www.dustbury.com is a daily visit for me; Charles Hill is always entertaining, and more often than not his regular visitors’ comments are just as likely to put a smile on my face.
Such is the case with this comment on Rand Elliott’s prototype “Turbinomic” tower:
16 May 2009 @ 1:32 pm
This just in: Godzilla has cancelled plans to sit on Oklahoma City.
This is just a concept, not a project about to be built. But it’s certainly intriguing. Full story in tomorrow’s paper.
Oklahoma City stands at one of those many crossroads – does it stop and take measure of things and wait a while before moving on, or do we risk losing our momentum by doing so and decide to continue charging ahead?
I don’t know if it’s a right or wrong move to build a new convention center. Clearly it’s an almost endless arms race, as critics suggest, but at the same time it’s difficult to imagine just giving up this competition to bring in dollars from the outside.
Have no doubt, the campaign to build a new convention center – and a large conference hotel – is underway.
Likewise, city leaders are very, very serious about creating a new face to downtown along the new I-40. Core to Shore is far more than just a bunch of plans. There is money being spent, and more to come. How far this effort will go will likely be decided by a MAPS 3 ballot.
And what of public transit? Mayor Mick Cornett is trying to assure advocates there will be a transit element to MAPS 3. But how extensive will it be? And what will it be? Will the ambitions take a back seat to the convention center and core to shore?
And there are the other interests: a Bricktown Canal extension, a new State Fair Park exhibition hall, and though I’m not sure who’s pushing it, an initiative to build senior activity centers.
So gang, this is today’s coffee talk. You’re the best blog community in the world as far as I’m concerned. I’m eagerly awaiting your discussion.
The Bricktown Urban Design Committee will be held 9 a.m. Tuesday (tomorrow) in the second floor conference room at 116 E Sheridan. The above sign may spark some fun discussion, since it’s far bigger than any other sign in proportion to the building it’s to be placed on.
The meeting itself was changed from its normal Wednesday schedule due to the Mayor’s Development Roundtable meeting that day.
By Marian Miller
|Sunday, September 16, 1984
Edition: CITY, Section: REAL ESTATE
When Neal Horton and William Peterson teamed up in 1979 to buy buildings for the Bricktown project, word got out among building owners that “something big” was planned for the area and prices tripled, Horton said.
“Our plan was to go into an area where we could control the environment and lease or sell to small office users,” Horton said.
“The Bricktown area, which has definite boundaries of Walnut, Reno, Main and the Santa Fe railroad tracks, was perfect at that time for an office park.”
The pair formed Warehouse Development Co. and bought the first eight or nine buildings in the 12-building project “just like that” and then purchased the “stragglers,” Horton said.
But the decline in demand for office space brought leasing activity in the Bricktown project to a virtual standstill by early 1982. One of the buildings in the six-block area had been beautifully restored, according to plans designed by Howard & Porch Architects.
“As in a lot of real estate markets, we’ve been sitting here with a large group of properties. . .and haven’t had income from them,” Horton said. “Cash flow in this project has been non-existent. And now, one of the lenders wants the property back.”
That lender is Fidelity Bank in Oklahoma City, which recently filed a foreclosure suit claiming that Horton, Peterson and other partners defaulted on five separate loans amounting to more than $2.5 million, used to finance several Bricktown buildings.
“We’ll have to take some kind of defensive action so the project doesn’t get splintered,” Horton said. “We have to keep it together.
We’ll either have to sell it or get new partners or any number of possibilities.”
Despite the legal problems, Horton remains stubbornly optimistic about the future of the project. In another attempt to generate activity, the marketing strategy for the buildings was recently changed from 80 percent office and 20 percent retail to 80 percent retail and 20 percent office.
“We plan to have six to nine restaurants, two small hotels, a convention center, boutiques, small shops and 50,000 square feet of office space,” Horton said. “Our first priority is restaurants.”
Oddly enough, Horton added, once the news of Bricktown foreclosure suits hit the streets, leasing activity at the project escalated.
Although he said he could not be specific about pending leases or building sales, Horton said two restaurants, an architectural antique store and two hotel groups are currently negotiating for space or buildings in Bricktown.
“The biggest request we get from people is for living quarters in the project,” Horton said. “So we may add residential space at a later date, if it’s feasible.”
One problem that prevented the leasing of Bricktown space was a restriction in the developers’ permanent loan which committed them to lease at $17 per square foot, even in the current soft office market, Horton said.
“We were finally able to get that changed in June of this year and dropped our lease rates to a more competitive level,” he said.
The biggest advantage to keeping projects like Bricktown alive, Horton said, is that it can answer a lot of problems that have faced downtown Oklahoma City.
“Maintaining the plans for Bricktown is a significant battle in the war to bring back downtown and create a lively downtown,” he said.
Finding downtown restaurants that remain open in the evening is one problem in the city, he said.
“There are 486,000 conventioneers in downtown Oklahoma City each year and there’s nowhere for them to go but downtown bars,” Horton said. “A nice restaurant and shopping area would be beneficial to people living in the central core area. The only limit to this project is the creativity of those who lease it.”
Battles with lenders and the struggle to find tenants has not discouraged Horton.
“The end result is not in danger,” Horton insists. “There will be a Bricktown project in downtown Oklahoma City.”
So this is it. I’ve dedicated an entire week to one topic. I know not all of you are into this one judging from the lack of comments. But it’s important.
Behind the scenes, downtown leaders are deciding where to invest their future energies. They’ve concluded Automobile Alley will be downtown’s primary retail corridor with some tourist and speciality retail popping up in Bricktown.
I’m not judging them for such decisions. You can’t do everything, so you have to stake your claim, make your bets and hope for the best.
But this one intersection, as shown in photos earlier this week, acts as a barrier between Automobile and the rest of downtown. If downtown is to be more walkable, if we really care about that, how does it make sense to cut off pedestrians from your main retail drag?
And so I ask questions. To quote one city official who spoke to my good friend Jack Money last week, “Lackmeyer is driving us crazy.”
Jack’s response? “Well, Lackmeyer wouldn’t be Lackmeyer if he wasn’t doing that, now would he?”
Yeah, OK, I drive some folks crazy. But I’ve got a reporter’s heart, and I care about my community. I’m loathe to believe the experts, and I don’t trust consultants.
And that brings us to the dance.
It’s an old routine, really. Take last month’s State of Bricktown press conference where I asked Mayor Mick Cornett whether he thinks property owners should take better care of their old buildings. Cornett talked about the prospect of free parking, the needs to let the market work, but he didn’t answer my question.
The mayor basically answered a question I wasn’t asking, and didn’t answer the one I did ask.
So that brings us to an inquiry by the chanber, and a proposal by Blair Humphreys and Hans Butzer, to change the street grid at NW 4, Broadway and E.K. Gaylord.
Their proposal looked like this:
Now, I’m not saying this is the right or wrong way to go here. But I can recognize a City Hall side step when I see one.
The city responded to all this by hiring URS, a consulting firm from Denver. I’ve been told by Blair neither he or Hans were approached by URS.
And I’m very confused by the URS study, which dismisses the proposal by the chamber, Humphreys and Butzer on the basis that having E.K. Gaylord dead-end at NW 4 would have motorists drive through a bad underpass at NW 4.
Now say what? Go back and look at the proposal in the graphic above. It, and not what is shown in the URS study, shows the intent of the proposal submitted to the city. And it doesn’t involve NW 4.
I’m even more confused after I got the following email from City Public Works Director Dennis Clowers answering questions about whether the study’s authors consulted Humphreys and Butzer and whether their proposal was really analyzed:
I have no idea if URS contacted Mr. Humphreys or not. You are welcome to ask them. Yes, I believe Gaylord was to end at Dean McGee. Of course the current situation does not favor pedestrians as well as motorists. It is six lanes wide.
We are going to, over the next few years make significant changes to many downtown streets through the streetscapes projects funded by the GO Bond Issue and the Devon TIF. Gaylord may be included. However, it still currently carries 13,500 vpd. We do not have models regarding traffic after I-40 moves yet. We will through the downtown study TEC is currently doing. My assumption is that with a connection to I-40 that does not exist now, traffic is sure to increase.
Now let’s go back to the URS study. It doesn’t jive with what Humphreys and Butzer were proposing, and it doesn’t match what Clowers says above either. It presumes Gaylord going to NW 4. And I’m more confused by the above comments when it’s compared to an an email I’ve obtained that was sent by Clowers to URS suggesting the report take into account that traffic counts through the intersection will rise once the new I-40 is open with the Shields exit.
“Assumption.” That’s the word that Clowers used above. But common sense tells me something isn’t right with this “assumption.” Think about who is traveling through the intersection: people commuting between the Santa Fe/Broadway-Kerr garages and north Oklahoma City, and those traveling to and from Automobile Alley.
With the relocation of Devon Energy employees to the City Center garage, wouldn’t it be correct to assume the traffic load might drop?
As for the new I-40, are we thinking there is going to be a dramatic increase in people traveling from I-40 to and from Automobile Alley?
This all reminds me of when city engineers predicted chaos would ensue if NW 5 were closed for creation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. No such chaos has emerged to date.
Here’s the kicker to end this whole discussion – for now. If this were a situation where the city staff had no intentions of steering the outcome, why do we see these comments in a June 6, 2007 email from City Public Works director Dennis Clowers to Amy Lewin with URS?
The conclusion and recommendation section doesn’t appear to make any recommendation. Please include a recommendation to the effect that this proposal is not a good idea. Thanks.
I asked about this as well. Here’s Clowers’ response:
As for my “isn’t a good idea” quote, the final draft of the study talked around it not being a good idea, and really didn’t make a definite recommendation. I simply asked them, if the intent of the recommendation is negative, just say so.
I’ve never known Dennis Clowers to be anything but a dedicated civil servant who cares about his community and wants to see it thrive. But I leave it to you, the readers, as to whether or not this proposal was given serious consideration, whether the consultants did their job, and whether this issue should be reopened.
So what’s this study I’ve been talking about? Go here and read it, and then come back …
So let’s start this off with what Dennis Clowers has to say about the rejected proposal to change the E.K. Gaylord/NW 4 intersection:
We asked URS to study this issue and make a recommendation on it. We did not tell them up front the recommendation we wanted. The current traffic count on Broadway between 4th and 6th is 13,500. It drops a little just south of there, to around 11,800. In my opinion, with the current traffic count, it would be a bad idea to eliminate the curve and make the Gaylord/Broadway, NW 3th area a series of 90 degree turns.
That situation would get worse when I-40 is opened and we have a full interchange at I-40 and Robinson/Shields. The traffic on Shields/Gaylord/Broadway will only increase.
So that’s what the expert says. With all due respect, it’s my job to second guess the experts, show when they’ve been wrong, and ask whether they’re wrong again.
So let’s start with a fact I think most of us can agree on: until recently automotive traffic has been the sole consideration for city engineers. If this weren’t so, would we really have built Memorial Road through Quail Springs without sidewalks?
Should this history dictate, especially downtown, that there be complete imbalance now toward pedestrian needs? I’m not suggesting that at all. City staff say they want a balanced, common sense approach on all this. I have no reason to doubt them.
But I do have some doubts as to whether there’s a been a thoughtful discussion when it comes to E.K. Gaylord/Broadway/NW 4 and Robert S. Kerr.
I know for sure it’s not had the sort of discussion that was supposed to occur as a result of the downtown master planning that occurred about 2000/2001 as Downtown Oklahoma City Inc was being formed.
For weeks and months most of downtown’s movers and shakers met at the McAlpine Center to not just dream up a new downtown, but to make it happen. They talked about making downtown more walkable. And one thing that sticks in my mind was a question asked early on by Chuck Wiggin, owner of 101 Park Ave: is this going to be another excersise where a lot of things are said but nothing is really done?
A decade later, the answer to that is mixed. Some of the action plan was implemented, but one significant step, the creation of permanent committees to review and analyze downtown development never took place. The idea was quite simple: at the end of the day city staff might be very talented, but they are missing the insight of those who are truly invested in downtown. These folks basically agreed that more input on downtown development wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Those committees quickly disappeared. I’ll leave to others to answer Chuck’s original question. But what if downtown civic leaders had been given the chance to review the chamber’s proposal for recreating the E.K. Gaylord intersection? Would they have agreed with the conclusion by city engineers?
Can anyone truly say this proposal got a public hearing?
Why can’t this discussion still take place? Once upon a time city engineers insisted the canal had to be built in three segments instead of two – a design that would have created a boat turnaround where the Centennial Fountain is, instead of south of I-40. I don’t know of anyone now who thinks that was a good idea.
Could city staff be wrong on this one? Am I horrible to ask such a thing?
Tomorrow: answering questions that weren’t asked and not answering questions that were asked.
One final post by Blair Humphreys and then I’m back into the discussion with some uncomfortable questions about whether goals and strategies developed during the downtown master planning process about a decade ago are being followed.
First Blair tries to one up me on blogging on downtown, now he’s looking like the better historian …
In December 1902 Edward King Gaylord, upon the advice of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, ventured from St. Louis to Oklahoma City and purchased an interest from Roy Stafford in The Daily Oklahoman. He quickly set to work, applying his talent and expertise to improve and expand the paper. By 1909 he had established himself as a valued civic leader, working with men like John Shartel and Anton Classen to establish Oklahoma City as the capitol of the new state and participating in other efforts that brought railroads and industry to the burgeoning prairie city. He had also proved his abilities as a newspaper man, growing the business at a rapid pace.
A New Headquarters Building
The expanding paper outgrew its previous building, and in 1909 began construction of a new 5-story headquarters at the corner of 4th and Broadway. Designed by Layton & Smith, the same firm credited with the design of the Oklahoma State Capitol building, the Oklahoman Building offers a majestic neo-classical facade that’s beauty endures to the present day. The paper continued to thrive and by 1923 was considering its future facility needs, buying up a series of lots between the Oklahoman Building and the Santa Fe tracks. This is the land that would become Oklahoma City’s first great public space!
On March 18, 1923, Edward King Gaylord offered company land to serve as Oklahoma City’s first downtown park (click to read)
A CLOSE IN PARK
In the 1920s Oklahoma City’s population doubled from 91,295 to 185,389 – moving up from the 80th to the 43rd largest city in the United States. Despite the addition of large parks on the edge of town constructed as part of the 1910 Parks and Boulevard Plan and the existence of other quality open spaces, such as Belle Isle Amusement Park north of the city and Wheeler Park on the banks of the North Canadian River, the city still failed to provide the adequate public space for people living and working downtown. This fact was not lost on E.K. Gaylord. On March 18, 1923 he made this announcement on the front page of his paper:
“One of Oklahoma City’s greatest needs is a close in park.”
A search of the files of The Daily Oklahoman disclosed the fact that that statement had been published editorially more than a score of times in the last ten years.
And in order to “practice what it preaches,” The Oklahoma Publishing company has decided to help establish teh first down town park immediately
The park was located on the half block behind the Oklahoman building, starting at the alley on the west and extending east 275 feet to the publisher’s warehouse along the Santa Fe tracks. The depth of the park, from 4th street on the south to what used to be an alley running east-west through the center of the block on the north, was 140 feet, resulting in a park just under one acre in size.
This rendering shows the location of Oklahoman Park and the surrounding development (based on 1922 Sanborn Map – PDF).
Over the next six years Oklahoman Park greatly enhanced the quality of life in downtown, serving residents as an everyday park, and also as a central meeting place that hosted numerous downtown events, such as: sports broadcast, concerts, memorial services, and more. It was so popular in fact that it once attracted more than 15,000 people for a single event, with crowds overflowing into the streets and blocking traffic.
Oklahoman Park Time Line
To give you an idea of how this park space served Oklahoma City over the years, I have put together a time line of some notable events.
OPENING DAY / July 11, 1923
On Wednesday, July 11, 1923 at 4:00pm, Oklahoman Park officially opened and treated those in attendance to a play-by-play presentation of the Oklahoma City Indians game versus Wichita, on a large “magnetic baseball board” that relayed the movement of the game from information provided by direct wire service. The park was an instant success, as demonstrated by this photo of the crowd that was published in the next days paper.
MEMORIAL SERVICE / August 10, 1923
On this day Oklahoma Citians gathered in Oklahoman Park to pay tribute to President Warren G. Harding following his death.
BEDLAM FOOTBALL BROADCAST / October 27, 1923
The introduction of a new Football Gridgraph, a magnetic football board that displayed the game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the sound of the radio broadcast. The Football Gridgraph (see below) was used to display all of the college football games for the fans that couldn’t catch the train to Norman.
DRAPED IN WINTER REMNANTS / January 11, 1925
Oklahoman Park covered in snow. This is only the second picture I have found of the park and gives some sense of how it fit behind the OPUBCO headquarters.
WORLD SERIES / October 6, 1926
Each year fans would gather to watch and listen to the broadcast of the World Series. On this day they got a special treat as Babe Ruth set a World Series record by hitting three home runs in Game 4 of the series.
THE BATTLE OF THE LONG COUNT / September 22, 1927
On this day, crowds of Oklahoma City residents – between fifteen and sixteen thousand – turned out to listen to a broadcast of what would be known as The Battle of the Long Count, a boxing rematch between Heavyweight champion Gene Tunney and former champion Jack Dempsey, that was broadcast live from Soldier Field in Chicago. The crowd was so large in fact that “long before the gong sounded on the first round, the crowds had overflowed across the streets,” blocking traffic on surround streets. “It was an outing for Oklahoma City.”
THE END OF OKLAHOMAN PARK / July 7, 1929
From the start Mr. Gaylord knew that as some point the Oklahoman would need the land for the expansion of their facilities. In 1929 that day finally came when the paper announced that construction of a new modern publishing plant was set to take place on the site of Oklahoman Park. Oklahoman Park served the City’s residents for six years thanks to the generosity and vision of a great city leader.
A GREAT NEW PUBLIC SPACE
This great public space was a major amenity to downtown Oklahoma City. It was more than just another park. It helped meet the public space needs for surrounding residents and broader Oklahoma City community. Just as E.K. Gaylord noted of the city in 1923, today Oklahoma City lacks high quality urban spaces like the Oklahoman Park. While we may no longer gather for radio broadcast or magnetic board displays, a small urban park at the corner of 4th and Broadway would be a welcome amenity to this area of downtown and would be utilized both on a daily basis and for numerous events and festivals.
Thankfully, the construction of the new Chamber Building provides the perfect opportunity to create a great new public space. We can create a place that helps us meet our planning objectives and captures the essence of OKC’s first urban public space. This public space will not compete with the planned Core 2 Shore park as it is quite some distance away and much, much smaller in scale. What this place can do is improve pedestrian connectivity, provide a gathering place for festivals and events and offer a great place to eat lunch for CBD workers. This park would redefine this portion of downtown and enhance the potential for new development in all of the adjoining districts – especially Automobile Alley!