OK, truth be told these photos were taken last week, not 20 years ago. But the restaurant really is a time capsule. I’ve probably not eaten at Spaghetti Warehouse in Bricktown in 5-7 years. When it first opened, it was the BIG DEAL – the attraction that finally turned Bricktown into a place everyone wanted to visit.
As a senior in college in spring, 1990, I went with friends for dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse and then hung out at O’Brien’s across the street. And for us, that was a big night downtown. We talked excitedly about the preparations underway for the CBA Cavalry, which was to start its first season that fall.
More resturants and clubs opened. A lot of them emphasized the history of Bricktown, following the example set by Spaghetti Warehouse and its placement of an old OKC Railway car in the dining room.
Going back in last week, my acquaintance and I talked about the area’s past and present. We wondered why restaurants in Bricktown by and large seem to ignore the historic character of the district when it comes to interior design. We began to appreciate the dated decor of Spaghetti Warehouse even more. Sure, it’s 1989. But I’m not entirely sure that’s all bad.
Yeah, it’s getting a lot more enjoyable these days. The team is clicking. But I’ve got to pick on Thunder TV. They are using very old aerial footage of downtown that really isn’t as complimentary as they might think.
First of all, the video shows a dead Skirvin hotel. Lights out. Dormant. No guests. No life. If you don’t believe me, slow it down while watching it on DVR. And while you’re at it, notice that the Sonic neon sign is glowing atop its old headquarters along Robert S. Kerr Ave. That dates the video back to pre-2002.
Come on Thunder, let’s show off downtown as it is today, not from six years ago!
Sure, it might cost your ad firm or whatever some extra money, but here’s a freebie game intermission idea to make up for it: Rickrolling. Sure, it’s a two-year-old gimick, but people still love to sing along with ole Rick… so put a new spin on it. Have a regular segment where the crowd votes for the best rickroller caught by the Thunder Cam. We’re talking about fans who dress like Rick, dance like Rick, lipsynch like Rick… they are the embodiment of Rick!
And if you’re clueless as to the whole idea before rickrolling – well… do some research or just enjoy the above video.
In a story earlier this week I referred to a plan by Allen Contracting to turn an old warehouse in Bricktown into their corporate offices. Sadly, I was unable to convince the architects and their client to provide a rendering that day, so all I could do was provide a photo of the architects showing their drawings to the Bricktown Urban Design Committee. Now, without further delay, is the proposed rendering. After listening to the architects and the committee, there will likely be changes, especially in regard to the chimneys and other ”Victorian” detailing.
So, without any further delay, here’s a bit of what he had to say:
I urge each of you to check out the Fixed Guideway Study that provides our blueprint for a 21st Century transit system. It can be found at on the Internet at OKFGS.org.
Fully implemented, it calls for a greatly enhanced bus system, including Bus Rapid Transit, and there are also light rail and downtown streetcar components. This blueprint is complete. You may recall we spent a year and a half on the study.
We now know enough to get started, and there are a number of places we can start. But the key is that we need to get started. Not so much for today, because we are not in a public transit crisis. But transit programs take years, if not decades, to implement. Most cities wait until their highways are at gridlock before they begin taking action. Our city has a history of planning for the future, and now is the time to get started. It will take vision from each and every one of us. When gas if affordable and traffic runs smoothly, it can be difficult to gather support for public transit. I will need your help.
The large central park in the Core to Shore project is also critical to our city’s future, and necessary to our ability to adapt to the relocation of Interstate 40. A year ago, in this State of the City address, I showed you the first conceptual images of the Core to Shore project.
Since then you’ve seen them in many other places, and you’ve probably followed the announcement of the first signature project, the Oklahoma City SkyDance pedestrian bridge over the new I-40.
We have never built anything like this before in Oklahoma City, and this bridge will become an iconic image for the millions of motorists who pass through our city. Let this be the first signal that we are serious about Core to Shore, and it also serves notice that we are raising the standards for design in this city. But there is much more to Core to Shore.
The Core to Shore plan is the result of a large and inclusive civic planning process, and it illustrates the benefits of building a large central park that connects the core of downtown to the shore of the Oklahoma River. Also central to the project is the at-grade boulevard that will replace the current I-40. This boulevard won’t just be a street that gets you from point A to point B. With this boulevard, we have the opportunity to create one of the most special streets in the United States.
This opportunity comes upon us because of the relocation of I-40. That relocation will remove the physical barrier that has separated downtown from the River and everything in between. Now, we have the opportunity few cities ever get. We can create a new urban center, just blocks from our central business district. The park and the boulevard are the lynchpins, and they serve as the catalyst for future retail, housing, and a potential Convention Center, which I’ll discuss in a moment.
A fully programmed urban park that ties to the Myriad Gardens and retail development along the new boulevard will be yet another eye-popping signal that Oklahoma City is moving forward. Combined with a public transit system that we can be proud of, a citywide sidewalk program that is already under construction, and a growing trend toward density in the inner-city, the park can be another giant step towards creating the pedestrian-friendly community that we desire. The timeline is doable. Keep in mind, the interstate should be relocated in 2012. The resulting boulevard that will be built along the current interstate alignment should be in place by 2014. The park, ideally, needs to be ready at the same time, roughly five years from now. But like an expansion of public transit, the park is not currently funded.
Together, better public transit and the creation of the Core to Shore park are significant “quality of life” amenities. You have heard me say before that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I suggest that for transit and the Core to Shore park, that time has come.
You have heard me say before that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I suggest that for transit and the Core to Shore park, that time has come.
The only decisions left are how we proceed and how soon.
And while these two initiatives are focused directly on the quality of life for our residents, we have a third important opportunity that focuses directly on our economy and indirectly on job creation. And that is a resolution to our undersized, and thus underutilized, convention center. We are in it today. This building was constructed in 1972 and was last improved in 1999. In 1999, we had one downtown hotel and it wasn’t doing all that well. Now we are soon to have seven downtown hotels and counting. And it appears they are all healthy. But we are currently losing convention business we could otherwise obtain because of the size of this facility.
Now, that didn’t stop us from securing a lot of other events. Let me mention two. Coming up this year in March is the American Choral Directors Association national meeting, which is bringing 4,000 people to Oklahoma City. And next year, the 2010 gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. You know, I think my fellow mayors were just so sick of hearing me talk about Oklahoma City – that it couldn’t possibly be as great as I claim – that they finally just had to come see it for themselves. But that meeting, scheduled to occur in June, 2010, though large in influence, is not numerically much larger than the number of people gathered in this room. But there are dozens of other conventions that attract many thousands of people that we could also host, except that we don’t have the convention facilities. Everything else is in place. We have built a city that groups and organizations want to visit, but we don’t have room for them.
And tourism is a wonderful way to boost your local economy because it takes dollars that were generated somewhere else and it deposits them in your community. Listen to this – tourism in the last year for which we have data brought in 6.6 million visitors to Oklahoma City and accounted for 1.2 billion dollars in economic impact. That type of economic growth creates jobs, and not just tourism jobs, but jobs throughout the community. And our tourism is growing every year.
Our experience with MAPS in the 1990s taught us many things and perhaps above all, it taught us the wisdom of investing in ourselves. One thing we learned, however, is that by paying cash and building the projects as the dollars accumulate through sales tax, as opposed to taking on debt through a bond issue, it takes quite a while to get things built. MAPS was passed in 1993 and the final project, the Ron Norick Library, opened in 2004. Eleven years later. That kind of time lapse is another reason to put a new convention center on our list of priorities now. If we decided to vote on a MAPS 3 initiative in the next year or two, it would most likely be at least ten years from now before that convention center would open. By then, our convention center will be nearly 50 years old. It’s hard to argue with the theory that you need to replace your convention center every 50 years. In the Core to Shore planning process, the committee reserved a spot for a new convention center that would be near the boulevard and near the park. I believe we are approaching the time when we need to pursue that reality.
These three items are not the only good ideas. We also need to make some improvements along our outstanding and ever-growing river. In fact, each of us could come up with a list of items for MAPS 3, and thanks to our open idea process in 2007, you did. You may recall, two years ago in this address, we put out the call for entries. Over the next four months, we received over 2,700 ideas, 668 of which focused on transit. Each of your ideas probably has merit. But let’s just not forget the priorities: transit, the Core to Shore park, and the convention center. These ideas are fully-formed, they will continue our renaissance at the same pace we have grown accustomed to, and their time has come.
But let’s just not forget the priorities: transit, the Core to Shore park, and the convention center. These ideas are fully-formed, they will continue our renaissance at the same pace we have grown accustomed to, and their time has come.
All indications are that the vast majority of people in this community want to go forward. That same web site recorded that over 85 percent of respondents said they wanted to pursue a MAPS 3. It is evident that this community still has needs, and it still has ambitions. MAPS has been the vehicle for our progress, and it should remain so. But exactly ‘when’ we move forward is less clear, and that’s the conversation we’ll be having over the course of the next few months. We will come to a community consensus no later than the end of this coming summer. MAPS 3 is no longer a distant dream. The opportunity to continue this city’s momentum is before us. The opportunity to create jobs for the next generation, and therefore to keep our kids and grandkids in Oklahoma City is approaching.
Maybe this is just an ugly trim, right? Right? All I do know is the once beloved home of Allen’s Cafe was bought out a couple years ago by R.D. and Scott Smith, the same folks that for years owned the boarded up building that was home to one tenant, “Pat’s Lounge,” on NW 10 and other similarly maintained properties. They also tore down a grocery store with ads dating back to statehood near St. Anthony Hospital.
Allen’s closed after the sale, and the Red Brick restuarant operated there for a few months before closing. All I know now is what I see being done to what were some of the biggest oldest trees downtown other than the Survivor Tree.
I have nothing but the upmost respect for Darren Currin, who writes the square foot blog. (UPDATE: AS OF WEDNESDAY THIS POST ON HAS DISAPPEARED). But I’m not so sure he’s nailed things down with Tronox.
Tronox, first of all, is in chemicals, not energy, and is the world’s third-largest producer of whitening pigment titanium dioxide. And while the economic downturn hasn’t helped Tronox, it’s role in the company’s bankruptcy is more likely due to a drop in construction and manufacturing, not in energy prices.
In the story today by Oklahoman business writer Don Mecoy, it’s clear the company believes it’s problems are due to a staggering amount of liabilities that Kerr-McGee dumped into Tronox when it spun off the former chemical division. Kerr-McGee then was taken over by Anadarko Petroleum. Interestingly, it appears as if Tronox, through the bankruptcy, is trying to place that debt back with Anadarko.
If the company succeeds, it’s not so ridiculous to allow for the possibility that the company can not only survive and reorganize, but once again thrive downtown.
Darren’s overall take on the downtown office market is correct – the wonderful drops in vacancy the past few years could be reversed if the energy sector craters. He mentions “many” energy firms have already closed downtown – that’s an outflux I’m not aware of and he’s not naming any names. His take, I guess, is that the glass is half empty and it’s getting emptier. My take is the glass is half full and the verdict is still out on what’s next.
On Jan. 6 I posted predictions for 2009, including the following:
At least one significant downtown employer will end up filing for bankruptcy.
Sadly, this one has come true.
Leave it to Chad Huntington, also known as Urbanized at OKC Talk, to write up an even better explanation of what Jane Jenkins brings as the new president of Downtown OKC Inc.
And at the request of Pete, the beloved owner of OKC Talk, let me also point out that Chad’s comments have spurred most of the board members to take a much more positive take on Jenkins’ upcoming arrival.
Here’s what Chad had to say:
Something is being missed when discussing her role at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The national Trust is not just a watchdog agency that tries to protect old buildings. The national Main Street movement was created and is overseen by the National Trust. The Oklahoma Main Street Program -which by the way is one of the top two or three state programs in the country – deals directly with the Fort Worth office that Jane previously ran.
Main Street’s “Four Point Approach” to downtown redevelopment is exactly the model that most downtowns, regardless of size, should use to successfully redevelop their downtowns. Downtown redevelopment was pioneered by Main Street. The Four Point Approach is easy to replicate, regardless of circumstance, and is the most proven method for downtown revitalization. It doesn’t necessarily require a Main Street affiliation, and in fact Jane is perhaps one of the most qualified people in the United States to manage a similar approach without the direct guidance of Main Street.
And for those of you who think Main Street itself is too “small town,” you need only look at the success that Automobile Alley has had, much of which can be attributed to its Main Street program status in the late ’90s. Further, it needs to be pointed out that Boston, MA and Portland OR, among others, are loaded with successfull urban Main Street programs.
Although I had limited interaction with Jane when I was the director of Automobile Alley, I know people who have worked with her closely, who were pleasantly surprised and maybe even a bit amazed that we landed her in OKC.
Let me tell you a little story about downtown redevelopment organizations, and why you shouldn’t judge their effectiveness by the size of their city. Back in 2000, during the five minutes or so when I served as the Director of Marketing for DOKC, I attended the IDA annual meeting in Los Angeles. It was an absolute who’s who of downtown revitalization. The keynote speaker on the last day was Bill Hudnut, former mayor of Indianapolis. He was mayor during Indy’s dramatic reinvention of the 1970s, 1980s and early ’90s, which incidentally was indirectly a major catalyst for MAPS.
While I was at that conference, I spent time with downtown people from Seattle, the Los Angeles Fashion District, the Times Square (NYC) business improvement district, downtown Milwaukee, and I could go on and on. Care to guess who most commanded and held the attention of all of these heavy-hitters? Des Moines. That’s right, Des Moines. A city of less than 200,000. Their downtown folks were the presenters of many of the conference sessions, and I sat in and watched people from New York, Milwaukee and Seattle, among others, hang on every word and eagerly ask them questions. There was zero – ZERO – big-city ego apparent, or indications that people were thinking “I can’t learn anything from people who come from a town smaller than my own.”
My point is only that downtown redevelopment follows set, very basic rules. Rules that can be applied across the board, no matter where the downtown is, no matter its size. Do I think Jane would have been a good hire if she jumped straight from Pawhuska to OKC? Of course not. But the fact of the matter is that she is – according to her own peers who have twice voted her the chair of the IDA – one of the most qualified downtown professionals in the country. That’s good enough for me.
I have often thought one of the dangers we face regarding downtown Oklahoma City is arrogance. That is, the success of MAPS and the uniqueness of its format (large group of projects, dedicated sales tax, no debt, quick transformation) has taken us from not believing in ourselves or our downtown at all to believing that we are the only people doing this. Downtown revitalization began long before Oklahoma City jumped on the bandwagon, and we still have a lot to learn.
There is no question that we have made some amazing gains that have drawn the attention and envy of other cities, but there is a reason, for instance, that the OKC Chamber took a benchmarking trip last year to Charlotte instead of the other way around. We’re still learning how to do this. The fact that for the first time we have looked outside the community and sought out a highly-respected and accomplished downtown specialist is a huge thing. I just hope we give her the autonomy she will need and hear out the new approaches she will undoubtedly suggest, all with a collective open mind.
Posted by Candidate_Coleman on January 6, 2009 at 6:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Jane’s energy, insight and efficacy will be missed in Downtown Boulder, I feel comfortable speaking for my board when I say we will miss you and wish you tremendous success in your new endeavor!
City of Boulder Downtown Management Commission
Posted by NukesInBoulder on January 6, 2009 at 8:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Is Oklahoma City a demotion? I really can’t tell.
Posted by meatpieandtatters on January 7, 2009 at 6:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)
During her tenure with Downtown Boulder, the 35-block area maintained a 95 percent retail occupancy rate and a 92 percent office occupancy rate, Jenkins said. Wait until the economic realities sink in. Transposing the numbers will be a more realistic indication of downtown vitality.
Posted by austinmary on January 7, 2009 at 10:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)
Anyone who knows or has worked with Jane knows that this is a huge loss for Boulder. Best of luck to Jane…she has contributed greatly to Boulder’s economic well-being and will be greatly missed.
Or maybe not. I’ve gotten accustomed to the negativity that sometimes goes on at www.okctalk.com, but today’s take on Jane Jenkins is just weird. I love www.okctalk.com, I think it’s a valuable site, but tell me why this discussion isn’t exhibit No. 1 on why some avoid it altogether.
The basic gist of the criticism goes like this: “Put me down as someone a little disappointed in the hiring. I too was hoping for someone coming from a larger city. No disrespect to her or to the city of Boulder.”
Translation: Isn’t she too small town for us????
Now, don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great that OKC folks are thinking a lot better of themselves than they did 20 years ago. This city had a massive collective case of poor self esteem prior to MAPS and the resurgence of downtown.
But now we’re starting to sound like Mack Brown, and that’s just not good.
So let’s back up a second and pick apart what’s being said at www.okctalk.com:
- Jane Jenkins Main Street experience isn’t that meaningful (that’s what I drew from the comments) because she worked in small towns. OK, wake up folks! As someone who has visited dozens of Main Street programs, I can tell you that this is what it’s all about. And I’ve seen plenty of examples of progressive downtown development and promotions in small Main Street downtowns that blow away anything being done in Oklahoma City.
- Denton is nothing more than Baja Oklahoma. Um, OK. It’s also a city of more than 100,000 that has had to find a way to establish its own identity in the shadow of Dallas. Um yeah, nothing to learn from that bit of experience either.
- Jane Jenkins was regional director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Oops, folks at OKC Talk aren’t talking about this one. I guess they’re not interested in what experience Jenkins might have from this gig that could help in the development of Bricktown, MidTown and the Film District. Nah, she won’t know of grants and obscure funding that can help in old building renovations. She won’t know how to inspire reluctant property owners to take a risk on restoration projects … (sarcasm alert!)
- Jane Jenkins stint in Boulder, Colorado doesn’t qualify her for OKC – Boulder is just a small resort town. Um, yeah… it’s got an MSA population of more than 200,000 and a bustling retail district downtown. Jenkins just oversaw renewal of the downtown business improvement district – a task now underway in OKC, and also worked with the city’s tax increment finance district.
- Jane Jenkins is in her second year term as chair of the International Downtown Association. Nope, this one isn’t getting much mention at OKC Talk either. Here’s a brief description of the IDA from its website:
Founded in 1954, the International Downtown Association has more than 650 member organizations worldwide including: North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Through our network of committed individuals, rich body of knowledge and unique capacity to nurture community-building partnerships, IDA is a guiding force in creating healthy and dynamic centers that anchor the well being of towns, cities and regions of the world.
TRANSLATION: Someone who is serving two years as chair of the IDA has had to have been very involved with the group, its seminars, membership and mission. I can’t imagine a person achieving this position without some serious networking, and of course, through that they would have some great exposure to what’s going on in downtowns throughout the world. But to hear the take of posters at OKC Talk (and also some commenters at NewsOK), apparently all of this experience is pretty insignificant.
Sure, if you say so.
Final note: I don’t know Jane Jenkins other by reputation. I’ve spoken to several people over the past few weeks who do know her, and they are unanimous in their praise. I’ve been told we can expect great things ahead – if this city is ready to listen to new ideas.