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Downtown Tulsa Celebrates Visitor Recovery, Growth in Hospitality Sector, While Looking to Housing Demand

April 18, 2024 — Visitors to Downtown Tulsa in 2023 exceeded pre-pandemic totals for the first time, according to the 2024 State of Downtown report by Downtown Tulsa Partnership (DTP). Foot traffic data from location analytics platform shows Downtown welcomed 2.15 million visitors in 2023 versus 2.12 million in 2019.

“We can confidently say that visitors have returned to Downtown Tulsa, a huge milestone credited to the community’s concerted effort, including the resilience of local businesses and collaboration within the tourism industry,” said Brian Kurtz, DTP’s President and CEO. “Our data also shows a significant uptick in visitor traffic on Friday and Saturday, which speaks to the health of our local dining and nightlife scenes, as well as our attractions, festivals and events.”

DTP, Downtown Tulsa’s urban place management organization, unveiled the State of Downtown report April 18 with insights and trends provided by urbanist and international best-selling author Richard Florida at The Vista at 21, 21 N. Greenwood Ave. DTP annually publishes the report, an in-depth and data-rich snapshot of ongoing development and economic growth in Downtown.

Among many other data points, the 2024 report highlights:

  • An Evolving Workforce
    • The “return-to-work” rate for Downtown has remained steady at 70%, showing that roughly 30% of in-person employees are unlikely to return fully to in-person work in Downtown.
    • Employee visits to Downtown on Fridays remain the slowest return-to-work recovery days, only growing by 24% since 2021, signaling a lasting shift in hybrid work habits.
    • Despite the stagnant return-to-work rate, certain industries are adding new jobs and growing Downtown’s 38,000-employee workforce. These include the tech, health care and hospitality industries, which have grown by 25%, 36% and 53% respectively over the past 20 years.
    • Historical investment in the health care and education sectors from the construction of two new hospitals and Oklahoma State University’s expansion of its Center for Health Sciences campus is slated to bring over 2,000 jobs to the emerging Academic Medical District in southwest Downtown.
    • The Downtown workforce continues to shift: Employees who identify as Asian, Hispanic/Latine and multi-race have doubled in Downtown while Black employees have increased from 9% to 11% of the Downtown workforce over the past 10 years.
  • Residential Demand:
    • Downtown Tulsa’s residential market continued to strengthen in 2023 with an average vacancy rate below 9%.
    • 2023 ended with average asking rents of $1,283 per month, a roughly 12% increase since 2017.
    • There are 1,036 residential units in the housing pipeline. A significant portion of these are conversions from former office uses. Current demand in Downtown is more than 4,000 units.
  • Return of Visitors:
    • Downtown Tulsa hosted 2.15 million unique visitors in 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic totals by 30,000 visitors and showcasing a robust tourism recovery.
    • Saturdays are the highest-performing day for visitors to Downtown, and more visitors now visit Downtown on Saturdays than they did before the pandemic (in 2019).
    • Attendance at major Downtown venues increased 17% from 2022 to 2023.
    • Entertainment and tourism are strengthening nighttime and weekend activity with 44% of Downtown visitors spending 2.5 hours or more during their visits.
  • Hospitality Sector Recovery:
    • Revenue per available room of Downtown hotels increased by 9.2% over the past year.
    • Occupancy rates reached a high of 57% in June 2023, exceeding the nationwide market average of 55%.
  • Downtown is the Center of Commerce:
    • 18% of Tulsa businesses are located within 2 miles of Downtown. Downtown, which represents 1% of the city’s geographic area, contains nearly 20% of its businesses.
    • Half of the city’s large-revenue companies (revenues of at least $500 million) are headquartered in Downtown.
    • Half of Downtown businesses are categorized as small businesses (1-4 employees).
    • Food and beverage concepts led the charge of new business openings in 2023, with 14 of 22 new customer-facing businesses in Downtown.
    • Occupiable retail vacancy rates remained below 5% in 2023, with rental rates maintaining at $20 per square foot, demonstrating an upward outlook in the valuation of new Class A retail spaces​​.

While Downtown continues to experience unprecedented investment and development, DTP noted the challenges that exist, from oversupply of aged office buildings and a shortage of housing development, to the need for holistic solutions to homelessness in the broader community. Data confirms more housing is needed to meet residential demand. In response to shifting employment trends and post-pandemic work patterns, more office-to-residential conversions and mixed-use development could help meet this need with prioritized public support.

“Studies have projected housing demand at more than 4,000 new residential units by 2032, and our current pipeline is at 1,046 — a quarter of needed units,” Kurtz said. “Housing affordability and accessibility will continue to be crucial to growing Downtown’s residential and workforce populations and diversity. Our opportunities and challenges require bold action and a collaborative approach to propel Downtown Tulsa forward to its next chapter.”

A full copy of the 2024 State of Downtown Tulsa report can be found at