allen said. “Even some of the condos or townhomes that have been built, you’re in the $400 per square foot, which is record-setting in Oklahoma City.”
“Inventory is low across all price points,” he added.
Davis said buyers are turning toward fixer-uppers in Midtown, which are primarily a mix of craftsman and bungalow-style homes built more than 50 years ago.
“I had one client who lived in Edmond in a very nice neighborhood and she is the CEO of OU Medicine,” she said. “She wanted to move closer to [OU Medicine] and we never could find her a lot in Gatewood.”
“She ended up buying a $200,000 house that was everything short of being torn down,” she added. “She kind of overpaid for that house, but she saw the future [of the area] and decided it was worth it.”
Midtown rental market
The Midtown District isn’t only a hotspot for homebuyers. Renters are clamoring to get their spot in one of the area’s relatively new apartment buildings or renovated duplexes or fourplexes. With nearby OU Medicine, Devon, Sandridge and Sandstone energy companies, and an expansive downtown business district, Midtown is a prime location for the city’s young professionals.
The median rent in Oklahoma City increased 5 percent year over year to $856, according to RentCafe’s latest estimate. Zillow’s rental data for Midtown ZIP code 73106 showed a median rent of $870 — $14 higher than the city average. However, a quick search on Trulia, Apartment Guide and other rental platforms show rents trending well over $1,000.
A one-bedroom apartment at The Edge, which is one of Midtown’s newer complexes, costs $1,358 per month, and larger units are going for more than $2,500 per month. Nearby renovated duplexes and fourplexes are renting for well over $900, with the most desirable units garnering $1,000 rents.
Realtor Lauren Guhl said the rental market across the city is heating up, with even the most qualified renters unable to snatch up a single-family home or multifamily unit. “It has nothing to do with income either or credit scores. People with 750-800 credit scores are getting rejected,” Guhl told Fox25 in May. “I have never seen anything like this.”
Although Midtown is only 5.1 square miles, there are nearly 300 local retail, restaurants, hotels, music venues and galleries in the area. Dust Bowl bowling alley, Midtown Mutts Dog Park and Kaiser’s Grateful Bean Cafe are family favorites, while outdoor beer venue Bleu Garten, Kong’s Cantina and Chill, and a plethora of hangout spots in nearby Paseo and Film Row are favorites for Oklahoma City’s millennial crowd.
“What surprises [out-of-state buyers] the most as they really get out is all of our wonderful, locally-owned restaurants,” Davis said. “That seems to be a consensus across all income brackets and all age groups because obviously, we have so many great places to gather and eat.”
In addition to restaurants and entertainment, Oklahoma City’s leaders have invested millions of dollars in making Midtown and the nearby area into a true destination hotspot. In addition to a revamped streetcar system and new bike lanes to improve walkability, the city opened Scissortail Park — the city’s largest public park and outdoor entertainment space.
“This park provides citizens and visitors with a variety of recreation activities, including concerts, walking/biking/running trails, picnic sites, youth sports fields, play areas, a 3.7-acre lake, public art, interactive water features, and outdoor education opportunities, in addition to promoting a more healthy lifestyle,” Visit OKC’s Scissortail Park homepage read. “While the first 36 acres opened in 2019, the remaining 40 acres will open in 2022 just south of the Skydance Bridge.”
The city has announced a host of other MAPS-funded and privately-funded projects for 2021, including the repurposing of the 23rd Street Armory into a state-of-the-art brewhouse and 34-room boutique hotel. LGBTQ community landmark Hotel Habana will go through a renaissance of its own, turning into an all-inclusive entertainment venue with two pools, a nightclub, restaurants, a lounge bar, billiards and darts.
The most-awaited project is the reopening of First National Bank as a mixed-use development with luxury apartments, condominiums, hotel rooms and retail spaces. Although First National Bank is technically in downtown Oklahoma City’s business district, it’s only a few blocks away from Midtown’s top neighborhoods.
Sonsanya is most excited about Scissortail Park and the development opportunities for the remaining 40 acres that have yet to open.
“If there was some land that could be developed, that would allow for [another] community farmers market,” she said. “The millennial generation has so many skill sets and a desire to eat plant-based and protect the environment.”
“People want a home that complements their lifestyle, where they can easily walk to their local coffee shop and grocery store,” she added. “I would love to see that kind of development trend happening downtown where we can have a forward-thinking kind of community where people see not just homes, but an opportunity to care for themselves and the world.”
Which area is the next hotspot?
Although the spotlight is on Midtown, all three agents said Oklahoma City is tapping into its pioneer spirit to expand quicker than ever before. Davis said the city’s northwest region is experiencing a mini renaissance of its own as buyers aim to bring a modern touch to decades-old suburbs.
“In the city proper, Quail Creek just has always been a solid neighborhood and it’s a huge neighborhood,” she said. “People there enjoy the NW122nd quadrant and getting over to Chisholm Creek and all the retail and restaurant experiences available there.”
“We’re really seeing prices go up in that area and [homes] sell very quickly to people that are wanting four or five bedrooms, as they’re having families,” she added. “The Greens and Val Verde are all coming to life again, too. Those were popular when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s.”
Sosanya is equally as excited about northwest Oklahoma City, especially due to Chisholm Creek, a small development with family-friendly dining and entertainment experiences. There’s buzz about Chisholm Creek transforming into a mixed-use model with rental and for-sale inventory, which would be a unique experience for the suburban area.
“COVID has pretty much redefined and restructured the way we see housing and the way how you can attain it, and I think Oklahoma is desirable for its affordability,” she explained. “We have a lot more amenities that we’re offering now, especially with the Chisholm Creek area. That’s where I live.”
“It’s one of my favorite parts of the city,” she added. “We’ve added a lot of new restaurants that are there and mixed-use spaces, and property values all over have gone up all over our state.”
Allen is most excited about growing neighborhoods near Midtown, including Film Row, Deep Deuce, Automobile Alley and the Wheeler District. “There’s some projects coming up around those areas,” he said.” I can see a more residential downtown experience.”
Davis, Sosanya and Allen said the pandemic has given buyers and visitors the opportunity to bust stereotypes about Oklahoma City as a place that’s stuck in the past.
“I’ve had buyers who thought they’d never live here,” Davis said. “They come for a temporary job assignment and think, ‘We’ll just be there for two years and leave.’ But they stayed when they had the opportunity to sell and move.”
Sonsanya said Oklahoma City offers buyers a plethora of living experiences, from the urban vibe of Midtown, to suburban living to multi-acre farmland on the city’s edge.
“It’s like you can go to one side of the city and see something that feels like you’re out in Colorado, and drive to the other side and feel like you’re in a major city,” she said. “There’s a little bit of something for everybody, which is very exciting.”