Two months ago the Downtown Design Review Committee unanimously approved plans for a new headquarters for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Today, committee member James Loftis said something about that project in comparison to the Devon tower that he didn’t express in September before his vote:
“We’ve had a suburban approach to the chamber building. This is a very urban thing – it goes far beyond anything I thought we’d see in our lifetimes…”
So, tell me what you really think….
Don’t worry – no such insults are being hurled at the designs for the Devon tower, which are being heard right now by the Downtown Design Review Committee. But this presentation is far more than I expected with quite a bit of color and new details coming out.
The Downtown Design Review Committee is being asked to approve plans on Thursday for the new Devon Energy world headquarters. Part of the project calls for removal of these ornate bridges between the east and west City Center garages. I called architect Scott Dedmon, whose firm ADG designed the garages, and learned the bridges could be salvaged and used elsewhere.
Question No. 1: Should the bridges be removed? Devon Energy wants the bridges removed because they want to secure access to the west garage, which they are buying from the city, and to clear the view of a rotunda that will stand at the end of Harvey Avenue (just south of the bridge in the foreground).
Question No. 2: Where could the city best re-use the bridges if they are taken down? Where could these bridges make the best impression?
Today’s evidence – a posting on the story today about the Harley-Davidson owners group having their worldwide rally in Bricktown next year:
Interesting, considering that Bricktown has been pretty clear about not wanting bikers in and around the area. Llike always it’s about the almighty dollar.
K, Oklahoma City – Nov 19, 2008 5:08 AM
Interesting, considering Bricktown has hosted at least a dozen motorcyle festivals the past few years and has dozens of parking spaces reserved for motorcycles.
Steve, Oklahoma City – Nov 19, 2008, 2:45 PM
I’m still a bit bewildered as to why I’m hearing no discussions of a canal extension in connection to the planned Devon tower TIF or expansion of Ford Center. A canal extension ranked high with residents responding to a MAPS 3 survey – higher than improvements along the Oklahoma River, which do seem to be very much a priority for folks at City Hall.
So, here’s the first of a series of polls. The first poll asks if you want to see a canal extension that would take the waterway past Ford Center and to the Myriad Gardens.
My next poll will weigh interest in further improvements to the canal versus improvements to the river. My final poll will ask how many of you have visited the canal or taken a cruise on a canal taxi versus visiting the river or riding the river boats.
(Yes, I’m very well aware these questions might be unpopular with some folks. But I lost the Mr. Popularity vote a long time ago, so I’m OK with that).
After having covered Bricktown for more than a dozen years, you begin to see the cliche mistakes the minute they begin.
Here’s a classic. Guy comes into Bricktown buying up property without knowing how the district works and employs a suburban real estate broker who is also clueless about the intricacies of a seasonal entertainment district.
Before long, the same delusion comes into play: “Why can’t I get $20 a square foot for my space? After all, this is Bricktown! I’m here to get rich!”
Now, this guy might be blessed with having good stable tenants who actually pay their rent on time and cause no problems (believe me, this isn’t as common in Bricktown as one might think).
But their rents aren’t at $20 per square foot. So what’s next? You guessed it – he’s going to double the rent knowing he’ll lose the good stable tenant. He thinks a new lease will be easygoing – heck, his suburban real estate guy even thinks so!
Now, let’s back up a second.
The first floor of the Kingman Building, formerly home to Othello’s, has been empty a year. It has yet to attract a good stable tenant since it was first occupied by a troublesome nightclub that drew gang members.
The old location of the Laughing Fish has been empty at least two years.
The old Daquari Zone has been empty for a year.
The old Varsity has been empty for months. It’s about to be leased to a nightclub, which is widely considered a downgrade for a property.
The future home of the American Banjo Museum was empty for years after a Chinese restaurant failed there a few years ago.
The Bricktown Canal is littered with empty space. That space hasn’t gone empty due to a lack of interest. Instead, the owners decided a decade ago that they can demand $20 to $25 a square foot in rent with no finish out. And so you have everything frozen in place as if it’s 1999. The owners willing to make deals for canal level space have tenants on the canal. Those who were demanding $20 or more per square foot for empty space still have empty space.
That’s just a small sampling of how “easy” it is to do deals in Bricktown. These property owners never seem to know what they had until they’ve brushed it off. And some of the people who came in with no experience and acting like Bricktown is like any other real estate are losing their shirts.
Now, I’m not saying any of this is related to what’s coming next, but….
Uncommon Grounds, the coffee shop on the ground floor of the Mercantile Building is closing in December. Gary Berlin, who bought the building a year or so ago, confirmed he tried to double the shop’s rent after the lease expired. He thinks he’ll have no problem leasing the space for an even higher amount of rent once it’s empty.
He said there is no truth to a rumor at OKC Talk that he has a new tenant lined up for the space. Uncommon Grounds has been in business since 1995.
My good friend and colleague Jack Money remembers former City Councilman Mark Schwartz in a posting on his Oklahoma Energy Blog.
“Mark Schwartz was a consummate political operator at city, state and federal level. He was an outstanding counsel for me at the Department of Energy when I was Secretary of Energy. Mostly, I consider him a good friend who always had a positive outlook on life and people in general. The only thing he loved more than politics was his home state of
Oklahoma and I will miss him enormously.”
- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (who actually called me instead of having a flack send me a prepared statement).
Two men I knew very, very well – two men who had a profound impact on this city, died this week.
Jim Brewer was the P.T. Barnum of Bricktown. I was the pesky reporter who provided the headlines he loved, and told the truth that he dreaded. At times he loved me, at other times he hated me.
But he always let me tell his story. Without him, Bricktown is different. Brewer isn’t an easy man to memorialize. He accomplished great things. But he was also flawed. I’ll try to delve into that more as time allows.
The news of Mark Schwartz passing was a punch to the gut, even though I knew it was coming. The former longtime Ward 2 Councilman left Oklahoma City briefly in the late 1990s to work as an attorney at the Department of Energy under Bill Richardson. He returned and resumed doing what he loved best – promoting the interests of police and firefighters. Mark was never coy about his loyalty to the guys and women in uniform. He was a key advocate for the 1989 public safety sales tax and did much to ensure the city had adequate public safety.
As with Brewer, my headlines were both kind and cruel to Schwartz. My pesky questioning of a no-bid lobbying contract with Oklahoma County cost him a pretty big job after his return to Oklahoma City. Yeah, I cost Mark serious money. But that didn’t stop us from meeting at VZD’s afterwards, where we bickered over whether Clinton or Bush were the biggest jokes and marveled at how the city was transforming itself before our eyes.
In a profession where you’re supposed to avoid becoming friends with sources, my track record is far from perfect. I can count about a dozen people who were or are my sources who are also very, very good friends. Indict me if you want – I’m human and these things happen over a 19-year career. But ask yourself this – can you still cost a friend a contract worth tens of thousands of dollars in the name of being an objective reporter? I did it with Mark, but our friendship never wavered.
I’ve known his death was coming for the past week, and I’ve been dreading it. No more jokes at VZDs, no more cladestine meetings at Juniors, no more afternoons watching Mark make homemade chicken noodle soup, Jewish style.
There’s so much to tell for tomorrow’s paper, and just eight inches in which I can tell it.