Those who have watched the convention center selection process with a skeptical eye may be intrigued with the names being submitted by Mayor Mick Cornett for a subcommittee of the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board tasked to determine the best location.
The chair and vice chair are both from the board itself – Tom McDaniel and Susan Hooper. Also on the committee are Kirk Humphreys, Avis Scaramucci, Russell Perry, Larry Nichols, Roy Williams, Mike Carrier and John D. Williams.
The committee picks certainly assure a diversity of views going into the site discussion. John D. Williams is general manager of the Skirvin. Nichols is executive chairman of Devon Energy. Carrier is president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Roy Williams (Carrier’s boss) is president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Humphreys preceded Cornett as mayor. Scaramucci is chairwoman of the Bricktown Association. McDaniel is the retired president of Oklahoma City University. Hooper is a self-employed education consultant.
This committee includes voices very critical of and fiercely committed to Cornett’s favored site south of Ford Center. The appointments follow months of behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade Cornett to create a process that ensures the site selection would be open and not just fixed to favor the south of Ford Center site, which critics argue is too far away from downtown hotels and Bricktown.
So if it seemed that the streets downtown were a bit nuts today, just remember the Cox Convention Center is hosting a food show, a movie is being shot, and several roads are torn up thanks to construction of Devon tower and advance work for Project 180.
OK, I guess I can’t just go with …. even though it strikes up one heck of a conversation.
So today I’ll do something with a bit more context, depth and thought. Today, I go with +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
(Just kidding. Have we all cooled down yet? I’ll be back either later tonight or tomorrow with some new material)
Twenty years ago it seemed as if nobody was debating development of downtown. Everyone pretty much agreed it was either dead or on life support and it was an embarrassment to the city.
Times change. The city as a whole decided to change course, and now it’s easy to argue that upwards of $2 billion (probably more) have been invested downtown. People care. People care a lot.
And that is what makes this beat fun. And that is what makes this beat challenging when passionate, caring folks have very different ideas on how to proceed.
I try to deliver the blow-by-blow developments of such stories, and I try to create a place where intelligent, thoughtful discourse can take place. I embrace the involvement of modern design enthusiasts like Dennis Wells. I embrace the involvement of urban planning enthusiasts like Blair Humphreys and Nick Roberts. I embrace the thoughtful urban populism of Doug Loudenback. And I am proud that this blog averages hundreds of comments every week.
Almost 7,500 comments have been logged on www.okccentral.com since it debuted almost three years ago. Perhaps no topic has triggered more heated debate than the SandRidge Commons project.
I host this blog with no net, no wire, no precedent on how it gets done. I’m not going to ever argue I’m perfect. But I’ve tried to create an environment where all sides get heard, where people can intelligently challenge ideas and goals, and where maybe, just maybe, we all end up with a better understanding of what’s going on downtown and what’s coming next.
Yesterday I stayed inside with my son and watched a couple of the Star Wars movies. And if you were to have just seen 20 minutes of “Attack of the Clones,” you might have thought the movie was a bad sappy romance. Judge the movie on that part of the movie alone, and not view the incredible fight scenes (you can’t beat Yoda jumping around with a light saber!) and how could you not hate the movie?
Likewise, as much as I try to stay neutral, I can see how one could walk away from reading one or two posts on this site with the impression the author has a viewpoint. Context is key. I’ve done my best to try to tell SandRidge Energy’s side of the story with what I have available to me. But sometimes one side is more vocal than the other. That doesn’t mean the quiet side is right or wrong – it just is what it is.
So how do I overcome this challenge? In the past I’ve invited guest bloggers from both sides of issues to share their own thoughts, questions and ideas.
This is an approach I might try again. What’s most important to me is that good questions be asked and that we continue to engage in this conversation of what makes downtown the pride of our city once again.
(NOTE: I first published this post in April. I think it’s worth repeating today)
What if, I was asked today, SandRidge Energy had chosen to build a new corporate campus as so many others have done, and left the Kerr-McGee campus a dark shadow over downtown?
Good question. Here’s another question I got hit with this past week: why are you demonizing anyone who disagrees with your outlook on downtown development?
Ouch. That second one hurt. But I won’t say it’s a bad question. It is one that gives me pause.
That’s not my intention here folks. In the battle over the SandRidge Commons project, I don’t see it as good guys and bad guys. I see it as “are all the right questions being asked? Is there a thoughtful deliberation going on before decisions are made?”
I have asked questions and posed challenges that I know have irritated people I like, admire and respect at SandRidge. This is unfortunate, but it also goes to show I’ll do this sort of thing regardless of the subject. Some of my closest friends will point out that I give them the hardest time and subject them to the worst scrutiny.
That’s my job. I’ve also caused some grief to the “underdogs” in this fight – the preservationists fighting the SandRidge demolition plans.
But I’m not trying to “demonize” any of these folks. Truth be told, we could have ended up with a situation where an entire block became blighted, where the north half of the central business district could have entered a slow death.
So let’s answer that first question.
First off, the block would be miserable. Efforts by Rick Dowell to revive the old Midland Mortgage Building would have been more likely to fail being next to an abandoned Kerr-McGee block. Dowell reports that interest is picking up in his long empty building – itself one of Kerr-McGee’s better contributions to the skyline in the 1960s – thanks to the SandRidge Commons plans.
I believe Rick. And for those of you who don’t know Rick, trust me when I say he has never shown an interest in insincerity. He says what he thinks, and doesn’t really care at all (sometimes to his detriment) about how the rich and powerful might be annoyed by his remarks.
If SandRidge had never come downtown, Rick Dowell’s building would likely remain empty for years to come. If it comes to life over the next couple of years, as he anticipates it will, then it’s not a big jump in logic to credit part of that revival to SandRidge.
One can not fully appreciate SandRidge’s renovation of the main tower itself. It was badly outdated. The decor was straight out of the 1970s with horrible retractable wall systems. It was an ominous place even when Kerr-McGee was still around.
Renovations aren’t complete, but what’s been done seems to impress all who see the tower. And the workforce is happy, vibrant and part of the downtown community. That can’t be said about Kerr-McGee for it’s final dozen years. It was a tomb, a depressing and oppressive environment for those who visited.
We also know that the SandRidge Commons plan isn’t all demolition. By all accounts the planned renovation of the Braniff Building is a stellar example of proper preservation (of course we won’t know everything until it’s done). And the company is planning no ordinary piece of architecture to replace the 120 N Robinson building (the combined parking and office structure that was once home to the Petroleum Club).
So what we may have here is a bit of inadequate public relations. Or maybe it’s to SandRidge Energy’s credit that nobody with the company has pulled the line of “just be grateful we came downtown.”
They could have.
Here’s another odd bit: when members of the Triangle Development group had the deal to renovate the older Kerr-McGee properties into housing, they had gotten so far as to get tax increment financing to tear down the former YMCA building and its connector structure to the old Kermac Building. The partners also were hinting, but not saying, that they had no intention to rush into renovating or preserving the old India Temple Building (privately they were saying the same things being said now by SandRidge).
So why was there no protest then? Essentially the Triangle Group was only proposing to save one more building (Kermac) than what’s being saved and renovated by SandRidge. But under that scenario we’d still have a dying Kerr-McGee tower that had fewer and fewer people inside and was adding less and less to the neighborhood.
Maybe I should have written this post sooner. But I was counting on SandRidge Energy making its own case and pointing out the obvious. It didn’t happen. So here it is – feel free to now debate and throw more tomatoes at the author.
It was a year ago that I first met “big twin” and “little twin” and learned about their vision for Big Truck Tacos at NW 23 and Dewey. They had originally looked at a small diner on Hudson across from the Sieber Hotel. Thank goodness the owner was asking for $1,500 a month (way too much according to many). The place wouldn’t have been big enough. The ladies instead chose an old hamburger stand, which had gone thorugh quite a demise and was last a donut shop (I think) before going dark for quite a while.
They did a top notch overhaul of the old place, and introduced life to NW 23 by daring to add outdoor seating. Some might have thought the ladies nuts for taking such a chance – NW 23 is a busy street and Oklahoma City isn’t exactly know for alfresco dining. The first week proved those outdoor seats were needed. Lines streamed out of the doors as a wildly successful social media campaign had Big Truck Tacos being talked about all over town.
This restaurant on NW 23 – “headquarters” – was supposed to be a secondary operation to the truck, but has ended up being just as much the superstar. Now don’t get me wrong – the truck is wildly anticipated whereever it goes. But one has to wonder whether this operation would have been as successful if it had opened up in a shopping center at Memorial and MacArthur. The food is great. The ladies and their crew are originals.
But is there a magic in the location? Is there a charm to this odd old building brought back to life? Do people like to congregate where they see a comeback story in the making? What role does classic architecture and a vintage urban frontage play in attracting people back to the urban core?
What do you guys want to talk about? Let’s chat.
Just heard from city legal: they will advise the Board of Adjustment to go with SandRidge Energy attorney Frank Hill’s request that they only vote ONCE to either affirm or reverse the April decision by the Downtown Design Review Committee to allow for demolition of the buildings adjoining the former Kerr-McGee Tower. I am told this is only an advisement, and not binding on the Board of Adjustment. Keep checking this site for more updates… many things are happening at once.