I’ve covered Jim Brewer for more than a dozen years. During those times and I’ve seen the bad and the good. I’ve seen him promote the district and fight against those who disaparaged it. When consultants wanted to go with just one single walkway along the Bricktown Canal (gotta love those consultants – they’re always right, right?), Brewer cursed, yelled and threw a fit insisting that the design go with the two-level design that is so popular today.
Brewer did much to make Bricktown the destination it is today. But he’s also leaving behind so many unfinished buildings – properties with broken windows, even wads of used chewing gum on the brick of one of the most prominent structures on the canal. And not eveyone agrees that he’s simply benefiting from a free market when rates at his parking lots hit $20 on special event days (in past years he’s been quick to point out his lunch rates have stayed at a low $3).
Brewer is leaving Bricktown. Most or all of his properties are up for sale. He’s in declining health. So what’s his legacy? The original developer of Bricktown, Neal Horton, has been honored quite a bit in the past few years (he died in 1992). But the downtown community has been more conflicted about what honor is due to Jim Brewer.
His legacy, it appears, is a bit confusing. Brewer isn’t someone who hides his thoughts and feelings about what’s going on the district. I believe he truly loves Bricktown, even if not everyone likes what he has and hasn’t done.
To understand Jim Brewer’s legacy, it’s helpful to understand who Jim really is. He finally agreed to share with me details of his early years. Hopefully it will help you in understanding the man as much as it helped me.
A decade ago, I met Jesse Jackson. Shaking his hand, it felt like I was grasping a bit of history. That’s not to say I agree or like everything Jackson says or does. But you’ve got to appreciate that this is a historic figure. And that’s how it might end up being with Jim Brewer – some might not always agree with his methods, his actions or outcome, but it’s difficult to deny this man truly changed the course of downtown Oklahoma City and the city itself.
I hope you enjoy today’s stories. Start reading here.
BlueGroupMan from Des Moines recently caught up with our recent You Tube Downtown Tour:
Hey, thanks for including our area of the world in your YouTube tour. There are lots of nice things going on here, I think people who haven’t been here lately would be pleasantly surprised.
Hopefully all the OSU fans who were up here for the women’s NCAA basketball regional in March had a good time. A pretty good amount of orange showed up!
Back to downtown — there are many very large employers downtown, including Principal Financial Group, which is headquartered here, along with Wells Fargo Financial, Allied Insurance, and EMC Insurance. In all, people who count these things say that 70,000 people work downtown.
There are also many new loft, apartment, and condo options available so more and more people are living downtown, although there needs to be more lower cost options for the younger set.
Anyway, here’s a couple of other links if you want to check out Des Moines a little more:
– http://live.downtowndesmoines.com/video_contest.php (some hokey videos here, but some okay ones too)
Take a drive north sometime, we’d be glad to see you — and yes, it’s dry here — the floods did not reach downtown.
Michael probably wasn’t counting on me taking his comment and turning it into a post. But it’s interesting enough that I don’t want to see it skipped over. Michael’s been in the trenches and has done a lot of work to promote downtown preservation. He’s also someone who does more than just speak a good line – he’s taken on some very admired projects himself along with partner Randy Floyd. So, without any more delay…
Of course, there is no actual parking problem in Bricktown . . . only an inaccurate perception and the resultant whining by people that are accustomed to pulling their SUV into a free parking spot right in front of the entrances of the strip malls or chain restaurants they typically frequent. And, I think paying for parking is the bigger issue . . . not a shortage of parking . . . people in OKC are used to parking in a giant paved lot at the mall for nothing. If you get a ticket parked at a meter during the posted enforcement hours, pay the $10 ticket and don’t do it
I love to quote former City Councilman Gorey James’ comment from Bricktown’s early days after Spaghetti Warehouse had been open a few months in 1989 and people were bitching about the lack of parking . . . he said . . . “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen much congestion in downtown Oklahoma City . . . and we are looking forward to seeing a lot more congestion in the future.” The Bricktown Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant took in almost $4 Million it’s first year . . . selling mediocre Italian food, so I guess people were both very hungry for an urban dining experience and somehow able to find a spot to park. Also, on the 4th of July weekend a few years back when the Bricktown Canal opened, over 250,000 visitors reportedly passed through Bricktown and there was way less parking than there is today.
So, the complainers should park where they can find a spot, walk a few blocks if necessary and shut their pie holes.
Side Note: Spaghetti Warehouse paid $189,000.00 in 1989 for the ten story building that they still only occupy two floors of . . . Those upper floors don’t have great ceiling height, but they do have incredible wood floors and huge rough sawn wood columns and beams . . . the building is a great mixed use development opportunity for a developer that really knows their stuff. How many $Mil would that building bring today . . . pretty savvy real estate investment.
Downtown Fort Worth is getting its first new hotel in 20 years, and I doubt anyone would challenge the value of its contribution to the city’s skyline.
With an opening set for later this year, the Omni Forth Worth Hotel will have 604 guest rooms with 97 condominiums on top of the hotel. In addition to the hotel lobby, the ground floor will include Bob’s Steak & Chop House, Starbucks Coffee, another restaurant, sports bar, a spa, and a gift shop.
The building also will feature 48,000 square feet of meeting space, and is across the street from the Fort Worth Convention Center.
The 34-story building is going up on what was convention center parking (the city is building a garage to replace the lost spots).
According to Fort Worth Architecture Online, the hotel’s design consists of a masonry base with an “L” shaped masonry and glass hotel tower rising out of it. A taller, boat shaped glass section rises out of the base. On the upper floors of this section of the building will be 97 condominiums. The building will have three levels of underground parking. The architect for the Omni Fort Worth Hotel is HOK. At the current time, the exact height of the hotel is unknown, but it estimated to be around 547 feet in height.
Now here is my question: downtown Fort Worth has been booming for years, yet it saw none of the low- to mid-rise hotel projects now popping up in downtown Oklahoma City. Is there any conclusion to be drawn here about OKC’s chances at drawing an Omni-type project in years to come?
Here’s an interesting tidbit: which major downtown – one that many in OKC admire and wish to immulate in many ways – is just now getting its first hotel in two decades?
The Bricktown parking study isn’t out yet, but this bit of news was distributed by the Bricktown Association to its members. I’ve already received a call from one person complaining about a ticket issued at 6 p.m. in Bricktown – when enforcement throughout downtown has typically stopped at 4:30 p.m.
Read this and ponder whether meter enforcement isn’t going to be a factor in the upcoming consultant’s study and recommendations:
It has been brought to our attention that parking meters in downtown and Bricktown are now being enforced for the hours stated on the meters. So meters are being enforced earlier and later than what they have been. As of right now, they are not being enforced on Saturdays, but this could change in the future.
Currently we are working with the City Planning Department to release the results of the parking study. As we get more information regarding meter enforcement, we will pass this along to everyone. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.
ONE MORE OBSERVATION: Is it fair to simply change enforcement tactics without making it known to the public? Why inform just the Bricktown Association? This is similar to a brief effort by police a couple of years ago to start issuing tickets on Saturdays without a public discussion. The effort was quickly abandoned after a public outcry.
Some Bricktown property owners are content to sit on vacant space or land for years, thinking a huge payday is just around the corner. But they are beginning to discover that potential buyers are no longer so willing to pay prices far above the properties’ actual value.
Gary Cotton, however, is a man who doesn’t have the luxuary of waiting. He needs to see this property producing revenue. He wants to get something going. He still has a good team at his side, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with next. Obviously, by starting with such a high expectation, anything less will now be seen as a disappointment when it might have originally made folks quite happy.
I asked the following question in January. Read today’s Oklahoman for the latest on the proposed Cotton Exchange:
Will Cotton Exchange really be built?
By Steve Lackmeyer
|Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Edition: CITY, Section: BUSINESS, Page 4B
Bricktown’s merchants, property owners and developers still are scratching their heads over a $36 million, 12-story Cotton Exchange that Gary Cotton wants to build along the Bricktown Canal. Most of them seem to support the concept and agree with Cotton that it could be just what the entertainment district needs to move beyond being perceived as a cluster of restaurants and clubs.
But many of them have a mixed impression about his vision is for Bricktown. Cotton started out a few years ago buying a couple of the district’s smaller properties including the old Wells Fargo building at 115 E Reno Ave. and a two-story building at 108 E California Ave. (the Bricktown Canal) that was last occupied by Margarita Mama’s nightclub. He eventually sold the Wells Fargo building and briefly owned the Bricktown Mercantile at 108 E Main.
And it’s there, at the Bricktown Mercantile, that the story behind the story begins.
Cotton’s vision for the Bricktown Mercantile, one of the largest buildings in Bricktown, involved housing and retail. But the first couple of floors are filled by CityWalk, one of Bricktown’s oldest nightclubs and certainly its largest with 30,000 square feet. Cotton and the owners of CityWalk didn’t get along, and the two sides at one point were preparing to go to court over lease terms. Bad feelings also existed between Cotton and his other tenant at the Mercantile — the Uncommon Grounds coffee shop.
Cotton sold the building last year, and his tenants celebrated. Such landlord-tenant friction isn’t uncommon — especially in Bricktown.
But more questions arose when Cotton briefly allowed a carnival operator to set up some rides on the vacant corner of the canal that he is now targeting for the Cotton Exchange development. The rides were shut down within two weeks after complaints were lodged by nearby merchants.
I’ve spoken to Cotton about all of this over the past few months, and he insists his intentions are to bring Bricktown to a higher level and that he hasn’t always been understood by his neighbors.
As the months passed since Cotton bought the corner of the canal, questions arose whether any development would follow. Most folks in Bricktown were very, very skeptical that anything would happen.
Cotton turned many heads, however, when details came out about the Cotton Exchange. The drawings by Architectural Design Group were sharp. But it was the team that Cotton assembled that has many of his former doubters thinking he may just pull off what would be the tallest and biggest single private addition to the entertainment district. It includes some of the city’s most respected contractors, architects and downtown leasing agents. And they all say the Cotton Exchange is for real.
Bricktown has been burned by false hopes before. For every Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill, there is a Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill (actually announced but never built). And those who are excited by the prospect of the Cotton Exchange, with its mix of condominiums, shops and restaurants, still recall a similar project and just as massive — The Factory — that was to be built on the parking area behind the Bricktown Brewery.
That project got to the same stage where the Cotton Exchange is today — detailed drawings released to the public, a good reception from property owners and merchants — but then never got the financing and never got built.
And so we’re left with an unanswered question — will this really get built? Stay tuned. Steve Lackmeyer : 475-3230, email@example.com
“Many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s – slums characterized by poverty, crime and decay.”
- Christopher Leinberger, an urban land use expert.
Read the whole story here.
Read more here.