I’ve bombarded by people swearing I’m all wrong about twitter. Close friends have been on a crusade attempting to show me how I can communicate with everybody and receive the latest news instantly (as long as it’s 140 words or less).
But as these people call and write me, it seems as if they’re making the argument against twitter; the more popular it becomes, the more it becomes noise on a busy street.
But this response isn’t good enough … some folks are insisting they set up an account for me with or without my cooperation.
I was reminded today that while James Cotter may not be nominated by Cherokee for the “Friend of Main Street Award,” he’s also disappointed folks in downtown OKC when the business improvement board sought to build (at its own expense) a new grand entry to The Underground pedestrian tunnels next to Chase Tower (oh, excuse me, it’s Cotter Ranch Tower). The entry was designed by one of the city’s most notable architects, Rand Elliott. Cotter refused to let the project proceed, and the entryway there now is unchanged – a hole in the ground with chipped white paint worn out railings.
We could have had the entrance shown above – all Cotter had to do was to say “yes.”
American Eagle Outfitters, AT&T Wireless, Candyopolis, Claire’s Botique, Classic Jewelry, Eastern Treasures, Pacific Sunwear, Footlocker, Zales, Kay Jewelers, Bags N More, Things Remembered, Bonnie’s Popcorn and Waldenbooks.
Some of the above stores are part of national chains, others are locally owned. And they are all reportedly on month-to-month leases at Crossroads Mall.
It’s time to be blunt. It’s time to suggest something that might be seen as somewhat cruel. But the opinion of most real estate folks in this town is that Crossroads Mall is over as a retail operation now that it has lost all of its anchors and has gone into foreclosure.
And yet while Crossroads is looking cooked, downtown’s potential for retail is looking better than it has since the 1950s. How many of the above listed retailers might be considered a good addition to Bricktown?
Yes, I’m thinking like a vulture. And I’m feeling a bit guilty over it since I met the mall’s general manager, Jim Swenson, in December and I think he’s a good guy who tried to give it his all.
But let’s not forget it was Crossroads Mall that put the nail in the coffin for downtown retail more than 30 years ago. The mall poached away downtown’s grand old department store, John A. Brown’s and nobody really wailed over it then. It was to be expected at the time – who cared about downtown retail?
Times change. And I’m wondering why downtown developers don’t see this as an opportunity to do a reverse on history. Take a list of the retailers at Crossroads, highlight the ones that might consider relocating to Bricktown if they could move together and form a nucleus of urban retail. And then begin the cold calls.
As evidenced by the strong turn-out for a recent discussion at the Skirvin Hilton about downtown retail, interest in taking this next step is high. But if the experts are to believed, one can’t simply wait for the retailers to begin rediscovering downtown. Someone is going to need to get aggressive about making deals and thinking outside the box.
Hey, I’m just saying…
I don’t twitter. I know a lot of important people who don’t twitter. Yet there are those in this community who are talking about twitter and online social networking as if it they are a religion.
Sorry, I’m not buying it. But the truth is there are more people out there than not who will never twitter, who will never have a facebook, linked-in or myspace page. I’ve dabbled in some of this and found much of it to be a waste of my time.
But let me spend time in a downtown coffee shop and I’m guaranteed to meet interesting new people and hear about the latest developments and scoops. Let me spend time mixing with business leaders and shop owners and I’ll get a better understanding of what’s going on in today’s economy than through twitter and online social networking.
There, I’ve said it. And to those being evangelized by the twitter devotees, ask yourself, is this digital clutter really worth the effort? I think not. I’d rather spend my time talking to real people face to face.
It was, I admit, a quick answer that might have even been tainted by a bit of ego. Visiting with author and consultant Jeff Speck last week during a dinner with members of ULI, the discussion turned to Broadway and how ridiculously wide it is.
Speck, author of “Suburban Nation,” has been hired by the city to prepare a plan on how to make downtown more friendly to pedestrians. Nobody at the table seemed to believe that Broadway once had angled parking. I spoke up and said “yes it did” without hesitation.
The pressure was on after that. A.J. Kirkpatrick, one of the city’s bright up anc coming assistant planners, was at that table and I know he reads this blog. By giving such an answer, and being so cocky about it, I had to come up with the proof to back up my assertion. I knew I had seen an image of angled parking along Broadway, and sure enough, after doing some searching in my archives at www.okchistory.com (a private history site maintained by myself and Jack Money), the above illustration is at least a start at providing evidence to Speck. This 1920s image appears to be looking north from Sheridan Avenue.
Oklahoman Real Estate Editor Richard Mize has a great column today about James Cotter, owner of downtown Oklahoma City’s Chase Tower. While Mr. Cotter has made some significant efforts to do some braggin at Chase Tower by emblazoning the floor with his brand, he’s taken no such pride with some Main Street properties in the northern Oklahoma town of Cherokee.
Richard has given a voice to these folks by writing about their unsuccessful efforts to get Cotter to sell or donate key downtown properties that obviously have no value to him as evidenced by their lack of upkeep.
But if Mr. Cotter doesn’t care about what the folks in Cherokee think about him, I wonder if he places more value on his reputation in a town where he owns the largest office tower – one that will be half empty in a few years when Devon moves into its own tower. One might think he might need some good will to fill up all that empty space in a 36-story building he claims is legally named Cotter Ranch Tower (I bet you didn’t know that).
After doing some research on Mr. Cotter, it appears as if “Cotter Ranch” Chase Tower is the gem of his portfolio. According to the San Antonio Express News, Cotter got into the real estate business after leaving the Army in the 1950s. He attended Walla Walla College in Walla Walla, Wash., and developed a 36-lot subdivision before graduating in the late 1950s.
Around that time, Cotter also owned the last privately owned bus line in Washington, which served Walla Walla and the surrounding area.
Now he owns about 70 buildings, including medical office buildings, retail centers and warehouses in Texas, Washington, Idaho, California, Oklahoma and Florida. He wants to get his three sons — all named James — started in the real estate business.
Now let’s talk about tiny Cherokee, population 1,437. Like many small Oklahoma towns, Cherokee is fighting the same battle faced by many towns its size. Between 2000 and 2007, its population dropped 10 percent. Yet the town, as evidenced in the above photo, is trying to keep its Main Street nice and doing what it can to rebound. A donation by Mr. Cotter of two buildings with little value to himself would be a big boost to this town.
What do you think? I wonder whether anyone in the big city, home to “Cotter Ranch Tower,” would contact Mr. Cotter if they knew they could contact his local representative, Chase Tower manager Tammy Powell, at (405) 601-6600 or by Email at email@example.com. As for Cotter and his sons, I couldn’t find a web site or email address in San Antonio. But they are located at 802 NE Loop 410, San Antiono, Texas, 78217 and their phone number is (210) 822-2001.
Well, it’s a done deal; I shot the first segments this morning for an upcoming weekly video show that focus on development downtown and in the innercity. While I was uncertain about this going into it, I’m beginning to think this could be a good addition to my coverage and hopefully one you’ll enjoy.
I’ll tell you more as we get closer to the show’s launch.
On an unrelated matter … people will mock me for saying so (I would have myself not too long ago), but I’m beginning to think that as Rick Dowell continues to talk about building a 30-story residential tower, by the way he does deals, it could actually happen.
I’ll share more about this and more over the next week.
I knew it came close. I didn’t realize that destruction was flying above everything I cherish. Thank you God is all I can say.
On Tuesday (was that really yesterday?) I revealed in my Main Street column that a wide array of downtown leaders are seeking to add a potential Bricktown Canal extension to the discussion of what’s next for downtown.
These folks are not insisting that funding be provided for such a project or that it be a part of a possible MAPS 3. Instead, there is a growing awareness of significant planning for the future and proponents say they’d like to at least see a canal extension given serious consideration.
The chief reasoning appears to be the potential of making the canal a major pedestrian thoroughfare. Interestingly enough, the city has quietly retained the respect author and planner Jeff Speck to look at improving pedestrian access downtown.
Now here’s a big secret I’ll share about how consultants typically conduct their research: they are given marching orders by their employer (in this case it would be city staff) and that’s that. All too often I’ve seen consultants’ reports disappoint various interested parties – and at the root of it all seems to be a tendency by consultants to simply come up with what they think the clients want.
Jeff Speck, by the way, is not your typical consultant. He’s the guy who first introduced himself to Oklahoma City a couple of years ago by addressing a crowd with the introduction of “your codes are bad.”
How presumptious. How dare he. How brilliant.
Everyone in the room laughed and nobody disagreed.
So here’s hoping that Jeff remains presumptious. And here’s a copy of the resolution Urban Neighbors passed that explains why it, the All Sports Association, the Bricktown Association and several other leading downtown organizations and leaders are spending a lot of time and effort trying to get the canal extension idea into the discussion of downtown’s future:
Resolution of Endorsement
January 29, 2009
The Urban Neighbors Board of Directors voted to support the city’s original plans of extending the canal west between the Ford and Cox Center. The Urban Neighbors Board is encouraging the city of Oklahoma City to consider this idea as plans are made for downtown development. Potentially connecting the canal into the Myriad Gardens would provide a much desired connectivity.
As plans are developed for the future of downtown Oklahoma City, the Urban Neighbors Board believes that a canal extension would play a vital role in connecting Bricktown to the Oklahoma River, Central Business District, Ford and Cox Centers, the Myriad Gardens, the new Devon
Tower and the proposed new convention center and hotel. Additionally, this extension would significantly improve the walkability of downtown OKC, a key asset for any downtown.With this extension, downtown residents would enjoy an enhanced quality of life with improved access to Bricktown and the Oklahoma River.
Additionally, easier access to downtown green space, both old and new, would be an asset. The Urban Neighbors Board prefaces its support with a desire for such a plan to be incorporated into an overall master plan for the area affected and that timing of such an improvement be appropriate to overall connectivity plans within the downtown area.
A canal extension would provide the following key connections:
- Proposed convention center and hotel to Bricktown and the Oklahoma River.
- CBD and Devon Tower to Bricktown to the Oklahoma River.
- Myriad Botanical Gardens to Bricktown and the Oklahoma River.
- Core to Shore area to Bricktown and Oklahoma River
- Ford and Cox Centers to Bricktown
- Meridian Hotel corridor to Myriad Botanical Gardens, Arts District and CBD
A canal extension benefits:
- Downtown residents
- Myriad Botanical Gardens
- Ford Center, Cox Center, plus their tenants and users
- Central Business District businesses and workers
- Bricktown District
- Arts District
- Boathouse community
- River users
- OKC Convention and Visitors Bureau, convention industry
- OKC Chamber, business recruitment specialists and those who market
- Sporting event promoters
- Future Core to Shore businesses and residents
- Downtown hotels
- Meridian Avenue hoteliers and guests
- Downtown event attendees
- Mayor Cornett’s fit city initiative
- Oklahoma City taxpayers
This extension would fundamentally change the canal from an attraction to a pedestrian thoroughfare. It would create a situation where the canal is a preferred walking route rather than a place that has to be sought out. As pedestrian counts increase exponentially, canal development would be almost certain to follow.
We, the Board of Directors of Urban Neighbors, representing key stakeholders of our downtown, urge all of the beneficiary parties identified in this document to join us in supporting the inclusion of a canal extension in all future plans for downtown development.
As mentioned here previously, Blair Humphreys has started an intriguing discussion about the proposed Greater Oklahoma City Chamber headquarters to be built at NW 4 and Broadway.
Here’s how he starts his latest entry:
Lets break free of what is clearly a flawed proposal and begin a process that looks for fresh solutions and ideas, producing a new plan that meets the Chamber’s objectives while enhancing downtown Oklahoma City for decades to come. I have found that the best plans are produced through collaboration, so I hope you will join me in this re-visioning effort!
Plenty of fun will be had with Blair’s introduction of anonymous comments for this discussion. And having been treated to Blair’s ideas last summer, I promise his upcoming posts on this topic will be interesting, innovative and even controversial for some. Stay tuned for more ….