My first visit to a Coyote Ugly was in Denver. The movie had, of course, created this image of lively dancing female bartenders, a rowdy crowd and and a bar unlike any other. What I saw were some bored bartenders and customers who almost as bored.
The hype over the opening of Coyote Ugly in Bricktown, meanwhile, followed the script of the movie. And indeed, opening day was very lively with “Lil” herself in attendance. But at the end of the day, did the bar make the case that it’s more than a glorified Hooters with expensive alcohol?
Over the past few months I’ve seen some advertisements and Twitter announcements for “naughty schoolgirl” day, but that’s about it.
It’s not really a surprise to me to see the following from the blog maintained by Lil, owner of the chain, on the Coyote Ugly website:
I sent Lee to OKC this weekend. A very bad report came back. I can’t say I am surprised because that’s why I sent him. The girls got a good review but a lot of other things were really falling apart. Now its put up or shut up time. I know that bar can be great but it can’t just manage itself. urgh
Does anyone see the glowing red going out of business light blinking?
OK, I really don’t expect a WWE situation at Wednesday mornings BID board meeting. But it will certainly be lively. Let me elaborate: Rick Dowell is a person people either love or hate. I’ve rarely met anyone lukewarm on the guy who knew him. And that, my friends, is OK.
Rick is going to battle over the name for his corner of downtown – a series of properties he has developed around NW 5 and Walker that he has long called MidTown Plaza. But with renewal of the BID and district identities growing in importance, the MidTown Plaza name is drawing criticism from nearby MidTown and now, I hear, from the Plaza District concerned over district confusion.
The trick is Dowell’s property is in the Arts District, but truthfully, I’ve observed first hand that he’s never been embraced by the emerging Arts District. One anecdote comes to mind quite clearly, when a group of Arts District developers and property owners gathered together to form an “arts quarter” and lined the rooftops with year-round light strings to signify their area – work done with grant money from a local foundation. The project excluded Rick, so he decided to spend his own money on rooftop lighting thinking it was an oversight.
He thought the move would endear him to his neighbors, but did the opposite.
So here’s what I wrote about Rick a couple of years ago:
Rick Dowell knows he is not the most popular guy downtown.
He was once an economics professor at the University of Oklahoma, and he still looks more like a member of academia than an urban developer who loves to take risks.
Dowell isn’t being paranoid about those around him. Peers on the city’s Urban Design Commission (of which he is a member) pretty much trashed his MidTown Plaza development. They didn’t like his conversion of the former Fred Jones Lincoln dealership into offices or the two-story office building he built across the street.
He’s about as popular with the preservationists and design professionals downtown as Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik was with the country club types in the movie “Caddy Shack.”
An entirely different story is told by some of Dowell’s tenants and neighbors. They speak glowingly of him and his work. When Larry and Sara Bonnell decided to open an office downtown, their first instinct was to check out what was being offered by their former Norman landlord: Dowell.
The couple last month were the first to sign a lease and move into one of Dowell’s riskier projects — renovation of a seedy old motel into small offices.
To date, Dowell has renovated six buildings along NW 5 and Walker, has repairs under way in two more and has had good luck leasing up much of the space.
A corner that had nothing but boarded up or abandoned buildings is now humming with activity.
Yet when Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. and the Oklahoma City Planning Department recently began a road show recounting all the development that has transpired downtown in the last decade, the presentation included nothing about Dowell’s work. The presentation did include development to the north and south of his property.
So why the disconnect?
The design community takes issue with his renovations. They argue his red clay tile roofs aren’t appropriate for MidTown or its history. They don’t like that he stripped away the 1947 facade at the former Lincoln dealership or used a stone facade for his new building at the same intersection.
Dowell also is derided for slow progress on his two biggest downtown properties — the former Bob Moore Cadillac dealership and the former Midland Plaza building. He’s criticized as being argumentative and stubborn.
But I’ll throw out another theory and wait for an almost inevitable scolding. Dowell isn’t consulting with preservationists or architects on any of these projects — he’s coming up with the design concepts all on his own.
To many downtown insiders, Dowell is a novice putting his stamp on downtown. But Dowell isn’t too concerned with them. He’s moving forward with MidTown Plaza, with or without the downtown crowd. He argues his inspiration comes from his visits to 34 countries and from downtown’s history. He responds he actually admires architects’ work and boasts a home library filled with photos of historic architecture.
Most of the preservationists and architects who privately (and sometimes publicly) bash Dowell share at least one thing in common with their target: They all have big framed photos on their walls, displaying the neon-lit downtown Oklahoma City of a half century ago.
Maybe the ultimate judgment on Dowell should end with a survey of his work at NW 5 and Walker. Whether it meets with everybody’s approval, when combined with development to the north and south, the blighted scar that once separated MidTown and downtown is fading quickly.
So why does any of this matter? Rick Dowell is gearing up to fight BID renewal if his MidTown Plaza id isn’t recognized by the BID itself.
Get a glimpse of his powerpoint: midtown plaza district presentation amended
Read letters of support Dowell is providing to the BID, including a fascinating history of the area: Dowell support letters
So it was a year ago or so that walkability author and expert Jeff Speck was brought to town to tell us how to make our downtown livable again. One of his key recommendations was to stop creating gaps in the urban fabric. So what’s going on since?
- We have the Oklahoma City Community Foundation in the midst of tearing down a second building along NW 10.
- SandRidge Petroleum is proposing interupting the “streetwall” along Robinson – downtown’s longest stretch – and replacing a building with open space. A similar plan is set for Broadway.
You’ve got to love what Tulsa has done with their landmark Gold Meadow sign along Route 66 on the outskirt of its downtown. The sign was in jeopardy, but preservations found a new location and rebuilt the sign to its former glory. Besides the milk bottle building on Classen, are there similar restoration opportunities in Oklahoma City?
Credit “Stick47″ at OKC Talk for this pictorial analysis of graffiti troubles in OKC. I have no idea why he or she felt the need to post these two images together…
Now that the campaign is over, let’s delve a bit into promises and what’s to follow. MAPS 3 has the power to turn downtown into something spectacular. But to quote one acquaintance, we’re at a crossroads – we can either make a good downtown great or a good downtown bigger.
Last spring Mayor Mick Cornett promised a public discussion and forums would take place over the summer to determine what would be on the MAPS 3 ballot. That never happened. And that matter is over. During the campaign he promised an oversight board would provide a proper check over how the projects would be implemented, similar to the groups that oversaw the original MAPS and MAPS for Kids.
And now we’re reading this.
I was there for the first oversight board, and have gotten to observe enough of the MAPS trust group to see how it operates.
The first board was frustrated by its lack of any power, and acted out accordingly to get its point across. There were times when members of the original oversight board would spend hours and hours studying an issue, only to find their voice muted by an influential person who only needed 30 minutes of time with a council member to get them to ignore the urgings of the oversight board.
With such problems commonplace during the early days of MAPS, oversight board members resorted to holding press conferences and theatrics to get their message heard.
No such situation has taken place with the MAPS for Kids Trust, which has veto power. And interestingly enough, Mayor Mick Cornett hasn’t identified a single instance where the MAPS for Kids Trust model hasn’t served this city well.
Will any of this matter with MAPS 3? That depends on your perspective. Does it matter where a convention center will be built? Will it matter where the streetcar routes are located? Will council members, including the mayor, recuse themselves from votes where any of their campaign contributors have a vested interest (the city’s most notable residents own land in the Core to Shore area).
The council meets at 8:30 .m. Tuesday at 201 N Walker and residents can voice their opinions at the end of the meeting.
No surprise the company wants to go with another bit of “franchise architecture” – create design, then clone one million or so times. But to be fair, in contrast to when the company wanted to build on undeveloped land Bricktown, in this case it’s simply replacing one forgetable bit of franchise architecture with another. The current building was built in 1989 and has clearly seen better days. Expect this one to be torn down 2029. Disposable architecture = disposable buildings.
Now for the good news – whether it be by accident or having learned about the city’s new expectations for urban design and building footprints, it looks like there won’t be a fight this time around. The plans call for the building to front NW 23, with far less parking facing the major corridor. This should make urban design commissioners very happy.
I’ve yet to go into Bricktown’s newest restaurant and club, but clearly it’s having some intriguing opening “issues.”
Read the thread of reviews, bottom to top, to see what appears to be a misfire in management style….