Even if Greg Banta never takes another step into MidTown, his place in the district’s history is already secure. In today’s Oklahoman, I’m reporting Banta’s departure from the MidTown Renaissance development. Partners Bob Howard and Mickey Clagg, whose financial backing was critical to Banta’s success to date, have bought out his interests and they say they are continuing with his vision.
And what a vision it is. MidTown was so bad just a few years ago that St. Anthony Hospital was seriously considering abandoning the neighborhood. Their decision to stay and partner with the city to improve the community was significant. But it was Banta who came in and created a plan to buy up almost all of the area’s flop houses and convert them into offices and housing. Ironically, it’s that initial part of the development has yet to be proven out – much of the property is just about done being renovated. The bigger bounce came with the arrival of Howard and Clagg. They bought the long empty Plaza Court and a string of diliapidated but interesting looking buildings along Walker Avenue and NW 10.
Some properties they bought at slum prices (what they were worth). As word got out, they had to pay more than face value. Either way, this neighborhood is no longer blighted – it’s clearly become an alternative to Bricktown. It’s an entertainment district for locals with no paid parking (though it’s increasingly difficult to find spaces when the district is really rocking).
Of course people will wonder why Banta sold out. Gossip will always follow an event like this. But regardless of how and why, if the folks running the Dean A. McGee Awards are looking for a good candidate for next year’s Neal Horton Award, maybe it’s time to consider a three-way tie.
One must wonder what Banta will do next. There are a lot more properties in the area with different owners that could use his sort of vision. If he can get some of those into play, and Howard and Clagg continue with their development as they say they will, who is to say this won’t end up being a win for everybody?
By the way, having just read www.newsok.com, I can tell you you’ll get more information on this story if you pick up the paper.