Employees of COOP Ale Works, community supporters and media members mill about the 23rd Street Armory on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. (William W. Savage III)

Built in 1938, the historic 23rd Street Armory’s next chapter has been made possible by legislative developments within the past two years.

COOP Ale Works expects to “take the keys” in September, director of sales and marketing Sean Mossman said this morning at a press conference.

The brewery will relocate its operations to the property’s main building while also developing a hotel and private event space inside. Mossman said the company hopes to complete the project in the fall of 2020.

“This opportunity wouldn’t be an opportunity without Sen. Stephanie Bice,” Mossman said to media and supporters inside the main three-story structure that was awarded to COOP after Oklahoman Management and Enterprise Services took bids for the property over the past year.

Mossman was referring to Oklahoma’s newly modified alcohol laws, which Bice championed. While the alcohol modernization statutes included in State Question 792 will begin Oct. 1, Senate Bill 424 in 2016 allowed for breweries to open tap rooms, something COOP will be doing inside the Armory’s 70,000-plus square foot space.

“(Alcohol modernization) was always about economic development,” Bice said Tuesday at the COOP event. “You have breweries that are opening up in cities across the state. Muskogee, Ponca City, Stillwater. This was an opportunity for those small communities to actually bring revitalization to their downtown communities, and also for rural communities to expand.”

Bice said her favorite COOP beer is the company’s F5 IPA.

‘A no-brainer’

COOP 23rd Street Armory
The 23rd Street Armory in Oklahoma City was once host to raves, wrestling matches and other community events. Now, it will be redeveloped into one of the state’s largest breweries. (William W. Savage III)

By relocating its operations to the 23rd Street Armory, COOP will be doing just what Bice referenced: expanding.

Launched in 2009, the brewery produced about 14,000 barrels of beer last year, Mossman said. While it’s on pace for closer to 20,000 this year, COOP’s current location would max out around 35,000 barrels in coming years.

“When this became available, it was a no-brainer for us,” Mossman said.

COOP put in two of the only three bids OMES received, according to Shelley Zumwalt, the agency’s director of public affairs.

The winning bid mixed parts of COOP’s two proposals and will ultimately result in a rentable private event space on the east portion of the building’s third floor along with a 22-room boutique hotel on the west side of that level. A new patio along the edifice will allow a view of surrounding areas, which have seen tremendous redevelopment in recent years.

“We just hope to build on what’s already been started,” Mossman said of the Uptown 23rd area.

Zumwalt said OMES is “thrilled” with COOP’s plans for the historic property, even though three smaller buildings will be demolished to increase surface parking. She said the request for purchase proposals included no requirement that the buildings be retained.

“That means there was a chance [a bidder] could have razed the whole thing,” Zumwalt said.

Instead, COOP — which will purchase the property for $600,000 and lease two smaller buildings nearby — will oversee the investment of about $20 million for the project, which Mossman said will use historic tax credits to support financing.

‘I always thought it was cool’

Stephen Tyler, manager of the Tower Theatre just down 23rd Street from the new COOP project, attended Tuesday’s announcement and recalled his experiences at the Armory roughly 15 years ago.

“One of the more memorable raves I went to was here, and mostly it was (memorable) just because it was so big. They had all these little rooms where there were different DJ’s,” Tyler said. “I always thought it was cool.

“I’m actually surprised at how good it looks in here because in my head it’s been an abandoned building for two decades”

(Clarification: This story was updated at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 17, to clarify comments from Shelley Zumwalt.)