This shout out goes to NewsOK blog god Nick Tankersley, who kindly responded to my request to add tags to blog posts allowing you readers to link these posts to your Twitter and Facebook accounts (and probably other social media I’m not hip enough to know about).
I knew when I first saw the vintage photo spliced into this modern day photo that the building to the right is Oil and Gas building, still standing at Main and Robinson. I didn’t realize the building to the left is the old Hales Building (with Crescent Market on the first floor).
This great splice is done by Dennis Church, who has a great photo blog called IconOklahoma
Live video streaming is available throughout the week to Oklahoman/NewsOK subscribers at http://www.newsok.com/okcskyline
Goodnight. Hug your loved ones. See some friends. Enjoy your weekend. Golden slumbers.
See ya Monday.
The parking lot with the $20 parking is attached to the Rock Island Plow Building, owned by Bricktown Association chairwoman Avis Scaramucci. The irony is, of course, that it was Avis who led the charge against $20 parking arguing it gives Bricktown a bad image to locals and visitors.
I talked with Avis today, who responded she was surprised by the $20 charge. She said she contracts with American Parking to operate the lot, receives a flat sum each month with any profit pocketed by American Parking. She says she still thinks $20 parking signs hurt Bricktown’s image, and said she will talk to the operator. She said she didn’t have any control over the operator’s price controls and wasn’t aware of the charge because she doesn’t drive along Reno Avenue.
When asked further about this question of control, she did acknowledge she has the option of terminating her agreement with the operator. I’ll be interested in hearing what more she has to say after talking with American Parking. What’s interesting is that Brent and Brett Brewer were tagged with being behind these charges, when in fact, I can’t say I’ve seen them go with $20 parking since the association members and parking operators agreed to cap their charges at $10. Now, to be fair, keep in mind that Avis has donated a lot of her time and resources to Bricktown, making it better, and her pride in the district can be seen from the moment someone drives by her restaurant, sees the elaborate landscaping, and then for anyone who goes inside and sees one of the nicest establishments in Bricktown.
I can’t imagine she’s too thrilled with American Parking right now. So what happens next?
A couple of years ago, Bricktown merchants and property owners banded together behind association chair Avis Scaramuci and director Jim Cowan and tried to address complaints about parking once and for all. For years the district had argued it was not a real problem, it was a perception problem. It was Scaramuci and Cowan (who left as director last summer) who realized they shared responsibility for that perception problem.
So what did they do? They first tried a half-hearted merchant validation program. I say half-hearted because Jim, toward the end, would admit promotion and explanation of the program to visitors could have been better. The district then stood together and promised to end $20 parking. They also teamed up with the Thunder during its first-ever home game – a night when every space downtown was expected to be taken. They provided free parking – free – at the Bricktown garage and the lots along Main Street. And guess what? Dozens of spaces went untaken.
From that point on, the number of emails, calls and comments I received complaining about parking in Bricktown dropped significantly.
But now the $20 parking is back … care to guess who owns this lot? (MORE TO COME)
I was a kid when I started my first real newspaper job. I had lucked out on my timing. The newspaper industry was in a slump. I had done my best to beef up my practical experience by working one summer at a radio station in Holdenville and working the fall of 1989 at the Edmond Evening Sun.
I had also taken a shot at New York journalism, had a gig lined up there for the summer of 1989, but found out I had to be a lot more ruthless, a lot more cut throat to make it in that town. I had been cursed with a good ethics teacher, a good set of role models who had made such a different path a no-go for me.
So as 1990 began, my job prospects were murky. The Enid News & Eagle had one part time position open and another about to open; the editor there responded to my job inquiry that he might be able to hire me part time and eventually make me full time. The pay was going to be less than $200 a week.
In December of 1989 I got my foot in the door at The Oklahoman by getting a job working a few hours a week answering phones on high school game nights and gathering scores. I learned about the internship program, and seeing as there were no job openings, I disregarded the rules about graduating seniors and set up an interview.
As luck would have it, Ben Fenwick quit his job as cop reporter that week (years later he would gain some fame writing a story in Playboy relating to the trial of Timothy McVeigh). My editor was Gene Triplett. He was almost a cliche of the gruff editor types you’d see portrayed in movies. Once, while covering a gang funeral, a young gunman with bad aim started firing at the crowd – and some shots grazed by me as I was talking to an officer. I jumped in the company car, got on the two way, and told Triplett we were under fire.
“Then get out of there Lackmeyer,” Triplett replied. “What are you trying to do – making up for not having your own Vietnam experience?” Another time I arrived too early at a shooting at the Armory at NE 23 and Broadway, beating the cops. In my defense, I was being forced in and out of the police reporter’s car so often by arriving officers that it was easy to get a bit flustered. Anyway, long story short, the keys got locked in the car. And this was at a time when the newsroom had moved to the new tower at Britton and Broadway, but the spare keys were at the old building downtown. Triplett was weary eyed going through two pages of agate type listing contributors to the David Walters campaign. He was none too thrilled to hear I needed someone to come by that night and go through the trouble of getting access to those extra keys.
Working downtown that first year or two was a great experience.
Those were the days when you worked around living legends – people like Kevin Laval, who kicked everyone’s butt when it came to covering and investigating the crash of Oklahoma’s energy and banking industries. Mary Jo Nelson, who knew everything about the city, downtown and City Hall, was like a god to me. It took me years to have an in-depth discussion with her – I was that intimidated. Editors like Wayne Singleterry made sure you got every fact correct – down to a suspect’s shoe size. Mr. Gaylord drove himself to and from work, loved burgers at Johnnies, and when you listened to him, only then did you realize what a killer dry wit he had.
I walked to and from the courthouse everyday, carrying an ancient Toshiba laptop to type in public records when I had to cover the obit shift (yep, I had to pay my dues). I knew nobody downtown, though I did know more than some about its history. I knew nothing about the people at the “cop shop” or fire department. When I’d ask questions about how to make contacts, how to find the good stories, I was simply told “be a reporter.”
So that’s what I did. I made it a point to always be working one way or another, to get to really know people, to go beyond interviews, to find out the background stories. I was inquisitive. I chased after some bad story leads. I chased after some good story leads. I sought to end my stint as a cop reporter after covering the worst crime in this city’s history – April 19, 1995 – and seeing far too much blood, sorrow and violence for any sane person to witness without emotional scarring. I asked the tough questions as I covered the early days of MAPS, and shared in the excitement in seeing the projects come to fruition. I bit my tongue knowing about Devon tower a year before I could pop the story (you’ve got to nail down sources and do a lot of footwork on the big stories). I couldn’t envision what a completed Bricktown Canal would look like. I can’t envision what a completed Project 180 will look like. I shared lunches with some of you at Allen’s Cafe and stared at the weird art work on the walls, and I enjoyed hearing the latest gossip from Hal Priddy at Taylor’s Newsstand. We shared in the disappointment when both landmarks closed.
I learned from those I worked with. I was stunned when Laval died way too soon. I mourned when Wayne died at his desk. I respectfully honored Mary Jo when she passed away. I’ve tried to take the punches, as others have, as the industry went from change to crazy change. We’ve seen some changes pay off while others haven’t. We’ve cried as we’ve seen friends lose their jobs, victims of an economy that remains brutal to many.
Maybe I’m rambling. I certainly wasn’t allowed to do that 10 years ago. But that’s the beauty of blogging. It’s all part of that crazy change I mentioned – breaking down that wall that once separated a newspaper’s writers from the readers. I guess what I’m saying is today wasn’t one of my favorite days. But careers are filled with good days and bad days. I’m still committed to doing my best to keep you informed on all that’s going on downtown and beyond. And I hope you’ll stick with me as I continue to write and tell stories I hope you’ll find interesting and worth your time (which will include a story in tomorrow’s paper about the response to the proposed hotels in Bricktown, with more coverage to follow!)
Sometimes comments get posted on older articles at OKC Central and don’t get properly noticed. Such was the case recently when visitor Diane Hooper posted the following comment on an article published two years ago – “Why Downtown Condos Cost More than $250,000.”
Looking back, I think most developers and observers will acknowledge this effort at controlling the market was a failure and the city should have spent the pre-2008 crash encouraging apartments and starter housing at the same time it was pushing for upscale housing.
Here’s Diane Hooper’s thoughts:
I’m originally from OKC. All my family live there and had thought to look for a condo to retire there. However, I am looking at what is on offer and comparing it to other inner city cores I have lived in, in the past. NYC, Chicago, Toronto, among other smaller cities around two hundred thousand people. The BIG difference here is that part of being a condo dweller in the inner city that attracts people is the easy access i.e. walking to everything. OKC still does NOT have this. The prices for the condos on offer are in line with the area in many ways but, the inner city amenities are not there yet.
I’m not sure I’d like to commit that much money to an inner city condo in OKC without the public transportation availability that works so well in so many other cities. Going to the grocery store? You have to drive, going to the pharmacy in the evening? You’ll have to drive. I still don’t see OKC downtown as having the same community spaces as other cities. It’s trying and maybe some day but, not right now. I’m keeping an eye on things though.
It almost looks as if these condo buildings are going in plopped near some amenities but, without actual living day to day amenities in place. The need for a car in most inner city urban centers is eliminated. That and the need for great parks and green spaces being kept in tact. Avenues, with trees etc….OKC could be great in that urban core but, it can’t just be a few condos near Bricktown or one library or one center. There’s got to more of a community core space that people call a “home” than that.
One thing OKC needs to do is REALLY strive for full public transport that is safe, available, reliable and affordable. Most people I know in condos in many other cities don’t even need to own a car! Everything they need is within walking distance of their condo. If they go on a long trip they just rent a car for that purpose or take cabs. OKC, if it wants to urbanize needs to do what other cities that are successfully urbanized downtown do so well. Easy transportation and daily amenities within walking distance of these condos, not just restaurants and bars and arts centers but, real amenities like green grocers, drug stores, flower shops, you know things a “main street” has. Without those the condos will still be in an urban no mans land except for the “eat out” crowd and some amenities for the arts. It has to be it’s own “town” in the core. Right now it’s really not there yet. So I wouldn’t pay three hundred thousand to live down there. More underground parking would help too to get rid of so many unsightly HUGE parking lots. Those things are a no mans land of wasted space and do not contribute to a community gathering space at all.
Having said all that, I am encouraged to see OKC striving to revive that core and make it a real living space. My father owned a store down there for many years and it was discouraging to see how far down the core went for so long. I am so urbanized now, when I come home for a visit my sister laughs at me thinking I can hail a cab to go about anywhere and such. This needs to change. OKC has always been a huge “driving city” and is spread out but, it is NOT impossible for it to become a fully serviced public transport city like others, NOR for the core to be serviced by the same amenities as the suburbs. The reason most downtown cores are more expensive in other cities is that ALL the arts attractions are in their cores BUT you can also live in them. Go to your grocer, your doctor, your hardware store AND have access to the best arts activities, museums etc. OKC does not have the same living attractions in the core of these other cities…….yet.
Add to this that OKC’s core is competing with their suburbs with VERY affordable housing. Solve the transportation and daily amenities issues FIRST before you start adding in more restaurants etc. Each of these buildings would do well with a ground floor grocer for quick access. OR if OKC had an underground like a subway the space under these buildings could be used for shops too. I’m just dreaming and I love OKC but, it’s got a long way to go before justifying the kinds of prices some of these condos are going for.
I adore Block 42 and the townhouses…though they just are not “quite” there yet. If I am living in a condo and trading off having no adjoining walls for “easy access” then there needs to be something there to access besides “entertainment” People have to live day to day. Also, retirees with some cash could be buying up these spaces but, they want to know they will NOT have to drive to everything if they go into a condo space downtown. Why move into an urban area if there’s no “there, there” yet and pay the same as you will pay for a luxury home in the same city? It doesn’t make sense.
All this said, I’m thinking of perhaps buying a space downtown and putting in a green grocer near these existing condo units somewhere. These people need COMMUNITY businesses that they can use every day.
A building like this could save taxpayers $20 million or more on land acquisition costs as part of MAPS 3. Care to guess how?
UPDATE: It took less than hour for someone to guess correctly. No surprise the winner was Nick Roberts, though Blair Humphreys must be credited with bringing my attention to this alternative solution. One has to wonder: will the MAPS 3 oversight board be given the chance to thoroughly study this as an alternative to paying $30 million to moving the OG&E substation across from the future Core to Shore central park? I realize from having reviewed public records that city staff have spent a lot of time behind the scenes preparing for such an acquisition and move.
But if one steps back from the edge, why not give this option serious consideration? A year ago I was hearing that LED lighting was simply not an option for Project 180. Now it’s becoming a reality. Step back from preconceived notions and ponder the alternatives. I’m not saying this is the right or wrong way to go. But certainly I’m questioning why it wouldn’t be a good alternative – especially if it allows for a fair funding basis for all possible convention center sites.
Here are links to consider: