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