Developer rehabs building

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Property developer Eric Gomez shows commercial property he is remodeling in downtown Pawhuska. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

Property developer Eric Gomez was like a proud parent the other day with a toddler who had just learned to walk. He was in a mood to introduce his latest creation — the remodeling of the ground floor of a property in the 500 block of Kihekah Avenue between Osage Outfitters and the Gambill building.

“We hope we’ve given another hundred years of life to this building,” Gomez said, explaining he has seen photo images of the structure that go back as far as 1912. When he closed on the building last fall, there were no utilities, and it had been out of use going back to perhaps 2010 or 2011, he said. The ground-floor ceiling had fallen in, in two places, and renovating the building meant addressing numerous issues.

When he first got water service to the building, the old line lasted about two days before bursting, Gomez recalls, adding that the new water line has been set up and insulated in such a way that it should never freeze.

“I’m kind of proud of it, actually,” he said, regarding the way the water line has been engineered. He and his crew have also built a service mezzanine in the rear of the two-story building, between the first and second floors and out of sight of the tenant spaces, to facilitate maintenance and construction activities.

But what really gets him smiling and gesturing with his hands as he talks, is the subject of fixing up the first-floor ceiling that had fallen in. Gomez and his crew used an oil-based preservative to stop rust and encapsulate paint on the metal material of the ceiling.

“I think we achieved a pretty cool look,” he says.

The first floor is 1,790 square feet of space that he anticipates will probably be filled by a retail tenant. He had a tenant in mind, but wasn’t ready for an announcement just yet.

The second floor, which is a slightly larger space, he said, had still to be renovated and Gomez said he thinks a professional organization — such as a law firm — might be more likely to take an interest in that space when it is ready.

Gomez was also in the process of addressing the issue of Americans With Disabilities Act compliance for the building, and had considered more than one approach.

“I’ve got two plans on the table, and we’re kind of looking at where we’re going to go,” he said.

He said that he had been the first property developer to go before the now-defunct city historic preservation commission, which lasted only a few months. There had been some humor involved, he said, because his wife, Elle Jewell, was a member of that body and had to abstain from the discussion of and vote on his plans for the property.

Gomez said his plans for the upstairs included keeping an attractive wooden floor and installing a minimally invasive plumbing system. He also emphasized he has been careful to try to make the building as safe as possible for tenants and the public. He pointed out that he took care to ensure the concrete level inside and outside the front door was the same to avoid potential injuries.