Wow, 4 million third graders from all over the world are apparently converging downtown to perform “My County ’tis of Thee” with a special appearance by Kenny G.
Well, not exactly. I know, this will reflect poorly on me, but yes, I’m watching a repeat of South Park tonight and I did a double take as I saw an outdated photo of the downtown OKC skyline (the Murrah building was still standing) with the above proclamation.
Now, if you watch South Park, you can appreciate this bit of random humor. If not, this is a very, very bad show and don’t ever, ever bother watching it. I’d strongly suggest you even lock out Comedy Central to avoid even accidentally watching this show.
You wouldn’t think of Fort Smith as a downtown that Oklahoma City should pay attention to – but think again. Fort Smith has done a lot to make its downtown lively for both locals and visitors. Let’s start with the trolley museum. It’s the very sort of attraction we currently have in the Adventure District, but where as we aspire to have an old excursion train run through downtown, Fort Smith made it happen.
And then there is the amusement park in the heart of downtown Fort Smith. It’s not very big – just a Ferris Wheel, Merry-Go-Round and an old fashioned diner. But it really gives the area a special touch – a sense of place and a source of pride for the city.
Grant, are you reading this? (In interest of full disclosure, I’ve mentioned this to Grant seeing as he now owns a Ferris Wheel).
Anyway, here’s a bit more from the Fort Smith downtown organization:
The Park At West End is an old-fashioned amusement park located downtown on Second Street and Garrison Avenue adjacent to the Arkansas River Bridge.
The featured attraction is a restored 1930′s Ferris wheel from the Eli Bridge Company and a hand-painted carousel from Italy, with 40 ponies. Those riding the Ferris wheel are treated to a spectacular view of downtown Fort Smith, including the grounds of the neighboring Fort Smith National Historic Site.
The Park also features “The Nickle & Dime Diner,” a full service restaurant housed in a restored 1957 Pullman dining car converted into a diner. Developers also included a 1963 British Leyland two-story bus which features traditional amusement park concession items.
The Park At West End was dedicated on Memorial Day weekend and has had a brisk clientele all summer. Hours of operation are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, or “…. whatever the market demands,” according to General Manger Justin Huss.
Steve Mason and architect Tony Blatt – one year ago – and now certified, battle tested preservationists and urban developers. Mason’s journey actually started even earlier – when he bought up the 1000 block of N Broadway, one of the last unimproved stretches of Automobile Alley.
1015 N Broadway is now fully rebuilt and home to Mason’s Cardinal Engineering, Bicycle Alley and Coffee Slingers. Yet another building on the block has been renovated and leased to Cricket Communications. Mason has accomplished much of what he set out to do – but we won’t be seeing the Iguana Mexican Grill at 1007 N Broadway as originally envisioned.
The question at www.okctalk.com is what happened?
There’s a reason this block took so long to develop. The buildings were in terrible shape. Habitat For Humanity’s Renovation Station occupied the first floor of 1015 N Broadway for a while, but the rest of the building was pretty much inhabitable because of structural problems. Mason’s costs were double the original estimates, and he had to gut the building to save it. But he was able to stay in the black thanks to historic tax credits. The building at 1007 N Broadway ended up being too big for the restaurant, and the structual problems there were even worse than at 1007 N Broadway. So Mason has moved the restaurant just one block east to NW 9 and Broadway (next to the new Oklahoma City Community Foundation headquarters) and as of last month the future remained murky for 1007 N Broadway.
Don’t assume the building will remain dark and empty forever. Mason indicated he’s continuing to look at how to make the project work with more tax credits, etc. It could be Mason is simply hoping to see increased demand for space on the block that might then make a renovation more feasible.
Sidenote: only three significant empty buildings remain on Automobile Alley – the old Marion Hotel, 1100 and 1101 N Broadway. All three are owned by Greg Banta and are part of his MidTown Renassaince development.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see Oklahoma City’s efforts along the Oklahoma River get on the front page of the New York Times this week. But what’s the fixation with dragging tragedy into every story? Ten years ago, OKC got similar play out of the Times and right from the start the nation is reminded of the bombing. And as we know this week, if it’s not the bombing, it’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (has anyone considered that the outdated and disputed images in this fiction could just as easily dog Texas? But when do we ever see that happen?)
Is this, ultimately, a coy condescending way to put OKC “in its place”?
So am I being too picky here? Or are there others of you who feel the same way? Anyway, here is today’s flashback:
New Projects Seek to Revive
Battered Oklahoma City
For many, this city evokes the image of a dying child pulled from a smoldering ruin.
Even before a bomb destroyed the Federal Building here three years ago, killing 168 people, injuring hundreds and wrecking or damaging 300 other buildings, Oklahoma City had suffered. It was whipsawed by the collapse of the oil and gas industry in the 1980′s, beaten by competitors in the race for new industry and had little to offer in the way of entertainment.
When people from Oklahoma City and the surrounding area went looking for fun, they had to drive more than three hours to Dallas.
But on Thursday the city will begin to offer a more hopeful image and a new set of memories as it opens a minor league baseball stadium, the first in a series of major projects to rebuild and refashion downtown.
Residents hope the developments will help them put the hard past behind them, said Bill Jeffries, a 39-year-old cement salesman. ”This is a rebuilding, a new future,” Mr. Jeffries said this week as he sat in Crabtown, one of several restaurants that have opened in recent years in Bricktown, an area of turn-of-the-century warehouses seven blocks southeast of the bomb site.
Read the rest here
Check in with www.newsok.com today and you’ll read about the latest progress on the new Devon Tower. They have a developer, and the selection speaks volumes about the direction this project is taking. Next step – an architect.
My collegue Bryan Dean, meanwhile, has a story about boat operations starting up along the Oklahoma River.
And finally, our imaginations can run wild with what Grant Humphreys might be planning to do with his new toy.
Grant Humphreys submitted the winning bid for the Ferris Wheel at the legendary Santa Monica Pier. I’ve got what no other television station or newspaper has – an interview with Grant. Full story in tomorrow’s paper and at www.newsok.com.
Check in with www.newsok.com later today for more details. You might even find some other very interesting stories posted later in the day.
I’m off chasing news today, so this might be my last post for a while.