And it’s a significant one at that. Not content to simply read a sign and move on by, I dropped in for a visit.
The inside of the restaurant is getting a new paint job – and if you’ve ever been inside, you can trust that the paint companies are getting a much needed boost to their business this month.
Crews also are tearing into the building’s century old floor back in the kitchen and putting in an all new cement floor.
Abuelos is certainly planning on sticking around. The restaurant opened in 1994 and recently signed another 15-year lease. The chain must be spending tens of thousands (managers wouldn’t tell me) on these upgrades. The restaurant is expected to reopen by early May.
After today’s column appeared about responses to my questions about broken and boarded up windows, empty space and other eyesores in Bricktown, especially along the canal, one person in Bricktown suggested I’m “obsessed” with the topic.
I don’t know about that. I do know that plenty of readers were interested in seeing last week’s questions answered. And it was interesting to hear Mayor Mick Cornett, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and First Lady Kim Henry talk about how Bricktown was changing regional and national perceptions of Oklahoma City. So let’s take that at face value – then how does the city feel about the following glimpses of the canal, which include wads of used chewing gum on the Hunzicker building owned by Brett and Brent Brewer, broken windows on 19 E California and decade-old sandbags along the canal level of the Oklahoma Hardware building (both owned by French Hickman).
The Brewer’s building:
Final note: A decade ago then Mayor Kirk Humphreys called on Bricktown property owners to pave dirt and gravel parking lots saying the days of it being the wild west were over.
When I asked Mayor Mick Cornett last week if a similar call should made to get Bricktown property owners to take better care of their buildings, he declined and said he has faith that the market will eventually take care of such conditions.
Watch his response below:
The gum has been been on the Brewers’ building since before the canal opened. The sandbags have been outside Hickman’s building since the canal opened.
The mayor’s email is email@example.com.
The Brewers can be contacted here.
I do not have an email for French Hickman.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know exactly what you want to get for lunch or dinner at the arts festival before you get there and go straight to that booth instead of trying to get a glimpse at each booth to figure everything out?
Way back when, going back to 1995, the owners of La Baguette opened a second location at downtown’s Journal Record Building. The restaurant was a hit, but the bombing of the neighboring Alfred P. Murrah Building ended the operation.
When I first learned Michel and Alain Buthion were planning to return downtown in 2006 to the renovated Colcord Hotel, I assumed they would reopen LaBaguette. I was wrong. A lot of people were wrong. Instead they came out with Soliel, which matched the initial hotel concept pushed by developer Paul Coury: swanky, expensive and if you have to ask how much, then too expensive for you.
This isn’t a concept that flies well in populist Oklahoma, regardless of income. Coury realized his mistake after one year, hired on Waterford veteran hotelier Jeff Erwin and made the hotel warmer, more approachable.
The Buthions, from what I’ve heard around town, didn’t follow suit and stuck to the Soliel concept which never matched their very popular LaBaguette. They’re artists, so let’s not jump to judging them. But it was a misfire.
Enter Devon Energy as the hotel’s new owner. Devon, from its CEO Larry Nichols on down, is very much the definition of “approachable.”
So now that Colcord officials have confirmed to me the restaurant is changing to LaBaguette (you can find evidence as well on their Soliel website, which is in transition), count me as someone who is not surprised.
None of this is meant to the highly regarded Buthions, who have a big, big following in this town. But being business requires that you give people what they want.
Yeah, it’s looking like it’s going to be one of those weeks. You know, “a chamber of commerce kind of week.” Downtown is looking great, the Festival of the Arts is gearing up and the weather forecast is looking like a winner all week long.
I’m talking with my editor this morning, and the reporter who was supposed to do a story on the festival today is out. Could I get out and do it? It’s a rough assignment, but yeah, I guess I can fit that in (NOTE TO FESTIVAL ORGANIZERS: NOBODY IS ANSWERING YOUR PHONES! PLEASE CONTACT ME ASAP AND DON”T MAKE ME USE TWITTER!)
Interesting item on tomorrow’s council docket: Brewer Enterprises is asking for, and is getting, an early termination of their lease for the city-owned parking lot immediately east of Ford Center. COTPA is set to take it over. If you’ll recover, The Oklahoman discovered a couple years back that Brewer Enterprises owed thousands of dollars to the city on the lot’s operation – a debt that was then paid after the report came out.
I guess we’ll see cheaper parking across from Ford Center now?
Oklahoma has seen an influx of federal stimulus money for highway projects – but a boulevard promised by the state to replace the current alignment of the I-40 Crosstown Expressway has yet to appear on the Department of Transportation’s eight-year funding plan.
Mayor Mick Cornett tells me he’s quite aware of the situation.
“It’s a continuing concern, but not at a high level,” Cornett said. “I’ve been assured by the governor, the Department of Transportation, and there isn’t a person of significance denying the boulevard will be built. Until it’s on the eight-year funding plan and it’s only five years away from opening, I will continue to bring it up and talk about. Let’s get it done.”
Cornett admits Core to Shore, the development of mostly blighted area between the river and downtown, can’t be launched without the boulevard. “The city grinds to a halt if that boulevard isn’t constructed when I-40 is relocated.”
That was the message at today’s State of Bricktown press conference. And it’s also the Bricktown Association’s new website, www.welcometobricktown.com. The site is graphicly unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s simply amazing.
And for the first time in a long time, there’s a Bricktown website that has a current list of restaurants, shops and attractions, and it doesn’t exclude anybody. Well, at least not intentionally. A close look at the map shows it has some kinks to work out. Hooters is in the wrong location. McDonalds and Subway don’t exist. But those are details I suspect will be ironed out fairly quickly.
I guess I don’t have the heart for this fight promotion business. Casey and Blair are still friends, and there is still peace between the Humphreys and Cornett clans.
But give Casey credit for responding to my last post. He has shown either the bravery or recklessness lacked by our local television weathermen and Tom Elmore when it comes to answering my questions:
I think Blair and I are on the same side when it comes to seeing OKC become more walkable and pedestrian friendly. I hope to join in Blair’s efforts to keep OKC’s decision makers on track (as they have been stepping up mightily with bringing Speck and pushing for the Core to Shore plan).
The one thing I hoped to accomplish with my last blog posting was to ensure hope into all those protesting the block at 4th and Gaylord that there is another project worth your time and efforts. I’m just hoping that enthusiasm for OKC’s future isn’t hanging on the fate of that block that has already been approved for change. I need all those wishing to keep OKC going in the right direction to not get discouraged yet to shift focus to what could/should be a project for OKC’s next generation(s).
Here’s my response: more questions!
Keeping NW 4 and Broadway as a park was an idea wedged into this debate late into the discussion by Anthony McDermid. Let’s leave that alone for a minute and contemplate instead whether or not there was any real public discussion, review or chance to challenge the decision by city traffic engineers to reject a proposal by the chamber to redesign the intersection.
Casey, Blair, others – what say you?
DOWNTOWN OKLAHOMA CITY ANNOUNCES SECOND
VIDEO CONTEST HIGHLIGHTING DOWNTOWN MOMENTUM
Winner to be Announced at Dean A. McGee Awards on May 14
OKLAHOMA CITY (March 24, 2009) – Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. (DOKC) today announced the second annual video contest inviting amateur and professional filmmakers to capture and present their own version of downtown Oklahoma City’s momentum. The winner will be announced at the 23rd annual Dean A. McGee Awards to be held on Thursday, May 14, at the Skirvin Hilton and will receive a cash prize, a transferrable Oklahoma City University scholarship and other awards.
Each year, the Dean A. McGee Awards event has produced a video highlighting downtown’s progress over the previous year. In the spirit of the Oklahoma Creativity Project, DOKC last year invited the public to capture and present their view of downtown’s momentum. The winning entry by Walker Milligan from the first year’s video contest can be viewed at www.downtownokc.com in the Downtown News tab.
“We tapped into one of Oklahoma’s most creative assets last year,” said Meg Salyer, Dean A. McGee Awards co-chair for 2008 and 2009. “The unique nature and talent of our young people provided a perspective of how others see downtown’s development and vibrancy. Downtown’s growth continues to have a significant impact on the entire metro and is a result of the vision and leadership of those who have been recognized at this event through the years.” Salyer is co-chairing the 2009 awards ceremony with Jim Couch, city manager of the City of Oklahoma City.
The winning video will be previewed at the 2009 Dean A. McGee Awards, the premier Downtown leadership event. This year, downtown cultural leader James Pickel will receive the Dean A. McGee Award; a visionary of public-private partnerships, Cathy O’Connor, will receive the Stanley Draper Award, and an anchor of restoration, the Oklahoma Heritage Association, will receive the Neal Horton Award. In addition, Bricktown visionary Jim Brewer will be honored posthumously with special recognition.
The video contest winner will receive a $1,500 cash award from Downtown OKC, Inc., a $1,000 transferrable scholarship to Oklahoma City University, participation and recognition at the Dean A. McGee Awards and featured placement on the Downtown OKC website for one year.
Each video entry should focus on capturing the excitement of downtown Oklahoma City and reflect the growing momentum brought on through increased residential housing, new hotels and mixed-use developments, expanded events, office space, entertainment and development of the Oklahoma River.
The video length must not exceed two minutes and be produced on a DVD in a Windows Media Player or QuickTime file format. All entries must be delivered to Downtown OKC, Inc., located at 210 Park Avenue, Suite 230, by Noon on Friday, May 1, and include name, address, phone number and email address. All entries become the property of Downtown OKC, Inc. with appropriate credit to the producer(s) in any potential use.
Downtown OKC, Inc. is a non-profit organization that serves to promote, market and develop downtown Oklahoma City in conjunction with numerous downtown stakeholders and manages the downtown Business Improvement District.
For more information, please call Downtown OKC, Inc. at 235-3500 or visit www.downtownokc.com.
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|Cities greet meeting planners with open arms|
Choosing a destination more modest than its previous convention sites — Miami, Los Angeles and New York — turned out to be fortunate in light of the sharp downturn in the economy and drop in attendees, says executive director Tim Sharp.
The downtown Marriott Renaissance, the host hotel, charged about $150 a night per room, and threw in Wi-Fi Internet and audio-visual equipment free. The Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau helped with renting the city’s main concert hall. In all, the convention was “30% to 40%” less expensive than its last one, in Miami, where attendance was 10% higher.
“Oklahoma City saved me from being in the red,” Sharp says. “This part of the country is cheaper.”
It’s a buyer’s market for meeting planners such as Sharp, as hotels and cities of all sizes compete for an ever-shrinking pie of conventions and business meetings.
Having them at five-star resorts during recessionary times has garnered headlines, but times are rough even for workaday conventions, as sluggish attendance is triggering cancellations.
Meeting and convention revenue based on room nights is down about 30% this year compared with 2008, estimates Greg Malark, COO of HelmsBriscoe, one of the country’s largest meeting buying companies.
As planners look to trade down, some midprice hotel chains and second-tier convention cities are marketing themselves as affordable alternatives, even as their more upscale competitors court customers with deep discounts unseen in years.
“We’ve seen clients going to secondary cities both for value and perception,” Malark says.
Boost for Oklahoma City
Some smaller markets have proved to be resilient as more firms and associations avoid cities and hotels that may trigger bad public relations, says Kevin Iwamoto of StarCite, which links planners and suppliers online.
According to StarCite’s data based on its own bookings, Oklahoma City has seen the highest increase — about 80% — in the number of planners’ requests for convention and meeting proposals in February of this year vs. a year ago. Detroit, Des Moines, Omaha and Greensboro, S.C., round out the top five.
In addition to affordability, “planners are also looking at places you can drive to,” says Mike Fegley, a global sales executive of InterContinental Hotels Group.
That means more regional meetings and employees bypassing larger, national conventions.
Laurie Linhart, a Drake University professor and member of the Midwest Sociological Society, says more than 1,000 attended the group’s regional meeting, which she helped organize, in Des Moines earlier this year. That’s more than double the organizers’ estimate.
“A lot of people are forgoing the national meeting because of the affordability factor,” she says.
The Marriott in downtown Des Moines charged the group $109 a night for a room and upgraded rooms free for some members.
The Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau sweetened the pot for the group by offering 42 hours of volunteer help.
“They rolled out the red carpet,” Linhart says.
Having meetings smaller in scope is also working in the favor of midscale hotels.
The average number of conference attendees fell in 2008 to about 3,700, down about 15% from 2007, according to the Professional Convention Management Association’s latest annual survey.
Best Western says it’s seen an uptick in government contract business that had previously gone to more expensive hotels.
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