As referenced in today’s story about the proposed new Greater Oklahoma City Chamber headquarters, a different street grid was proposed to the city – and it was rejected. Here are images of what was suggested and mentioned by Grant Humphreys and Anthony McDermid:
The basic premise of this proposal was to take the E.K. Gaylord intersection with NW 3, NW 4 and Broadway – one that was created in the early 1970s as part of the I.M. Pei plan, and to return it to a more traditional street grid that would have allowed for a more urban setback for the chamber, maintain a sight vista for the E.K. Gaylord Building, and allow space for a new park.
Anthony McDermid asked me to post the comments he made at today’s Downtown Design Review Committee concerning plans for a new Greater Oklahoma City Chamber headquarters:
My name is Anthony McDermid – Principal of TAParchitecture at 415 N BROADWAY AVENUE.
I stand before you today as someone who has advocated for downtown Oklahoma City since starting my business downtown 20 years ago when it was a pioneering thing to do.I bought 415 N BROADWAY AVE in the uncertain times after the Murrah bombing and it has been TAParchitecture’s home for the last ten years. I have lived downtown for almost two years. I am past president of AIACOC and City Rescue Mission and current Chairman of the OCFA. I served on this Board for over a year.
Let me say first that I am not opposed to the Chamber
Building on the proposed site or the architecture of the building. On the contrary as an active Chamber member and an adjacent property owner there will be many benefits of convenience and increased property value.
I am not here to criticize the architecture but I am here to advocate for two things:
a. SAVING A PARK and b. URBAN DEVELOPMENT in Oklahoma City’s core.
a. SAVING A PARK
The proposed site is the only grassed open space in Downtown Oklahoma City. There are of course several hardscaped spaces downtown including some with water features. Kerr and Couch Parks – BoK plaza – Leadership plaza – Murrah
Park but NO flat open grass space that can be used for a multitude of events such as:
Staging the Finish of the Oklahoma City Marathon – 16,000 runners and their families and friends.
DeadCentre’s screening under the stars.
The YMCA’s children’s Summer Camps.
A grassy place to spread a blanket on the Fourth of July and a place to view Opening Night fireworks .
It’s a gathering place for the Martin Luther King Parade and the new Halloween Parade.
A grassy lunchtime walk to the Y for its numerous downtown members.
And it is used for numerous other unstructured spontaneous unremarkable al fresco activities that happen in open grassy City parks for ALL citizens, local residents and visitors, young and old, short and tall.
For more reading on the subject I would refer you to one of the Mayors’ Roundtable speakers Fred Kent with the Project for Public Spaces who advocates for useable public space and the value those spaces bring to a City.
As one of the authors of the Core to Shore plan I see how Oklahoma City is embracing the concept of open space and parks that redefine our City. These will come at great but worthwhile expense – here is an opportunity to save one that exists.
b. URBAN DEVELOPMENT in OKC’s core.
The proposed building is 50,000sf and it sits on a site of over 3 acres. The proposed development includes 100 surface parking spaces – approximately ½ the site – and has a building footprint of approximately 12,000sf.
One block away on “the other side of the tracks” and under construction there is a four stories mixed development of residential and office. It is the same height as the Chamber proposal almost twice the size, has the same number of parking spaces and sits on less than one acre. Remember this [the Chamber] site is 3 acres.
I will cut to the chase:
I have advocated to Chamber leadership as I am advocating before you today that the building move east on the site oriented north/south over structured parking. The balance of the site – equal to the area currently owned by OCURA could be deeded back to the City – from whence it came – to become dedicated City
The advantages would be:
1. To preserve a park by creating a large contiguous and useful area west of the building.
2. Conform to the spirit and rules of the new zoning ordinance by the structure touching
third street at the south,fourth street at the north, dedicated park to the west, and eliminate surface parking.
3. Offer better views of the Oklahoman
Building and the
Building and the YMCA from surrounding streets.
I have made these observations to Chamber leadership and got the following rebuttals:
Structured parking is too expensive. The cost of adding structured parking would be approximately $2m. The project is $18m for 50,000sf and has the highest psf cost of any building being constructed in downtown OKC.
It will move the building closer to train noise. Architects learn in acoustics 101 that the only resistance to high powered low frequency noise energy is MASS not glass.
We have a park in the design. The proposal is a hardscaped/driveway with a water feature that is grade separated from two softscapes either side. It is a front yard not a park.
Wrapping up – I am disappointed that our City process for approval of major projects has not become more public and that we are looking at a design for the first time that is complete with furniture.
Many within this community would like to see a more open review process earlier in the concept development as we have seen with Core to Shore and Devon where important issues can be aired early.
We need site plan review early in the design process where improvements or modifications can be made without costing significant dollars or time.
Additional thoughts or quotes:
“This is a very modest sized office project on a 3 acre site. It has all the hallmarks of a suburban project – 5 floors, surface parking, landscaped setbacks. The footprint sets back from the line of a road most planners and urban designers would prefer to see modified or eliminated and the formal entrance was part of a larger element that has since been abandoned and presumably no longer relevant. The biggest negative is the loss of open space that could be achieved by building structured parking underneath the building and between the building and tracks as you would see in an urban project built on highly valued land. This site has a current market value of approximately $4m.
This project had the opportunity to create an urban space that could be enjoyed for the generations who follow us and is now lost for the life of this building. It is worth noting that the two gentlemen who spoke in favor of a more urban project and a park were both from the next generation of leadership, both live downtown and both very educated in urban design and development. I especially enjoyed the perspective of Grant Humphries who was not ready to accept the continuing existence of the much maligned E K Gaylord and its bend in the road and could see a future with a grand park space in place of a bend. His vision would reinstate Broadway as the major street in and out of Downtown. Unfortunately the decision made by this generation of leaders precludes that from happening.”
“This is the second time I have publicly criticized a project I thought was not conceived in the best interests of the City and its citizens. The first was the Galleria parking garage project and closing the
Main Street connection between east and west downtown. Just a few short years later the Devon HQ project will totally reconfigure that garage and my how it begs for that Main Street connection to knit it into the downtown grid. Interesting to note that these projects have the same players calling the shots in the same way it has always been done in this town. If you want to read about it let me recommend Jack Money and Steve Lackmeyer’s “Second Time Around.” It is intellectually amusing to consider the irony of past sins, these two projects, and the players who made them happen but I assure you there is absolutely no satisfaction in saying “I told you so” when the quality of this city’s future is at stake.”
The interesting discussions continue at www.okctalk.com. They’re talking about the giant Ronald McDonald that has stood atop the new Bricktown McDonalds. I guess Jim Cowan and/or John Calhoun can answer whether this inflatable is a problem or not.
For the first time since this blog was started, a spammer got through the AKIS filter. He’s gone now… bye bye.
Doug Loudenback at www.okctalk.com found the following report from the Madison County Herald Newspaper on a recent visit by a Mississippi delegation:
Madison County leaders study Oklahoma City Special to The Herald
Special to The Herald
More than 50 of the area’s community leaders recently traveled to Oklahoma City to participate in the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership’s city visitation program.
The delegation for the Partnership was comprised of business and political leaders from throughout the central Mississippi area.
“We wanted to visit a city that had already achieved a great success in areas where we have great potential, namely the biosciences and river front development,” said Duane O’Neill, president of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership (GJCP).
The delegation received an overview of Oklahoma City’s regional project and image campaign.
Jim Couch, city manager of the city of Oklahoma City, explained their Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS). MAPS, an ambitious program that’s one of the most aggressive and successful public/private partnerships ever undertaken in the U.S., was created in the early 1990s when public/private officials decided that something needed to be done to revitalize the area and create a new sense of community pride.
This was done by creating a series of nine public projects (concentrated in the downtown area) designed to enhance the quality of life in the area. These projects cost more than $3 billion and were completed over a period of years and funded by a temporary one-cent local option sales tax.
They included renovations to the Convention Center, Civic Center Music Hall and Oklahoma City fairgrounds, as well as construction of the 15,000-seat AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, the mile-long Bricktown Canal, the 20,000-seat Ford Center, the state-of-the-art Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, the Oklahoma Spirit trolley system and a stretch of water transformed into river lakes with trails and recreational facilities known as the Oklahoma River.
Due to Oklahoma City’s home rule authority, state legislation was not required to authorize the city to proceed with a vote for the local option sales tax. All that was required was the city officials calling an election and the proposal receiving voter approval. Once an election was called, only a simple majority vote was required for passage.
The areas of concern addressed by local participants were areas where Oklahoma City has excelled and where the greater Jackson area has the opportunity for similar success, according to O’Neill.
They included information about the Oklahoma River and Canal, the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park and “Sports as an Economic Engine.”
“I believe the overwhelming lesson we learned from our visit to Oklahoma City is that we need to put more effort in doing things to improve our region,” said Haley Fisackerly, chairman of the GJCP Board of Directors and president and chief executive officer of Entergy Mississippi. “The constant theme we learned from our gracious hosts in Oklahoma City was they got tired of being overlooked and decided that they were going to focus their efforts on investing in themselves. And they have been very successful. In a matter of 15 years they turned a very average city into an attractive city with a host of offerings to meet anyone’s taste.
“They simply realized that by investing in themselves they would improve the quality of life for their own people and eventually this would attract new investments in their city and it has… billions of dollars in new investments.
“We are now tasked with how can we bring our region together and develop a plan that will help us find ways to invest in our Capital City and surrounding communities and do so in a way that not only attracts new investments but improves the quality of life for the Greater Jackson area.”
Mississippi Sen. John Horhn (D-Jackson), one of the participants, agreed.
“Jackson can have success in improving its quality of life and economic development similar to what we saw in Oklahoma City. We’re not that far off, but what’s essential is a plan on how to best exploit our resources, a healthy dose of self confidence and unified action and a strong commitment to deliver on our promises,” Horhn said.
According to Stony Thomas of Nissan North America, one of the greatest accomplishments observed from this benchmarking trip was how well the community pulled together and supported the plans that were established to move the community forward.
“Although the plans were like a new frontier not crossed before (change), the path was traveled and the new destinations have been rewarding. I am confident that the great people of our communities can accomplish this and even more,” he said.
Madison County District 3 Supervisor D.I. Smith said the trip was an outstanding opportunity to meet business and political leaders from throughout the entire Jackson metro area and discuss challenges of common interest impacting various counties and cities.
“Oklahoma City is a display showing what can be accomplished through wise and careful use of local option sales tax, grants and tax increment financing,” he said. “Oklahoma City is the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. And the civic pride produces a spontaneous, contagious enthusiasm that was obvious from all who we came in contact with.
“It pointed out the daunting challenges and opportunities to excel we are presented with here at home,” Smith said. “Let’s go! Get motivated and fired up! Make a difference! It can be better!”
Pelahatchie Mayor Knox Ross thought it was a good template for the metro area to follow.
“They had a problem they couldn’t seem to solve,” he said “Much like the metro area has problems they can’t seem to solve.
“We were able to see how a community can come together to solve its problem.
“While obviously Oklahoma City is not metro Jackson, there are many ideas could be utilized to make positive changes.
“This trip was an excellent way for all of us in the metro area to get to know each other better and to develop trusting relationships.”
According to O’Neill, the trip proved the greater Jackson area is on the right track to enhancing economic development and quality of life by proceeding with projects such as the Capital City Convention Center.
“Also, it showed the importance of municipal home rule that gives municipalities more control over their destiny without having to seek legislative approval,” he said.
The lessons learned on the Oklahoma trip will be used by the Partnership in determining future programs and strategies for the greater Jackson area.
But this song popped in my head this afternoon as I was scanning the latest business headlines. Oh how I wish Mr. Zevon were with us today to provide more words of wisdom.
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A lot of the discussion today at www.okctalk.com is about the proposed new headquarters for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. And one idea mentioned, that I’ve not heard mentioned to date, is intriguing – why not create a grand traffic circle at NW 4, Broadway and E.K. Gaylord?
I suspect I know the answer. But I’ll let others debate the matter.
I’m hoping I have enough credibility with you folks that you know I’m only going to hype a site if I really do like it – regardless of whether it’s in the NewsOk family or not (The Lost Ogle, for example, is definitely NOT a part of the NewsOk family. We consider www.dustbury.com to be an odd, quirky guy that looks like a long-lost uncle).
Now, that having been said, I’m very excited about www.thundermadness.com. It’s probably the sharpest addition to our online efforts to date. And far better than anything I saw associated with the Seattle Post or Seattle Times.
Check it out.
Here’s what I wrote in January:
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.