On vacation this past week (and yet I hope I kept you entertained for most of the week). I took the young one on a river cruise. Will be posting art and observations tomorrow.
In the meantime, coffee talk time:
I’ve noticed on the Tulsa-based sites a lot of animosity, jealousy and put-downs aimed at anything OKC-related (upon the Devon Tower announcement, they criticize downtown OKC, and with announcement of funding for the Indian Cultural Center, they claim it was stolen from Tulsa, and then there are comments that argue OKC doesn’t deserve the Mickey Mantle Museum).
So here’s my question to OKC-area readers – do you have the same ill will toward Tulsa? Do you want to see Tulsa fail in its similar ambitions to become a modern world-class city, or do you think Oklahoma would benefit from having not one, but two successful thriving metro areas?
Discuss amongst yourselves…. I’m going out with my favorite six-year-old to go fly a kite.
An Oklahoma lawmaker, Shane Jet, has a tourism-generating dream of turning the Oklahoma oil boom into an iconic landmark rivaling the Eiffel Tower. Story appeared on Oklahoma Horizon, as noted this morning at www.okctalk.com.
This is the first I’ve heard about it.
I’ve yet to notice any discussion on the local chat boards about what may be one of the most important additions yet to Bricktown – a Mickey Mantle museum – as detailed in this story by Berry Tramel. This is one of a handful of potential attractions that could be coming to Bricktown, and all of them have the potential of transforming Bricktown from a regional to a national tourist destination.
Think about it – some names will remain eternal as sports legends: Babe Ruth, Mohammad Ali, Pete Rose, Jim Thorpe, Joe Namath … and yeah, absolutely, Mickey Mantle.
People will come. Oh yes, they will come.
I’ll argue with Berry about Mantle’s visits to OKC. Just read Pody Poe’s biography and you’ll quickly discover Mickey Mantle was a regular at Poe’s Nichols Hills “casino.”
Of course, OKC should jump on this opportunity. Build it out on the first floor of the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark between LIT and the Mickey Mantle statue, facing Mickey Mantle Drive, across from the Mickey Mantle Steakhouse. It’s a natural spot – and don’t forget that Mickey Mantle graces every seat at the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark.
Surely there’s a way to make this museum a reality.
Speaking of the You Tube Downtown Video Tour, visitors to OKC will have more to see thanks to a contest sponsored last week by Downtown OKC Inc. for the annual Dean A. McGee awards. Here is the winner and the runner-up:
After taking the You Tube tour of Wichita last week and posting Patrick’s review of his visit, it’s time to take a closer look. First question: if Oklahoma City is bigger than Wichita, and Bricktown is a bigger regional destination, than why the disparity in retail?
Let’s look at the shops that can be found in Old Town, Wichita:
Above and Beyond Gifts, Aidia’s Brighton Jewelry, Andy’s Custom Woodworking, Automobilia, Beadazzled, Zieglers antiques, Catholic Book Store, Ceros Candy, Stewarts Jewelry, Sand Bar Trading, Heartland Bike, Razooks Furniture, Meade Street Gallery, and at least a dozen more stores that include art galleries, camping goods, clothing, etc.
And Bricktown? Well, it has Firefly Clothing, the Bricktown Visitor Center, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Emporium and The Painted Door.
That’s it, folks. Which area do you think is more desirable for visitors, shopping wise?
So here’s a secret between just us: parking in Old Town is free. Think that makes a difference?
But here’s another comparison:
For all the scares of gang violence in Bricktown two years ago, Old Town has had it much, much worse. Homicides, stabbings, shootings… multiple people wounded. Ask police in Bricktown and they will tell you that some of Bricktown’s past troubles began in unmanned parking lots where young trouble makers with nothing better to do ended up fighting.
Is free parking also to blame for Wichita’s problems?
One can draw all sorts of conclusions here, and clearly there is anecdotal evidence that free parking can spur far more retail than what we’ve seen in Bricktown to date. But that same path also poses a more troubling question – if the city were to introduce free parking in Bricktown, could it do so without encountering the same problems as is being faced by Old Town?
Now, as for Memphis …. take a good look at those You Tube videos again …
As lively as it appears, the streets also look hagard and worn-out. It does not appear as if the city has put the care into streetscapes that we’ve seen locally or in the other downtown You Tube visits to date.
According to a study assembled by Downtown Memphis a couple of years ago (a report that confirms reports I’ve heard from people who visited downtown Memphis), the popularity of downtown Memphis has come with crowds that can be unruly, illegal outdoor alcohol sales, con artists selling rip-off merchandize, crime and thefts.
And Memphis’ play to become a major league city by luring an NBA franchise is not going so well. Is there anything to this story that OKC can learn from before the arrival of the Sonics?
Crime, meanwhile, isn’t a given with a revitalized downtown. But it’s a danger that can pop up quickly when growth occurs unchecked, and without any long-term planning or contemplation of unintended consequences.
I’ve not visited downtown
Memphis since the early 1990s, so clearly my impressions from back then are probably meaningless. So once again, we’re going to visit via You Tube.
My first really favorable impression of , the
Memphis resulted from the movie “The Firm,” which pretty much is a best-case scenario for any city looking to elevate its profile. You have a
Hollywood star, Tom Cruise, at the top of his game, before he got all creepy jumping couches and evangelizing for Scientology. In his performance as a lawyer trying to outsmart the FBI and the mob, Cruise spends his time on
Island tram, and of course,
Memphis’ magnificent Peabody Hotel.
Yeah, it’s as good as it gets. Imagine a blockbuster filmed today in Bricktown, MidTown, the Skirvin Hilton,
Tower’s Great Banking Hall and along the
River at the Chesapeake Boathouse.
Memphis is a city that recently crossed into major league status with the NBA Grizzlies.
But not everything is great in downtown Memphis. Ditto for downtown Wichita. More on that tomorrow. For now, let’s take the You Tube tour of downtown Memphis.
First, let’s join this couple as they shop at Peabody Place (yes, this is what so many downtowns yearn for – actual retail):
And now, a family vacation along Beale Street:
And you’ve got to love this song…. (nope, Oklahoma Rising just isn’t the same as “Walking in Memphis”):
OK, let’s step back in our You Tube Downtown Tour for second. Yes, it’s nice to be listed as a peer to Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis and Nashville. Yes, the perception of OKC is changing. But that doesn’t excuse us from looking at cities like Wichita either. Wichita, my friends, may very well have a lot to teach us, good and bad, and today we embark on the first of a two-day look at what they’re doing right, and perhaps, what’s going wrong in this often overlooked city.
Since the offerings by You Tube are slim, let’s start with several photos first:
No need for a canal with downtown Wichita
Retail is easy to find – destination retail at that – in Old Town, Wichita’s answer to Bricktown
Wichita’s Old Town even has it’s version of Lower Bricktown
The Old Town Hotel in Wichita, built in an old warehouse. Imagine if someone in Bricktown had the vision to turn the still empty building at Oklahoma Avenue and the canal (used once a year for the haunted warehouse) into a hotel. The late Bricktown visionary Neal Horton had just that plan – but sadly wasn’t able to pull it off.
Downtown Wichita’s convention hotel.
So, before we hear from a resident of downtown Wichita and glance at what I could find on You Tube, let’s hear from Patrick, a veteran OKC online participant.
For the past few months, my wife and I have made several trips to Wichita, Kansas, interviewing for a potential residency position with KU-School of Medicine-Wichita. To be honest, the only reason I applied there was because it was a 2 1/2 hour drive from our family in Oklahoma City. My first visit there in November was quite an eye-opener. I had never been to Wichita before, and wasn’t expecting much. My own preconceived notions told me that it was a small farming community with little to be excited about. What I found surprised me though.
My first stop was downtown Wichita. On the east side of downtown, on the other side of the railroad tracks, is a place called Old Town. Nestled in the city’s heart among the brick-lined streets and historic lampposts are a collection of converted brick warehouses, circa 1870-1930, with native limestone accents and distinctive architectural features. More than 100 restaurants, shops, clubs, theaters, galleries, museums, and businesses have found their niche here. Old Town reminded me a lot of Bricktown, only with unique Wichita shops, restaurants, and night clubs. It doesn’t have a baseball park or a canal running through it, but it the missing element the Bricktown needs: retail. LuCinda’s, a women’s boutique shop was by far my wife’s favorite. We also went to The Frame Guild, Aida’s (a jewelry and accessories store), Andy’s Woods by Design (custom woodworking and home decor), Automobilia (unique gifts inspired by the automobile), Beadazzled (custom jewelry and beads), Cero’s (a Wichita tradition in gourmet chocolates since 1885), First Gear (shoes and running equipment), Mrs. O’learys (Art and stamp supplies), Rock Paper Scissors (stationery), Bondies Old Town Antique Mall, Old Town Cigars, and Nanny’s Niche (jewelry and food items), just to name a few. The area has nearly 30 shops.
A pleasant surprise was that all of the parking was free, in city-owned parking garages. These garages weren’t just concrete garages either. The city designed them meticulously to fit into the overall appearance of the surrounding area. All had brick facades.
Retail shops were intermixed with fine dining establishments like Old Chicago, Torre’s Pizzeria, Uptown Bistro, Whiskey Creek Steak House, Emerson Biggins, EggCetera, Oscar’s Sports Bar, and River City Brewery, to name a few. We ate at Larkspur Restaurant, which was once a building housing a drycleaner. Today, it offers five star dining softly lighted with a touch of light jazz music. Across the street from the Courtyard by Marriott was an old gas station, known as The Ross Pumphouse, which has been in business since 1931. In addition to the gas pumps, the cozy little Conoco station is today known for its home cooked lunches.
We stayed at both the Hotel at Old Town and the Courtyard by Marriott at Old Town, and both were first class hotels, located in turn of the century converted historic warehouse buildings.
Also in Old Town is a state of the art Warren Theatre complex, one of three in the Wichita metro area. Warren Theatres are unique to Wichita, and are a gem in the rough when it comes to theatre experience. Most of their theatres have balconies and full food and bar service complete with wait staff.
Also in Old Town are the Coleman Factory outlet and museum, Great Plains Transportation Museum, Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (had a nice display of memoribilia from Barry Sanders, who grew up in Wichita), and Museum of World Treasures (a huge museum with historical artifacts).
Old Town if filled with art galleries and live theaters, adding to the arts scene in the area. City Arts offers art classes and galleries to view. We took a look through Gallery XII, which has local works from Kansas artists.
Night life is abundant with clubs unique to Wichita, like Liquid, Flashbacks, Club Indigo, and Kelly’s Irish Pub, just to name a few.
The government district in downtown Wichita offers a traditional busines environment, complete with office towers, complemented with fountains, sculptures, and murals. On the south side of the government district is the Century II Convention Center, a state of the art center with a new Hyatt Regency Hotel attached. The Arkansas River runs right by the hotel. Nearby is the WaterWalk area, which is currently being developed as Wichita’s newest entertainment district. The area will consist of restaurants, retail shops, loft apartments, and night life, with the Hyatt Regency being the centerpoint of the district.
Downtown Wichita is eagerly watching the construction of the new 15,000 seat multi-purpose Sedgwick County Arena, which will replace the Kansas Colliseum. The arena will be very similar to the BOK Center being built in downtown Tulsa.
Much of Wichita life revolves around the Arkansas (prounounced “Ar-KANSAS”) River. This reminded me a lot of Tulsa, only with Kansan flair. Each year they have a Riverfest there, complete with floats and carnival attractions. The river is dotted with parks, museums, and other attractions. The city’s museum district surrounds the river, and is made up of attractions like the Wichita Art Museum, the Botanica, Exploration Place (a science museum very much like Science Museum Oklahoma), Mid-American Indian Center, and the Old Cowtown Museum (similar to the National Cowboy Museum). The Keeper of the Plains, a 44 foot sculpture, located at the juncture of the Little and Big Arkansas Rivers, is the focal point of the area. The Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and Wichita Ice Center represent the sports attractions in the area. Most of the performing arts in Wichita take place in the River District.
My wife and I spent a few relaxing moments at the Central Riverside Park, one of the larger parks in the area. We also worked off our lunch walking along one of the many trails along the river.
This past summer Wichita experienced the opening of Wild West World, a new amusement park, very similar to Frontier City, only with better rides and attractions.
Since my wife accompanied me on many of my trips to Wichita, we experienced the Wichita shopping scene first hand. We started at Bradley Fair, a new upscale open air center on the northeast side of town. It’s like a modern Utica Square, complete with upscale shops like Jos A Bank, Harolds, Talbots, Williams Sonoma, and J. Jill, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic, to name a few. The surrounding area has other upscale strip centers like The Shops at Tallgrass and Tallgrass Centre. The Waterfront is a newly developed retail and restaurant district on the far east side of town. The area surrounds a lake complete with fountains and walking trails. The district has restaurants you’d find on Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City, i.e., Red Robin, PF Chang’s, Fox and Hound, and Abuelos. It also has shops like Brooks Brothers and Kate Lane. The area also has a luxury hotel. Clifton Square Shopping Village, located centrally, has a unique collection of shops in a 19th century village. It reminded me a lot of Mayfair Village.
Our shopping trip also took us to the area’s local malls. Wichita has two major traditional malls, Towne East Square and Towne West Square. Towne East Square is the larger of the two, and is located in the east side of the city. It’s very similar to Quail Springs Mall, and has traditional mall retail shops. It’s a two level mall and has 4 anchor stores. Towne West Square is on the west side of town, and is a smaller one level mall, with traditional mall retailers.
We took a trip to the west side of town, which is a growing area with younger families. A new retail development called NewMarket Square was developed in recent years. It has traditional big box stores, and is very similar to Quail Springs Marketplace or Bell Isle Station.
Essentially, Wichita is growing towards the east and west. The newer parts of town and new housing developments are far east and far west. Each area is anchored by a multiscreen upscale Warren Theatres complex.
Wichita is known for its aviation industry, which employs many in the area. Cessna, Boeing, Aerospace, Beech Aircraft, Learjet, Bombardier, Raytheon, and Spirit Serosystems all have a huge presence there. McConnell Air force Base is on the city’s southeast side. Koch Industries is probably one of the area’s largest employers. The Coleman Company and Pizza Hut are Wichita originals.
Overall, I was very impressed with Wichita. My trips there completely changed my impression of the city. It’s like a big city, with that small city charm.
And now, for You Tube:
(NOTE: If you can find better You Tube videos showing downtown Wichita, please let me know!)
The very talented Lindsay Hodges has stayed busy doing a lot of things moving OPUBCO Communications into the future, and while this blogosphere is a minor part of her job, she’s making some impressive changes. Some changes you’ve seen already – the ability to include You Tube videos, the link to The Oklahoman’s photo archive, and links to my recent columns.
Expect more improvements in the future, and don’t be shy as to what you would like to see added next. In the meantime, be checking in later today and tomorrow for the first OKC Central poll.