Here’s a short one for you – which multi-million dollar, high profile project is officially dead?
Rock Star Energy Drinks seems to think it’s OK to hang up illegal advertisements like the one above in front of the Sheraton Hotel and below along Main Street, across from Stage Center.
And since they seem to want us to know more about their product, I figured I’d help out with the following links:
- Misleading ingredient labels and potentially deadly? Read here.
- Are energy drinks bad news for athletes? Read here.
- “It tasted terrible.” Read here.
- Severe stomach pain. Read here.
And finally…. “Caffeine-Stoked Energy Drinks Worry Doctors,”:
A University of Wisconsin study of 14 students found that two energy drink ingredients, caffeine and taurine, didn’t improve short-term memory but led to slower heart rates and higher blood pressure. Since some energy drink ingredients generally speed up heart rates, the researchers could only speculate on the cause.
Carol Ann Rinzler, author of “Nutrition for Dummies,” examined the labels of the top three energy drinks.
“The labels simply don’t deliver all the facts,” she said. “For example, while all list caffeine as an ingredient, and most tell you exactly how much caffeine is in the drink, they also list guarana, a caffeine source, as a separate ingredient but don’t tell how much caffeine one gets from the guarana.”
Rinzler said energy drinks also deliver a huge hit of sugar.
“Drink more than one and you get lots of sugar — 14 teaspoons in two cans, 21 teaspoons in three,” she said. Add in megadoses of some vitamins; unnecessary nutrients (taurine) and more caffeine than plain sodas and you get “a fast up-and-down sugar high and a really rough caffeine buzz,” she said. “And drinking two or three cans a day for a period of weeks or months might trigger some side effects from the vitamin megadoses.”
I meant to write something earlier this week about Michael Bates’ recent trek through downtown Des Moines. His observations about the lack of development around the city’s arena is a caution to Tulsa as it celebrates the opening of BOK Center, and something that Oklahoma City should also consider as it looks at where a new convention center might be built.
Let’s start with the idea that building an arena downtown will spur development around it. Here’s what I said in a May 2, 2006 column:
“Oklahoma City and MAPS is being mentioned a lot these days in Tulsa. The campaign for Vision 2025 was filled with comparisons to Oklahoma City, including the idea that Ford Center has boosted fortunes in neighboring Bricktown and that a Tulsa arena could spark similar development.
Bricktown merchants will readily admit the arena has been a bonanza to their businesses.
But they were all doing well before the opening of Ford Center, and it’s difficult to identify a single a business, other than the Courtyard by Marriott, that tied its opening to the arena.”
So BOK Center is open. It’s difficult to see how it isn’t a huge asset to downtown Tulsa – the design is stunning, and it’s clearly drawing Tulsans to rediscover their dowtown. But the verdict on surrounding development is still uncertain. A nice restaurant is open across the street, and owners are hoping to open a bar on the next block. And Tulsa has moved its City Hall in hopes of having the old one razed (no big loss for architecture or preservation folks) and replaced with a hotel or other arena-related development.
Michael Bates has his doubts:
“Since Des Moines has been cited as a model of downtown redevelopment — remember Bill LaFortune’s “No more! to Des Moines” at the BOK Center groundbreaking? — I was curious to see what was new.
I found the Iowa Events Center, cited six years ago by Whirled sports columnist Dave Sittler as a compelling reason for Tulsa to build a new downtown arena. The nearby area was as dead as can be — parking ramps, parking lots, office buildings. The arena sits near the river, but turns its back to it.”
Michael Bates should not be confused with a suburban anti-anything-downtown type. I’ve been reading his blog for years, and I’ve found his writing on downtown development and preservation issues to be consistently thought provoking.
In this same post Bates had some interesting comments about the Des Moines farmers market – and it makes me wonder what is ultimately possible for downtown Oklahoma City.
“On my way south to the stadium, I saw a lot of foot traffic and what looked like a street fair. Coming back north, I found the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market, which occupies a four-block stretch of Court Street, plus two blocks each of 2nd and 4th Streets, from the old county courthouse to the river, every Saturday morning from early May to late October.
It was interesting but not surprising that the market was not held near the arena or in the ballpark parking lot or along the river. Instead, it was in perhaps the most interesting part of downtown, an area where old buildings had been converted to lofts with retail and restaurants on the first floor. New infill buildings were built to fit in with the old. Once again, old buildings — not rivers or ballparks or arenas — are the key ingredient to lively streetscapes.”
So, how does all of this play into Oklahoma City’s consideration of a future convention center site? Every site proposed to date has been in Core to Shore – away from existing hotels, restaurants and clubs. And the Core to Shore discussions I’ve listened to have envisioned a convention center as the means toward sparking development of the area. And all along, we’ve been told Core to Shore is the only realistic place left to build a huge new convention center. But what if that’s wrong? What if there were a spot no local had ever considered – what if there were a spot that is located in the heart of all the downtown hotels, restaurants and clubs – and had immediate access to hundreds and hundreds of parking spaces?
And what if choosing this location could literally be the final key to having a strong, vibrant and full Central Business District, Bricktown, Deep Deuce and Automobile Alley? Couldn’t such a feat be the key to sparking development of Core to Shore? Think about it – instead of trying to create a new island of development next the existing incomplete downtown, wouldn’t it make sense for Core to Shore to grow as a result of downtown being finished?
Such an option doesn’t exist you say? You’re wrong.
The Oklahoma City Council will meet with trustees of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority Tuesday. And a lot of folks downtown will be watching and listening.
- The Bricktown Association, which is asking that the Oklahoma Spirit Trolleys actually be a part of the solution to the district’s parking challenges.
- Urban Neighbors, the downtown residents association which feels the trolleys are not set up to encourage people to leave their cars at their downtown abodes.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Oklahoma Spirit trolleys have been quietly and consistently demoted as an afterthought by COTPA, even as it presumed that its failure to adequately run a a downtown circulator didn’t preclude it from attempting a river boat transit service that duplicated a rarely-used trolley link between downtown and the I-40/Meridian Avenue hotel corridor.
The hours were cut. The routes were cut. Wait times were extended. Even though COTPA officials were asked early on about providing signage outside the trolleys to better inform people about stops on a trolley’s route, they made no effort to do so (such signs are used on similar trolleys with great success in San Antonio).
The names of the people involved in this effort a decade ago are the same names making decisions today. Rick Cain. Larry Hopper. The only one no longer in the mix is former director Randy Hume, who resigned following a budgeting error that cost the city a couple million or so from the feds.
So, what should be done to address the concerns of the Bricktown Association and Urban Neighbors?
1. I was out hunting a scoop on the next downtown high-rise.
2. Black limos, attorneys and hotels. Can’t say anything more on that matter.
3. My desk was a mess when I started my morning. I was a mess when I left.
4. I spent two minutes inside Red Prime.
5. I was pre-occupied all day with the thought that three long weeks without a new episode of Burn Notice is finally over.
6. I’m still reading the latest issue of Oklahoma Today. With each turn of a page, my fear grows that I’ve been scooped.
7. Still trying to find out answers to why Greg Banta left MidTown, why Brett Hamm left Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., and the meaning of life. It looks like my best shot is the meaning of life thing.
8. Did anyone notice the city is going to knock down the Robinson exit ramp from I-40 next to Ford Center? I’ve spent all day practicing getting stuck in hopeless traffic jams.
9. Breakfast at the Ground Floor Cafe in Leadership Square. Oh boy, that’s good.
10. Coffee Slingers – good stuff, but don’t you dare ask for Sanka.
On September 2 I posted the following photo and then asked the city planning department a one word question concerning the following property:
And now we have an answer:
“Two citations have been issued for the property at 302 NW 10th -. Case # 06-4483326, for improper storage of vehicles in a C-CBDF zoning district went to court on September 5, 2008, the case was continued until October 17, 2008. Case # 04-026511X , the defendant entered a plea of no contest and was fined $277.00. The Chief Zoning Inspector is talking with the Municipal Counselor’s office about issuing additional citations.”
- Bob Tener
This morning’s Main Street column discussed the changes that have taken place with the Bricktown Association and how they might be considered by Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. as it looks for a new president.
The following question was posted at the end of the column at www.newsok.com:
This story makes no sense, Steve. Are you suggesting that Downtown OKC’s directors acted inappropriately in making these selections without advertising the vacancy? Which directors: Fred Hall, Larry Nichols, or Clay Bennett? Your article suggests that Downtown OKC’s presidents were hampered by not having participated in an interview process. Which president should have been more fully interviewed prior to hiring: Devery Youngblood, Dave Lopez, or Brett Hamm? Finally, is the Bricktown Association really the model organization that Downtown OKC should emulate? Jim Cowan’s served as Executive Director for less than two years. His success as a Bricktown restaurant owner was marginal. Did he even pay his Bricktown Association membership dues the last two years that he owned the Bricktown Brewery?) His success as the new Executive Director is questionable. (When is the last time the Board of Directors or Association Members have been provided updated financials?) You’re still one of the best reporters at the Oklahoman, Steve, but this article was not well thought out. The next time you’re searching for a story to write, how about revisiting the proposed parking lot agreement that you’ve very generously attributed to Jim Cowan. What’s the status of that agreement? Has Mr. Cowan convinced Bricktown’s largest parking lot operator, Jim Brewer, to sign it yet?
John, Oklahoma City - Sep 9, 2008 10:08 AM
I figured not everyone would like what I wrote. I also expected to hear from “John” (I’ll let him or others provide his full identity). I’ll try to answer this series of questions as best as I can (they’re asked as if they were crafted by a great legal mind). And be warned John, I’m not willing to get into an online flame war here, and my tolerance for anonymous personal attacks on this blog is very limited. That having been said, some of these are good questions, so let’s get into it.
Q: Are you suggesting that Downtown OKC’s directors acted inappropriately in making these selections without advertising the vacancy? Which directors: Fred Hall, Larry Nichols, or Clay Bennett?
A: No. “Inappropriately” is a pretty loaded word, and it’s not one I’ve used or would use. An organization is free ot hire people with or without advertising the opening or comparing qualified candidates. But from all that I heard and observed the past two years, the fact Hamm was hired without any apparent consideration of other potential applicants dogged him from the start with various parties downtown.
Q: Your article suggests that Downtown OKC’s presidents were hampered by not having participated in an interview process. Which president should have been more fully interviewed prior to hiring: Devery Youngblood, Dave Lopez, or Brett Hamm?
A: See above.
Q: Finally, is the Bricktown Association really the model organization that Downtown OKC should emulate?
A: If one is looking to see how to steady an organization and gain credibility with a commuity of various interests, why not?
Q: Jim Cowan’s served as Executive Director for less than two years. His success as a Bricktown restaurant owner was marginal. Did he even pay his Bricktown Association membership dues the last two years that he owned the Bricktown Brewery?
A: Jim Cowan was upfront when he took the job that he was selling the Brewery and that he was doing so because it needed a new direction and wasn’t doing as well as it once had. That having been said, former Bricktown Association director Frank Sims almost always had high praise for Cowan’s leadership among merchants. And the Bricktown Brewery was a major music venue and destination eatery during much of Cowan’s tenure until it began to fade several years ago. New owners have done what Cowan admitted he could no longer do – bring in a new menu, fix up the old place, and give it a fresh start. Cowan also did what dozens of restaurant owners could not do in Bricktown – maintain a business for more than a decade and ensure its survival through the sale to new owners. Yes, Cowan admits he did not pay dues the final two years because of business hardships. But can one deny he invested more time and energy in the association than many who did? And how many members were delinquent during the final year of Frank Sims’ tenure? Frank is widely regarded as having contributed greatly toward promoting Bricktown as a destination. But I’ve been told by past and current leaders of the association that dues always ebb and flow with the district’s overall success or failure.
Q: When is the last time the Board of Directors or Association Members have been provided updated financials?
A: I just called Jim Cowan – he reports June financials are available and July and August financials will be out this next month. It’s up to you and others to decide if this is the deciding factor on whether Cowan has been an effective leader.
Q: how about revisiting the proposed parking lot agreement that you’ve very generously attributed to Jim Cowan. What’s the status of that agreement? Has Mr. Cowan convinced Bricktown’s largest parking lot operator, Jim Brewer, to sign it yet?
A: I’m not sure I know what agreement is waiting to be signed. Brewer and a majority of parking operators agreed verbally and publicly to cap their rates at $10 for special events and $5 on non-event nights. So far, I’ve yet to catch him violating that promise (if I do, I’ll tell you the readers of this blog). Jim Brewer has complained plenty about my stories on his parking operations and some readers have complained I’ve spent too much time reporting on this matter. Not sure how else to answer this.
You win some, you lose some. Sadly, I was unable to get all the images into the paper that I wish I could have – so here they are without any further delay. Above, Stan Carroll and Hans Butzer, lead designers of the proposed “SkyDance Bridge” being considered today by the city council.
The SkyDance Bridge will connect two proposed parks in Core to Shore.
It may seem odd, but the two-story former Sieber grocery strikes me as almost being more stunning than the hotel itself. Maybe it’s simply a matter of discovery – I always appreciated the former and potential future architectural grandeur of the hotel. But I could never get past the dilapidated condition of the grocery to see just how stunning it could be.
Inside the former grocery building.
The lobby continues to take shape.
It won’t be too much longer before the old Sieber Hotel in MidTown opens up as apartments. I visited with developer Marva Ellard last week and was treated to a brief tour on the condition I would only post these photos on the blog and wait before doing a formal story in The Oklahoman or at www.newsok.com.
Yes, it’s true Greg Banta won’t be leading redevelopment of MidTown anymore. But it’s difficult to believe the area is going to grind to a halt without him.
Final note: the downtown housing tour hosted by Downtown OKC Inc. is still producing results – I met new residents of the Sieber who were drawn in by the tour and were preparing to take measurements for furnishings and decor.
Sorry for the delay, but I have a steep learning curve on this blogging business, and I had to figure out on my own how best to convert a pdf to jpg. And here it is, Harding and Shelton’s “pipe dream” – a project they would love to see happen if the right partners could come to the table.
To the right, we still see a renovated Red Ball Building with retail built out along the canal level. And yes, we still see the canal extension being contemplated by the city. To the left we see a renovated Rock Island Plow Building. OK, all is well and good – these are improvements that are going to happen as part of the pair’s “phase one.”
But then things change … a lot. High rise buildings are built over the underground parking just south of the Red Ball Building. They are envisioned as either condo towers or a hotel. But wait – where’s the building that is home to Zio’s? Yep – this concept (and please realize, it’s just a concept) would raze the Zio’s building, create a courtyard facing the canal that would be backed by an entirely new building that the oilmen envision as a great spot for new retail.
This “phase two” is an idea – it is not financed, it is not designed, it has no committed parties. Ted Keeny, CFO of the pair’s Diversified Historic Properties, gave me permission to share these ideas in hopes that maybe it might draw some interested parties to the table.