OKLAHOMA CITY – Posters from ITT Tech are peeling off the walls at the school’s former space in 50 Penn Place. The cabinets and desks are still in place. Framed posters feature student testimonials about how the school changed people’s lives.
The space has been vacant since September 2016, when ITT Tech abruptly closed all of its campuses. People grabbed their personal belongings and left.
At 50 Penn Place, 1900 Northwest Expressway, the school occupied space on the north and south sides of the third floor, totaling about 19,000 square feet.
A couple of years ago, Epic Charter Schools had looked at combining its Oklahoma City campuses under one roof and considered 50 Penn Place. But they passed, continuing to operate and grow.
Now, the online-based charter school has reached capacity at its three buildings in the city’s northwest sector. It needs more space, so the school is leasing all of the former ITT space. Staff members will start moving into the space in about 60 days, said Ben Harris, Epic’s co-founder.
Price Edwards & Co. Retail Investment Team broker George Williams completed the transaction. The center and tower are owned by In-Rel Properties, based in Florida.
By 2020, the school will move into an additional 20,000 square feet on 50 Penn’s third floor. This will make Epic’s Oklahoma City square footage 80,000 square feet, with its three buildings and 50 Penn Place. Harris said before the move in 2020, the school will evaluate whether it will keep its three old buildings or move everyone to 50 Penn.
Harris said it is appropriate that the school is moving back into a mall since it once had space in North Park Mall.
Moving into 50 Penn came with several advantages, said David Chaney, school co-founder and superintendent. It offered plentiful parking, which will be helpful for employees, students and parents.
Epic considers itself a blended learning school. While some activity is done online, students still have to come to the buildings to take tests, or they can meet with teachers.
The location was also an asset, Chaney said. Epic’s Oklahoma City campus is in its second year of operating a learning center for elementary-school-aged children. Parents can drop their students off at the school and not have to pick them up until 6 p.m. Being on Northwest Expressway and still in the northwest sector will be helpful to parents, he said.
Since Epic is occupying a former school, it will be able to save on furniture costs.
“Everything is in great shape,” Harris said.
The ITT space offers a variety of room sizes, which will give Epic enough areas for student testing and teacher meetings. The school gives the required state tests, as well as its own quarterly benchmark assessments.
When Epic is ready to move into the other 20,000 square feet, the mall space will be redesigned. The existing Urban Market restaurant will remain.
Epic has spoken with HSE architecture firm and Smith & Pickel construction about updating the space. The renovation will start in spring 2019.
With Epic in 50 Penn, the retail center has 75 percent occupancy. The office tower is 90 percent occupied.
Williams said it made sense to go after a nontraditional retail tenant because retail hasn’t been successful at 50 Penn in several years. There’s still 30,000 square feet to fill at 50 Penn, Williams said.
“When Epic came along, it was a perfect for what the landlord wanted, and what Epic wanted, too,” he said.
Harris said the 50 Penn staple Full Circle Bookstore is a great amenity to the new space as well, and can also be a place where students meet with teachers.
“We feel like 50 Penn is a good place for our employees, too,” Chaney said.