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First National Center in Oklahoma City seeks spot on National Register of Historic Places

OKLAHOMA CITY - It will take $235 million to renovate the First National Center in downtown Oklahoma City. It's a hefty price to preserve this downtown landmark, but the owners say they are getting some help from tax credits.

It cost more than $3 million to build the impressive structure back in the early 1930s. Now, it will take hundreds of millions of dollars to bring it back to its former glory.

"One of the reasons First National has not been redeveloped is that the budget to make it work is just so high. In fact, it's about $100 million more than if we were just dealing with dirt,” Gary Brooks, president of Cornerstone Development, said.

One year ago, Gary Brooks took on the daunting task in a labor of love.

"It's hard not to fall in love with it. It becomes kind of an emotional project as much as financial and it's something that's important to the city," Brooks said.

For something so significant, it may be astonishing to find out that it's not already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a designation that would qualify the project for a 20% historic tax credit.

"I was very surprised. I think most people would assume that First National Center would have been on the historic register, but nobody made the application," he said.

Through tax dollars earmarked to help revitalize districts, and a New Markets Tax Credit, they were able to get some help. They were awarded $18 million in federal tax credits because it is considered a distressed area.

Now, Brooks' team is working on getting this art deco beauty on the National Register of Historic Places. It's already gone through the state process and they're hoping to get it approved on the federal level by mid-April and use those historic tax credits after all.

The nearly 1 million square-feet of space will be home to a hotel, apartments, retail and restaurants as well as a parking garage when it's complete.

They're hoping it will be ready by July of 2020.