Building on downtown’s image
By Larry Nichols
Many things help define a city. Its people play a major role. So does its size and where it is on the map. Airports, highways, landscape and streets are important, too. Of course, everyone judges cities differently, but if there is a single image that is most prominent in characterizing a city, it might be the skyline.
You can’t always judge a book by its cover, and the same is true for a city’s skyline, but people often try. By scanning a skyline and spending time among the buildings, you can draw conclusions about a city’s business community, its economic viability, its potential, its quality of life and its prestige.
The image isn’t confined to the downtown area, either. Impressions we develop from these relatively small districts are cast to the larger community.
Oklahoma City has been fortunate. The renaissance unfolding downtown has benefited our larger community in ways that may never be measured.
The economic development, private investment, cultural momentum and civic pride we have seen evolve over the last decade have redefined our downtown and our city…
Read the entire column here.
Joe McInerney, CEO/President of American Hotel and Lodging Association, recently returned back home after attending a week-long summer summit at downtown Oklahoma City’s Skirvin Hilton. Here’s his thoughts of the visit posted on his blog:
All’s OK in good old OKC
I’m feeling lucky despite the calendar telling me that today is Friday the 13th. This is certainly in part because I’m back in Washington after a very successful week in Oklahoma City attending AH&LA’s Summer Summit. This was a great opportunity for our new and veteran members to make new connections across the industry and make its mark on this emerging tourist destination – even the local paper took notice we were in town.
I touched down in Oklahoma City last Saturday. While I’ve been here many times, I was surprised at the positive transformation of city from a tourist perspective – the Bricktown area was more bustling than I’d seen before, and a variety of restaurants are new on the scene. I was also thrilled to check into The Skirvin Hilton hotel, a historic property first opened in 1911. Though closed for 19 years, its recent acquisition by Marcus Hotels, the Milwaukee-based owners, and the hard work of general manager John Williams have turned the property into a magnificent jewel of a hotel, which undoubtedly contributed not only to the overall success of the conference, but to the total resurgence of downtown Oklahoma City.
One of my first stops before the events of the summit kicked into gear was to the particularly moving Oklahoma City bombing memorial which I visited Sunday morning before church. I encourage everyone who travels to this city to stop by this memorial, which does a spectacular job representing what happened that terrible day more than a decade ago and honoring its victims.
Sunday evening, after the Membership Sales & Marketing committee meeting many members of our staff came into Bricktown for dinner, and I was persuaded from enjoying a plate of my favorite Italian flavor to treating several staff members to fried okra and ribs at Earl’s. With barbeque all the rage here, we joked that you can’t get more than five feet in Oklahoma City without finding a Grade A steak. I again tested this theory on Monday after a day of meetings with a delicious dinner in the hotel with my cousin’s son, who is a police sergeant in town.
Tuesday really kicked off the summit. At our board meeting in the afternoon, 70 out of 83 board members were there, which I believe is not only a testament to our members’ active involvement in the association, but also the draw of the thriving hotel community that is Oklahoma City. We were even lucky enough to have the president of the local CVB provide insight into the city’s expanding tourism product at this meeting.
That night, we headed to Toby Keith’s “I love this Bar & Grill” for our opening reception, where two BMI songwriters Rob Crosby and Billy Montana performed their renditions of many #1 country hits they’ve written for various singers. The night was young, so we continued with the Hotel PAC Mix & Bowl event. I cheered on Tom Corcoran, other AH&LA execs, and industry CEOs from the sidelines. Congratulations to the allied team led by Fiberbuilt, which won first place, and of course the New York team whose matching “I Love NY” t-shirts earned them the honor of Best Dressed.
The rest of the summit was filled with more committee meetings and educational sessions. On Wednesday morning, Oklahoma state’s Lt. Governor Jari Askins expanded on the great tourism initiatives throughout the state. The Lodging Industry Summit gave members a realistic outlook on where the industry is headed, and the green panel left them with actionable ideas for green implementation at their properties. As always, the annual Stars of the Industry program was an especially moving tribute to those employees and properties who have truly epitomized spirit of hospitality, going above and beyond in their careers and communities. Closing the summit, chairs of our more than 30 committees give updates on their current projects, keeping all in the know about dedicated efforts and leading the way to possible collaborations among committees in the future.
Thursday, after all was said and done, I was able to sit down for coffee with my old friend Jay Aggarwal. A colleague from my days at Sheraton, Jay was the GM of the first Sheraton Oklahoma City property, and now works for the Petroleum Club. Then I hopped a plane back to Washington where I’m speaking today with Choice Hotels employees via Webinar on the importance of diversity in the lodging industry, and how AH&LA is addressing the issues.
A decade ago downtown had one hotel. When the Hampton Inn opens in Bricktown later this year, we’ll have seven. Add to that the Holiday Inn Express that will be built at Oklahoma and Main and you have eight. And oh, by the way, for those of you who have seen my mentions of more hotels lining up, yep, the Candlewood Inn announced today is one I’ve been tracking, and yeah, that makes the count nine.
Here’s the betting line on what’s still in the works, based on various players I’ve talked to:
Odds of No. 10: 90 percent.
Odds of No. 11: 75 percent.
Odds of No. 12: 60 percent.
Odds of No. 13: 50 percent.
Odds of No 14: 10 percent.
Oklahoman editor Ed Kelley says the latest exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is yet another step forward in Oklahoma City’s journey toward major league city status. Watch his commentary and then consider this once more … Indianapolis, Seattle, Oklahoma City. That’s it. Those are the only stops for this tour of Roman art from the Louvre.
Put this one up on billboards. Send it out on You Tube. Blog it. And make sure every one of those those travel writers coming into town next week see every inch of the museum.
Sure, everybody is excited about seeing the NBA make Oklahoma City a permanent home. But without seeming like the “yes guy” responding to the boss, it’s hard to argue with Mr. Kelley on just how significant this exhibit is for downtown and Oklahoma City.
As best as I can estimate, I’ve endured listening to two different consultants on the area known as Core to Shore, three consultants on downtown master planning, one consultant on downtown signage, three traffic studies and a totally ignored plan for the old Galleria block.
Each time I hear words like “linkages” (and I’ve heard that word a lot), I ask myself, are these consultants simply copying and pasting old reports?
Well, apparently it’s certainly possible.
Want to attend an interesting meeting of the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority? Here’s your chance. We’ve been discussing the chamber’s plans for a new headquarters.
It’s not quite a done deal. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, which unveiled its plans for a headquarters to be built at NW 4 and Broadway, must deliver those same designs today to the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.
The authority’s board of commissioners will then begin deliberation of the chamber’s proposal at an open meeting 10 a.m. Wednesday. The board meets in the Urban Renewal board room on the 24th floor of City Place, 204 N Robinson Ave.
For those interested in what’s going on in Dallas’ West End district – an early model for Bricktown – here’s the latest from a poster at Dallas Metropolis Online:
“Despite the WE Marketplace being vacant the West End is actually thriving from a commercial aspect. The Awalt and Moline buildings are 100% occupied, Landmark is at95% and is about to close on the last space, The Oil Well Supply building just renewed the lease and increased the space of Turner Construction, Higghambotham Pearl Stone is at least 75%, and having hired a new leasing agent Market Ross is on it’s way back up having just passed the 55% threshold. If you go down there at lunch the restaurants are pleasantly full and it’s hard to find a parking meter.
I had lunch with an employee of E-Com Realty who owns the Marketplace (and about 40% more of the buildings down there) and he said that they have no intentions to sell the building or to lease the space out as retail. They just completed an interior demolition of all the floors (removing all store front glass, etc.)and are just going to wait the market out and try to land a 100,000 sq.ft. tenant. Last year they did accept bids from 15 companies to see what they would offer to buy it and the WE Parking Garage. Bids came back, they narrowed it down to three offers, borrowed everybody’s renovation estimates and then decided not to sell. I talked to a guy with Colliers International who was on one of the three “finalist” teams and he said they offered $14 mil for the two structures and estimated another $13 mil for renovation. He said it would take a cool million alone just to undo the movie theater! So basically they just gutted the building and are going to let it be until they can land a large tenant then dump the moolah for renovation. Looks like we’ll be looking at a sad dark building for a while.
I think we need to quit thinking of the WE as an entertainment district and think of it as a commercial district with some restaurant/retail. Clearly Victory has done nothing for entertainment.”
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The wait in MidTown is over. McNellie’s is open at the Plaza Court – and everybody can decide for themselves whether this much beloved Irish pub in Tulsa is as great as everyone says it is.
(For what it’s worth, I visited prior to the opening and couldn’t help but be impressed by what these folks have done with the one-time home of Veasey Drugs).