When I first joined The Oklahoman in 1990, Deep Deuce was no-man’s land, a once proud black neighborhood that was letting out its last gasp. The drug dealers were pretty much gone already – and just a few vagrants remained. Buildings were burned out, boarded-up, and catching fire.
Yep, that was my introduction to Deep Deuce – covering fires.
But as Bricktown thrived throughout the 1990s, it wasn’t that difficult to see how a revival of the area and few remaining old buildings might occur. And indeed it has. First with the opening of the Deep Deuce Apartments about a decade ago, then followed by the openings of the Deep Deuce Grill, Sage and Wedge Pizzeria in the old boarded up buildings. Then came in the for-sale condominiums – Block 42, Central Avenue Villas, the Hill, 2nd Street Lofts and the Brownstones at Maywood Park. Say what you may about the mixed sales success of these properties, but they have added a diversity and stability to Deep Deuce. Now we have the next wave of development underway – the Level Apartments, an Aloft Hotel, and the announcement of a Native Roots Market set to open early next year in the Level development.
Expect a coffee shop and restaurant, meanwhile, to open on the first floor of the Aloft. And despite some questionable design of the first floor of the 2nd Street Lofts, life is beginning to emerge there as well with part of the space now home to a salon.
More development is on the way – both announced (4th Street apartments by Ron Bradshaw), and unannounced (more housing, more mixed use commercial). What we end up with in the near future is perhaps the city’s first truly dense, mixed-use downtown neighborhood sandwiched between Bricktown and the central business district. (and keep in mind it ultimately extends to 4th street, so it also includes a gallery and mechanic’s garage).
All in all, not bad work. And no, I’m not aware of any plans for the streetcar system to go through Deep Deuce, nor have I heard much discussion of such.
Planning on enjoying July 4 festivities downtown this weekend? Plan ahead to avoid the headaches. Here’s the latest traffic advisory from the Project 180 office.
This is a summary of downtown traffic conditions for the week of June 27 – July 1. Changes are noted in red. For a map that illustrates current traffic conditions please click here: Downtown Traffic Map
- N Robinson from Reno to Sheridan open to two-way traffic*
- N Robinson from Reno to Sheridan is open to one southbound lane and one northbound lane while crews continue to work on the Myriad Botanical Gardens remodel.
- N Robinson from 4th to Dean McGee open to traffic*
- N Robinson from 4th to Dean McGee is open to one southbound lane and one northbound lane while crews complete streetscape work. Portions may periodically be closed for water line work.
- Dean McGee from Hudson to Harvey open to traffic*
- Dean McGee from Hudson to Harvey is open to one eastbound lane and one westbound lane.
- Dean McGee from Harvey to Robinson reduced to one lane in each direction*
- Dean McGee is reduced to one eastbound lane and one westbound lane while crews complete streetscape work.
- N Robinson from 4th to 6th open to all traffic*
- N Robinson from 4th to 6th is open to all traffic while crews continue to work on the east side amenity zone.
- Main between Lee and Dewey traffic switch*
- Eastbound traffic on Main between Lee and Dewey switched from the south side of Main to the north side. Eastbound traffic detours at Dewey to continue on Sheridan.
- Intersection of Main and Lee Reduced*
- The south half of the intersection of Main and Lee will be closed. Lee between Sheridan and Main will be closed to through traffic.
- Four-Way Stop at EK Gaylord and Reno*
- A four-way stop sign is located at the intersection of EK Gaylord and Reno so crews can continue work on the waterline. EK Gaylord is reduced to two southbound lanes and one northbound lane.
- Lee between Main and Colcord open to two-way traffic*
- Lee between Main and Colcord open to two-way traffic.
- Pedestrian traffic at Walker and Main Intersection*
- Pedestrians are able to cross the Walker and Main intersection on the east side for north and south foot traffic. Use Walker and Colcord for east and west foot traffic.
- Main between Walker and Dewey closed to through traffic*
- Main between Walker and Dewey is closed to install OGE vault and storm drain.
- Three-Way Stop at Walker and Sheridan Intersection*
- A three-way stop sign is located at the intersection of Walker and Sheridan so crews can continue work on the road base.
- Three-Way Stop at Lee and Main Intersection*
- A three-way stop sign is located at the intersection of Lee and Main so crews can remove the traffic signals in order to proceed with electrical work.
- Robinson and Sheridan eastbound turn lane will be reduced*
- The eastbound outside turn lane is closed, one lane will remain open.
- Harrison from NE 6th to NE 4th closed to all traffic
- Harrison from NE 6th to NE 4th closed to all traffic while crews continue to work on resurfacing and street improvements.
- Three-Way Stop at Walker and Main Intersection*
- A three-way stop sign is located at the intersection of Walker and Main so crews can remove the traffic signals and place footings for the roadway.
- Robinson between Sheridan and Reno closed*
- Robinson between Sheridan and Reno is closed to through traffic for approximately four weeks. Robinson is accessible from Reno which provides motorists access to the Cox Convention Center garage.
- Walker from Reno to Colcord*
- The east side of Walker from Reno to Colcord is open to two northbound lanes. The west side of Walker is closed to traffic so crews can complete streetscape work in this area. Pedestrians are able to cross at the Sheridan and Walker intersection to access the Sheridan Walker garage.
- Reno from EK Gaylord to Dewey OPEN to two lanes in each direction*
- Reno from EK Gaylord to Dewey is open to through traffic, periodically one lane may be closed to complete landscaping.
- Sheridan between Hudson and Robinson closed until 2012*
- Sheridan Avenue between Hudson Avenue and Robinson Avenue remains closed for renovation on the Myriad Botanical Gardens and private downtown renovations.
All project timelines are contingent upon the weather.
*Denotes Project 180-related construction.
Consider for a second that we will likely see at least one more mid-rise to high-rise added to this picture and two more boat houses.
The original plans – click on image to enlarge
I posted this in 2008. In light of recent discussions over the decision by the Urban Renewal Authority to award development of the MidTown Mercy site to Legacy apartments developers Gary Brooks and Mike Henderson, I am reposting this blog post:
From time to time I hear grumbling about the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority and whether it really holds developers to the plans that get them selected against other competitors.
What’s wonderful about The Oklahoman’s archives is we can see for ourselves whether there is any validity to this complaint.
Today we start this new series with a look at developer Mike Henderson’s original designs and compare them to what was built. I pick Legacy at Arts Central because it by far the one most mentioned by critics.
Some nice fundraisers coming up on Ninth Street
So now we know – Gary Brooks and Mike Henderson will be the next to take a shot a developing the highly coveted, but elusive Mercy site in MidTown. Time to step back and take a full view of it all. First, let’s take a look at initial renderings.
Now this is where things get interesting. After hearing initial critiques from Urban Renewal Commissioners and seeing proposals by competitors, Gary Brooks did what he needed to do to win the deal. He removed the “carriage” entry (similar to the one at Legacy) from the Walker side of the complex, moved the leasing office and club house to the front along Walker, and changed the ground floor apartments along Walker to retail.
So we go from this facade facing Walker…
To this one (don’t get too caught up in the difference in rendering quality):
There were also concerns about the appearance of the garage facing Dewey Avenue, across from the Unitarian Church and Villa Theresa school. This was the original design:
And this is the revised rendering:
Let me start this post by stating the obvious: by simply commenting on downtown Tulsa, there are those up in our sister city who will assume the worst of me, that I’m out to trash them to the benefit of Oklahoma City, etc.
That’s not true, and fortunately there are also many rational voices up in Tulsa who see beyond the childish and petty “us vs. them” cliche that has plagued the two cities for decades (dear Tulsa – OKC doesn’t like the turnpikes anymore than you do).
So let’s get that out of the way; I love downtown Tulsa. I love its architecture. I love its proximity to the Arkansas River. I have unlimited jealousy of the Tulsa Press Club, its location downtown, and its proximity to Arnie’s (a downtown dive bar unrivaled in downtown OKC).
With that aside, I am struck by a story posted by Michael Bates, an insightful Tulsa blogger who has done a great job informing his readers, including myself, on various matters including urban planning. Maurice Kanbar might not be a household name here in Oklahoma City, but in Tulsa he IS downtown, having bought about a third of the properties in the central business district a few years back.
Now it looks like he may be bailing out.
Tulsa, it seems, gets so close, so often, to celebrating something huge only to see their hopes dashed. While Oklahoma City goes in slower, incremental steps on its urban revival that take years to complete, Tulsa goes after one big quick roll of the dice after another.
A giant Indian statue called “The American” (something to rival the St. Louis Arch) was announced to great fanfare – and went no where. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, went with a heroic size recreation of the Land Run, and while it’s taking a few years to get done, one small piece at a time, it’s quietly becoming a significant tourist attraction (though it will never be the St. Louis Arch).
Tulsa then sought to create urban entertainment districts to rival Bricktown. At first glance, with incredible assets like Cain’s Ballroom and the Brady Theater, this should have been a slam dunk. But again, Tulsa went for something bigger than just one district, and the result until recently has been two detached district, each with great qualities, but still falling short of the sort of place people will travel to from across the region. I have high hopes that may soon change with the latest announced developments – if they come to pass.
So now we come to Maurice Kanbar. In January, 2006, I was quite proud of having scooped the Tulsa World in scoring the first interview with Kanbar’s then-business partner, Henry Kaufman:
In downtown Tulsa, they’re wondering, “How did we get so lucky?”
Two San Francisco investors, Maurice Kanbar and Henry Kaufman, were virtual unknowns when they hit Oklahoma’s second-largest city back in August, buying five prominent downtown Tulsa office buildings.
Unlike typical developers, they skipped doing any interviews with reporters and quietly went about buying even more properties. With their latest purchase last week of Tulsa’s Atlas Life Building, their total investment exceeds $100 million.
Kanbar and Kaufman, in business together for 42 years, now own 19 buildings, representing about 28 percent of all downtown Tulsa office properties.
So who are they? What are their plans? And why Tulsa?
“We had a long-standing interest in Tulsa,” Kaufman told The Oklahoman this week. “We had a publishing company there. It’s a beautiful city. The universities that surround it are turning out excellent graduates, and the architecture is superb. … There are no negatives.”
Downtown Tulsa, Kaufman said, “is an undiscovered gem.”
Well, at least it was until Kanbar and Kaufman came to town.
Kanbar made his fortune as the founder of Skky Vodka. A biography provided by the San Francisco mayor’s office shows he also opened the first multiplex theater in New York and holds several inventor’s patents.
Kaufman said he and Kanbar think Tulsa has the chance to be the country’s next big arts magnet. And their investments will reflect that hunch with a drive to lure some satellite university branches, museums and galleries to their buildings. They also are planning to convert some of their buildings into artists’ lofts.
“I see a need for art galleries, artists’ lofts, the kind of things that made Soho what it is today,” Kaufman said. “We want to price them to be affordable for artists — it’s interesting to note that the artists have abandoned Soho and have moved to Chelsea — because they were out priced by Soho.”
Wow. How could you not get excited about such a development? Imagine if a millionaire angel investor came into Oklahoma City, bought First National Center, all of Nick Preftakes’ buildings along Main Street and Sheridan Avenue, and every undeveloped building along Automobile Alley, and made similar promises. Believe it or not, Kanbar and Kaufman’s arrival in Tulsa was double that scenario.
Kaufman, however, eventually disappeared from the equation. And while one building, the wonderful Atlas Building (where I first visited the Tulsa Press Club) was converted into a nice hotel, that was the result of a sale to new owners. The rest of the story, as told by Bates, isn’t so great.
What’s potentially worrisome is that the Kanbar is emptying some of the older buildings of their few remaining tenants. Such moves can lead to regret later if the buildings go dark, and lose their “grandfather” status under code requirements for renovations.
I’m curious as to what all of you might think, Tulsans and Oklahoma Citians alike. Is there something to learn in all this? In the meantime, let’s hope for the best for Tulsa; and just know that there are a lot of Oklahoma City folks making treks to Cain’s and loving their stay in T-Town.
As an aside to all this, not sure I ever read about the outcome of the Kanbar/Kaufman lawsuit, but a search of court transcripts shows the matter went to the 9th Circuit Court, where it affirmed a decision by a lower court that went Kanbar’s way, but financially pretty much favored Kaufman. Confused? Apparently Kanbar doesn’t like paying bonuses. And the relationship between the two men was pretty informal. So when Kaufman paid finder’s fees, etc., to affluent Tulsans including John and Tori Snyder (who restored the Mayo Hotel) and attorney Raymond Feldman, Kanbar, according to the court documents, was none too happy.
That said, if I understand the 2010 ruling correctly, the courts determined the money paid to these individuals didn’t exceed what they would have been due. There may still be some filings, court actions not showing up in my search, so I’m not entirely sure this is the end of the story.
ONE MORE ADD:
Over at Tulsa Now, they’re discussing this post and trying to figure out my intent. My intent, quite simply, is to question whether putting all of one’s hopes into the big stuff can overshadow the small stuff, which often pays off more when everything is said and done.
I’m intrigued by this response over at Tulsa Now by “Floyd”:
“His point appears to be that Tulsa seems to keep “missing” on its large-scale development attempts. I think that’s a fair point on one level–witness the failure of the Stadium Trust to even begin to deliver improvements in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark. But it misses the more important aspects of what’s happening in Tulsa. Despite it all, Tulsa’s smaller-scale entrepreneurs and visionaries are remaking the city’s core into a place with character and life, from the Pearl streetscape to Tulsa Tough. That’s the real story here, and Lackmeyer should pop over to Tulsa to see it and write about it.”
Floyd, it’s been about year, way too long, since I last visited Tulsa. I’m way overdue, and I’ll be up there soon!
RIP Big Man. Always loved ya.
Otis White with Civic Strategies brings to our attention a Chicago suburb that is offering tax rebates – with strings:
“When you start hearing things over and over again – they need help,” Arlington Economic Alliance Chairman Tony Guido said.
The board preliminarily approved a loose program that would give small businesses a 33 percent tax rebate for three years with several strings attached. The village would need to set aside about $50,000 to $60,000 each year, and approve each rebate agreement as it came up, Perkins said.
Businesses looking for tax breaks must be smaller than 5,000-square-feet and would also have to make improvements to their business or facilities. They would have to maintain regular store hours, which include staying open weekends and evenings.
Read the whole story here.
I highly recommend those who are on Twitter and are interested in urban planning follow Otis at @otiswhite