So to all of you who say you crave a Whole Foods market, to all of you who yearn to make Oklahoma City a major league city … how serious are you about doing your part to make all this a reality? Part of achieving these dreams is showing support for major league arts – like a hometown ballet. And now is your chance to get a glimpse at a resurgent Oklahoma City Ballet and its new director. From everything I’ve heard, this isn’t the ballet company we’ve seen drawing dwindling audiences the past several years – instead, it’s an innovative group of performers bringing new ideas to their craft.
I’ll see you there.
OK, before anyone gets picky about it, I’ll concede that technically summer isn’t over until Sept. 21. But in terms of all the discussion that took place back in May, it seems as if we’ve only had a lot of behind-closed-door discussions and pronouncements by Mayor Mick Cornett as to what will and won’t be on the MAPS 3 ballot.
We’ve certainly not had any public forums or opportunities for residents to tell city leaders what they want to see on the ballot – a process Cornett indicated would take place over the summer before the ballot items were to be decided (Cornett indicated such a process would take place while being questioned at a press conference during the Mayor’s Development Roundtable in May).
At least we’ve had some fun discussions here at OKC Central, and I’ll be posting the last wave of Downtown OKC 2020 guest posts this next week. Nothing serious is at stake here – just the future direction for downtown for the next 20 years.
Despite the appearance being given out in various news stories, I’m not hearing any concensus yet behind what the mayor is presenting as a virtually done deal. Remember, you can voice your visions for the future and make a difference. Contacting your council member is as easy as sending off an email.
Numerous sources are saying Whole Foods will soon be announcing it will be locating in the Classen Curve area.
Time will tell …
Today I’m linking to the competition. For the past few years Kelley Chambers has proven to be a great rival when it came to getting the scoop on what’s going on downtown. One of his ongoing efforts involved “roundtable discussions” about downtown, such as the one published today.
Kelley’s last day at the Journal Record was earlier this week. I wish him well in whatever his next endeavor might be, and I’d be happy to have him as a rival again or as a collegue in the future.
The economy has crashed, the recession has hit Oklahoma and we’ve discovered Oklahoma City is not “recession proof.”
So where does that leave us in terms of downtown development?
- Hotels: This time last year we were looking at the addition of up to six hotels in and around downtown. Now that number is down t0 two. The Embassy Suites for the Oklahoma Health Center is a bit scaled down from what was initially proposed, but is on track to be be built this fall. Developers of the Candlewood Inn & Suites at Lincoln and Sheridan, meanwhile, need only to overcome bureacracy at ODOT to get their project started.
- Downtown housing. With banks still frozen on lending, everything is pretty much on hold though surprisingly enough there does seem to be some effort to add more apartments in Bricktown and MidTown. The next immediate influx of new rental housing will come with completion of Hadden Hall and the Kline Hotel by Bob Howard and Mickey Clagg along NW 10.
- Retail. Another surprise: it’s not dead at all. Maybe the property owners are sobering up and getting more realistic in their rent expectations. We have more retail in Bricktown and Automobile Alley today than we did two years ago. But expect some disagreements ahead as some power players try to steer retail away from Bricktown and into Automobile Alley.
- Downtown school: Yep, it’s still out there. And where it gets located could have significant impact on downtown’s future development.
- Upscale market: I don’t see one locating downtown in the foreseeable future. But I do see one locating within 10 minutes of downtown within the next two years.
- DEVON, DEVON, DEVON, DEVON, DEVON. A 50-story tower, a New York Times style auditorium, a massive rebuilding of downtown streets (get ready to feel the pain), a massive makeover of the Myriad Gardens and more. The average person in this city has no idea as to how much all this will change downtown. I said before and I will say it again: the Devon TIF package alone will have almost as much impact on downtown as the original MAPS did.
- New events. The new events being discussed for downtown could be game changes in terms of image and branding.
And now, for the dangers lurking ahead:
- Arrogance. A great track record has been set by City Hall and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. But plenty of people close to the action worry that arrogance has set in and the grassroots concensus building of the past has been cast aside. Could this sort of vibe kill the chances of a MAPS 3 ballot? And if it were to fail, how big of a loss would that be to future efforts to improve not just downtown, but all of Oklahoma City?
- Power struggles. Enough said. See above.
- Maintaining momentum of the existing downtown. Can Core to Shore be launched without slowing development of the rest of downtown. Can we make a good downtown bigger while also making a good downtown great? Or is it an either/or proposition?
Now, go forth and talk amonst yourselves….
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had an interesting discussion about the lack of upscale markets in Oklahoma City and whether a state ban on wine sales in grocery stores is to blame.
Today I addressed the following question to Gov. Brad Henry, State House Speaker Chris Benge and State Senate President Glenn Coffee:
Readers say they want an upscale grocery to open in Oklahoma City. Representatives of some of the upscale markets have stated in the past that the state’s ban on wine sales in groceries is an impediment to operations like Whole Foods and Central Market opening in Oklahoma City.
Regardless of whether this is the only reason for the lack of upscale grocers, readers want to know why lawmakers have refused to allow wine sales at grocery stores.
Can you please provide an answer that directly and clearly answers why you have not changed this law and why you think it should or should not be changed?
P.S. Dear lobbyists: you’re next.
Well, it looks like the union folks in Wisconsin have decided they would rather lose their jobs and a hometown employer rather than agree to wage concessions.
Obviously, as reported, the company is looking at moving all of their manufacturing to their plant in Stillwater.
But the question is being asked: could downtown Oklahoma City land the corporate headquarters? The GOLT bond money is there to make such a move possible, and plenty of Class A office space will be available once Devon tower is built.
Mayor Mick, are you up to the challenge of wooing an operation that doesn’t involve sports?
Some weeks I feel inspired to crank out three or four posts a day. And other weeks I’m just trying to figure out what it all means. This is one of those “what does it all mean” weeks.
The folks at Devon made a presentation on the planned addition today to the Colcord Hotel. It’s pretty much what I expected: low key, functional, not a Disney Main Street approach to duplicating historic architecture.
Klay Kimker and Jon Pickard gave some hints at what’s to come with the courtyard for the Colcord. What I heard is pretty impressive – certainly it has potential to be the nicest hotel courtyard area in the city, if not the entire state.
Over at www.okctalk.com a couple of posters were so upset over last week’s news that Devon was cutting the floor count from 54 to 50. One even suggested the company should just move to Houston.
Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre.
I still don’t think anyone can grasp what this project and the spin-off TIF streetscape and park program will do to downtown. I’m not sure I have a good grasp either. It reminds me of the early days covering downtown, when I sat listening to plans for the Bricktown Canal. I was listening to all the right people, I was looking at the plans, but at the end of the day I didn’t truly grasp the magnitude of the project until it was virtually done.
I’m really hoping those of you truly interested in downtown took the time to read Doug Loudenback’s post on Core to Shore. It is truly a huge investment of time and effort, and does a good job reflecting all the different issues, opinions and ideas surrounding this somewhat controversial project.
I was visiting with Blake Wade tonight. The Untitled Art(space) Gallery on NE 3 really needs the community’s support right now. I’m going to try to book an OKC Central video there soon. It’s a great asset for downtown, unlike anything else in that it allows so much interactivity and has hosted so many great artists in residence. I’m wondering if the folks at Urban Neighbors might be able to bend their rules a bit on hosting requirements and find a way to bring their crowd to the gallery as a way to give it more publicity.
Come to think of it, I’m throwing this out as a challenge to Urban Neighbors. I’ve already written a column about the gallery, but there’s nothing stopping me from writing more about here on the blog.
That’s pretty much the end to my rambling. I’ll admit I’ve been a bit distracted at night these days – the gallys are in for the new Skirvin book I’ve written with Jack Money and it’s set to go to printers in about two to three weeks. It’s designed and published by the same great folks who helped us create “OKC Second Time Around” and it’s very similar in tone, look and feel to that first book.
W.B. Skirvin, in my humble opinion, may have been one of the most entertaining, womanizing, drinking oil wildcatting scoundrels and visionaries this city has ever seen.
Let’s start a list of wireless spots downtown, shall we? Here’s what I got:
Beatnix – 136 NW 13
The Buzz – 120 N Robinson
Coffee Slingers – 1015 N Broadway
Cox Convention Center – Broadway and Sheridan
Harvey Street Grill – 212 N Harvey
Hooters – 111 E California
Java Dave’s Coffee – 10 NE 10
IHOP – 401 E California
MidTown Deli – 1215 N Walker
Prairie Thunder Baking Company – 1114 Classen Drive
Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library – 300 Park
NOTE: This post is restricted to compiling a list of wireless internet sites. Thank you.
My good friend Doug Loudenback has put in considerable time putting together what may very well be the most exhaustive look at Core to Shore by anyone in this city. It’s a lot of reading, but if you’re confused by Core to Shore, if you think you’re being spun by various interests, if you want to see all the various sides of this somewhat controversial proposal (a lot of prominent people I know are unhappy with it but have yet to say so publicly), then take the time and go here.
Feel free to come back here and tell me what you think.
PS: I have taken Doug’s comments to heart about my inconsistent use of categories – I have gone back and done so on every item relating to Core to Shore over the past three months. I will go back and edit more posts as time allows and will be more vigilant about coding in the future.