I don’t write a headline like the one for this blog post lightly. I’ve read a lot of stories about Oklahoma City in national publications over the years, both in modern context as a reporter, and also in a historic context as a researcher for various book projects. The New York Times Magazine focus on Kevin Durant, the Thunder and Oklahoma City is expansive, thoughtful, skips the cliches so easily clutched by other outside writers, goes for the unexpected interviews (Bill Citty, someone I’ve known for 20 years, was a perfect choice of a tour guide), and showcases exactly what Oklahoma City was, is, and has yet to become. I am in awe. When I grow up, I can only dream and hope to be a great writer like Sam Anderson.
Below is an excerpt from his article. To read the full story, which you must, go here.
The full name of Oklahoma City is the City of Oklahoma City. The police chief of the City of Oklahoma City is named — I’m not joking — Bill Citty. (“Citty” is pronounced exactly like “city.”) Chief Citty, hearing that I was in town to write about his city, offered to give me a tour. He drove me around in his sedan, neighborhood by neighborhood, casually ignoring traffic laws, occasionally being honked at, for more than three hours. The last hour or so we spent at the Oklahoma State Fair, where he drove me around in a golf cart.
Chief Citty’s tour was my introduction to the civic paradox that is modern OKC: a city that, over the last 15 years, has managed to reinvent itself while other cities have melted down, a conservative town that happily submitted to a series of voluntary taxes, a place where the oxymoron “corporate citizen” almost begins to make some kind of sense.
Citty grew up in Oklahoma City, so he has seen, firsthand, the major phases of the last 60 years. He was born during the postwar boom, in 1953, when everything was awash in federal money. (It is one of the many paradoxes of Oklahoma that, despite all its rhetoric of rugged individualism and free markets, the economy has been heavily depending on the federal government for decades.) Citty’s mother worked for a gas company downtown, in an office in the First National Center, one of the defining masterpieces of the city’s skyline — a 33-story Art Deco tower with elaborate aluminum decorations based on King Tut’s tomb. As a teenager in the 1960s, Citty watched as the new malls and highways started sucking all of downtown’s energy out into the suburbs, leaving behind the usual inner-city decay. In the 1970s, after some years of hippyish drifting, he decided to cut his hair, shave off his beard and join the City of Oklahoma City Police Department.
It was 1977. Citty was assigned to patrol a downtown neighborhood called the Deep Deuce, an African-American community that had once been home to world-famous jazz clubs but had declined, by then, into a hub for drugs and gambling and prostitution. (Just before Citty joined the force, a serial killer dumped the body of a prostitute in the basement of a nearby church.) From his beat downtown, Citty watched the city’s economy boom with oil money. New houses sprouted everywhere. Then, in 1982, he watched it all go bust: banks, farms, oil — everything. People lost their new homes; thriving businesses closed. “What happened to us in the early ’80s,” Citty told me, “is what happened to the U.S. economy in ’08.”
Things were still bad in 1993, when the mayor of Oklahoma City, Ron Norick, persuaded his constituents to do something improbable: to voluntarily tax themselves in order to rebuild the city. The program was called Metro Area Projects, or Maps — a one-cent sales tax that raised more than $350 million. Over the next two decades, Maps and its sequels (the city is currently on Maps 3) would change almost every neighborhood in the city, especially downtown. It built a canal and a minor-league baseball stadium and a new library; it turned an endless stretch of empty warehouses into a vital shopping district; it overhauled the schools; it put water back in the river, which had been so dry that, for decades, the city had to mow it. And of course Maps built a basketball stadium, which would come spectacularly into play many years later.
In 1995, just as Maps was getting rolling, life in the city suddenly came to a stop. On an otherwise ordinary April morning, a 26-year-old terrorist drove a moving truck full of fertilizer and other chemicals into the heart of downtown and parked in front of the nine-story Federal Building. The explosion, at 9:02 a.m., killed 168 people and injured 684. Five blocks west, at Police Headquarters, the tile shook so hard and so many windows broke that Bill Citty assumed the bomb had gone off inside. He figured out its real source only when he saw that the paper raining down everywhere had come from offices inside the Federal Building. He made it there within 20 minutes and stayed for the next month. At that point, Citty was the department’s public information officer, which meant he had to wrangle the media, a suddenly gargantuan task. He became, in a sense, the link between Oklahoma City and the rest of the world.
As part of our tour, Citty drove me down to the Deep Deuce, which was now full of bright new brick apartment complexes. He drove me past the State Capitol, the only one in the nation with an oil rig in front of it. He drove me through Automobile Alley, a revitalized hipster pocket. He pointed out the public bike-rental program, Spokies, that opened over the summer. Half of the city seemed to be under construction. Near the basketball arena, an old elevated highway was being torn down: it was now just a lattice of concrete, with on- and offramps that ended in midair. The highway will soon be replaced by a grand boulevard — the Champs-Élysées of OKC — leading right to the Thunder’s home.
This public rebuilding helped bring in private investment, which in turn brought in more revenue for public works, which brought in more private investment — and these cycles eventually combined to make Oklahoma City a plausible home for N.B.A. basketball. When it arrived, the growth and the basketball amplified each other. “We’d have a lot of good things happening now even if we didn’t get the Thunder,” Citty told me. “But we got the Thunder because good things were going on, and now even better things are going on.” As an example, he drove me past the Devon Energy Center, the city’s new skyscraper, a 50-story steel-and-glass tube that dwarfs every other building in sight.
This, then, is part of the city’s love affair with the Thunder. It’s more than just a basketball team: it’s the culmination of 20 years of civic reinvention, and the promise of more to come. Over the last five years, the city and its team have undergone a perfect mind meld, so at this point it’s impossible to talk about one without talking about the other. After all of that sacrifice — the grind of municipal meetings and penny taxes and planning boards, the dust and noise and uncertainty of construction, the horror of 1995 — the little city in the middle of No Man’s Land has finally arrived on the world stage. While it’s there, it fully intends to put on a good performance.
As I first reported last week, Paul Coury is set to have plans for conversion of the Osler Building into an Ambassador Hotel reviewed by the Downtown Design Review Committee. Here are more drawings submitted for consideration:
Vast opens in downtown OKC
Vast, Oklahoma City’s only restaurant located 726 feet, 2 inches above downtown, opened Oct. 24 on the 49th floor of the Devon Tower.
Vast features globally-inspired American cuisine and will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. Dinner on Friday and Saturday will be extended to 10:30 p.m.
To make reservations at Vast, call (405) 702-7262. To view the menu online, visit vastokc.com.
Who’s who downtown
This week, Who’s Who features Mark Zitzow, Research Coordinator for Economic Development at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. We hope you have fun getting to know Mark and if you see him around downtown, be sure to say hello!
Tell us a little bit about what you do at the Chamber.
I provide research to our Economic Development team for companies both looking to relocate into the Greater Oklahoma City Area, as well as, grow and expand from within.
As a Deep Deuce resident, what’s the best part about living and working downtown?
I would have to say being able to walk to work. It takes be about 7 minutes from door to door. I love not having to put up 5 o’clock traffic and it gives me more time to spend with my wife and dog.
Where’s your favorite place to take your wife, Christin, for a date night?
You can never go wrong with dinner at a number of great restaurants and movie at Harkins.
If you were trapped on a deserted island and could only take one downtown restaurant with you, which one would you take and why?
I would take Deep Deuce Grill with me. They have a great buffalo chicken sandwich and an even better outdoor covered patio that includes a fire pit and misters. I won’t lie, I am not sure I could start a fire on my own, so that was a major factor in why I chose Deep Deuce Grill.
If you could be anywhere in downtown OKC right now, where would you be and why?
I would be at the Thunder home opener against the Trailblazers welcoming the new players from Houston. I am very excited for the season to start and now that I live only a few blocks away, I can attend even more games.
If you had one hour to spend $1,000 in downtown OKC, how would you spend it?
That’s an easy question. I would head straight to the Red Dirt Emporium. I don’t even think that I would need an hour. They have a lot of really cool local art, food and goods like clothing and knick knacks.
What would you do if you could be the Mayor for one day?
I would set aside funds to make sure that Oklahoma City could throw the largest celebratory parade ever for a sports team winning the championship. I would also ask someone for a helicopter ride and a holiday to be named for me.
What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend or a Sunday afternoon?
I love to spend Sundays at the Myriad Gardens with my wife and dog. We always have a blast and now there always seems to be something going on.
Hey Thunder fans! Harden may be gone, but don’t let that stop you from Thundering up. The season opener is this week, so mark these dates on your calendar:
Friday, Nov. 2 – Portland Trail Blazers / OKC Thunder, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 4 – Atlanta Hawks / OKC Thunder, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 6 – Toronto Raptors / OKC Thunder, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 9 – Detroit Pistons / OKC Thunder, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 11 – Cleveland Cavaliers / OKC Thunder, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 14 – Memphis Grizzlies / OKC Thunder, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 18 – Golden State Warriors / OKC Thunder, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 21 – L.A. Clippers / OKC Thunder, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 26 – Charlotte Bobcats / OKC Thunder, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 28 – Houston Rockets / OKC Thunder, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 30 – Utah Jazz / OKC Thunder, 7 p.m.
Visit nba.com/thunder to view the full schedule.
Barons fans are in for a treat every Saturday
To celebrate the upcoming presidential election, the Oklahoma City Barons fans are giving away 3,000 Presidential Candidate bobbleheads. The team has ordered an equal number of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney bobbleheads to give away to the first fans to arrive.
The Barons are also giving away a car Saturday night in the team’s Drive Away Every Saturday promotion. Saturday evening, one lucky fan will drive away in a new Jeep. Faceoff Saturday evening is 7 p.m. at the Cox Convention Center against the Houston Aeros.
A variety of ticket packages are available to meet every individual or group need. Multiple-game packs, Flex Packs and Full Season Seat options are available. Call the Barons’ front office at 405-232-4625 for information on group outings, season seats and other ticket packages. For more info, visit okcbarons.com.
Opening Reception for Pareidolia Series on Nov. 1
An opening reception for our new temporary exhibit, Pariedolia Series by Oklahoma City artist Trent Lawson, will be held today, Nov. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum.
Pareidolia is the psychological phenomenon where one sees a vague or random stimulus and perceives it as something recognizable. Examples are the man in the moon, cloud shapes looking like animals, and Rorschach ink blot diagrams. This idea is at the heart of the featured work.
The opening reception is free for Association and Museum members and $5 to the public. RSVP to Corie Baker at 405.523.3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit oklahomaheritage.com for details about the artist and exhibit.
RAW indie arts awards is back
The 4th Annual RAWards will be hosted at Club One15 in Bricktown on Thursday, Nov. 8 beginning at 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by Ryan Drake with special guests Jenn Scott, Kristen Vails and Sharon Tabb as the judges for this live showcase.
RAW: natural born artists is an independent arts organization that gives artists the opportunity and the outlet to showcase their work in their local area. Oklahoma City will showcase visual art, film, fashion, music, hair and makeup artistry, photography, models and performing arts.
Guests will be able to cast their votes to nominate the winner in each category. The winners will be able to represent Oklahoma in a national competition where they can be honored in Los Angeles to receive a career boosting prize.
Tickets are available online for $15 and at the door for $20 the day of the event. It will be cocktail attire with a cash bar, so come out and support the local arts! For more info, visit rawartists.org/oklahomacity.
College Programs for Working Adults – Downtown College Tuesday Topics
Want to learn strategies that will lead to a debt-free life? Come to our next Tuesday Topics lunchtime seminar. Terri Talley from Allegiance Credit Union will present “Gaining Financial Peace.” These strategies are an introduction to Dave Ramsey’s well known Financial Peace Series.Tuesday Topics attendees will learn how to get rid of debt, manage money and spend and save wisely. The lunchtime seminar will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, from noon to 1 p.m.
A complimentary box lunch will be provided. Call 405.232.3382 or email email@example.com to reserve your place before noon on Nov. 5. Tuesday Topics is brought to you by these sponsors: The OKC Downtown College, Allegiance Credit Union, Norick Downtown Library, and Downtown OKC, Inc
Spend an evening with Lindsey Buckingham
Tres Amigos productions presents an evening with Lindsey Buckingham this Saturday, Nov. 3. This one-night-only event begins at 8 p.m. at the ACM@UCO Performance Lab (323 E. Sheridan).
Tickets are available for $100 and $90 and limited seating is available. For for information, or to purchase tickets, call 405.340.8552.
Overture provides a fun way to support the OKC Philharmonic
Overture, the friends of the Philharmonic group, kicks off its members-only season opening after-party on Saturday, November 3 with a disco blowout. Memberships are still available for the season and the fun is just about to start at the Civic Center. Join the cast of Disco Days and Boogie Nights, along with the Philharmonic musicians for a 70s dance party.
Get on the list with a membership. Just $105 gets you concert tickets and party admission for the 3-concert Overture season. Sign-up online or call 405-TICKETS (842-5387).
Upcoming shows at the Civic Center
Disco Days and Boogie Nights, Nov. 2-3, 8 p.m.
No matter which crowd you ran with in the ’70s, we’ve got the music to match – disco anthems like “I Will Survive,” monster rock hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and singer-songwriter ballads like “American Pie.” These great songs and more for one dy-no-mite symphonic performance!
Wizard of Oz, Nov 2-4, 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 3, 2 p.m.
Little Dorothy Gale of Kansas, like so many girls her age, dreams of what lies over the rainbow. One day a twister hits her farm and carries her away over the rainbow to another world. Come join Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion and Toto as they travel the universe of Dorothy’s imagination. For all audiences.
Mary Poppins, Nov. 6-11
Welcomed by Bank of Oklahoma, Disney’s Mary Poppins is bringing its own brand of Broadway magic to theaters across the country, which has Variety raving, “This is the rare touring production that over-delivers on every level!!”
Featuring an irresistible story and unforgettable songs from one of the most popular Disney films of all time, plus brand-new breathtaking dance numbers and spectacular stage-craft, MARY POPPINS is everything you could ever want in a hit Broadway show! So get swept up in the fun of this high-flying musical the New York Post gives 4 out of 4 stars and calls “a certifiable super hit!”
For ticket information, visit okcciviccenter.com.
French-Canadian folk band to perform free show at the library
Over the last few years, Genticorum has become one of the most sought after proponents of Québécois musical culture, having performed and toured in over 15 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
Firmly rooted in the soil of their native land, the energetic and original traditional ‘power trio’ also incorporates the dynamism of today’s North American and European folk cultures in their music. They weave precise and intricate fiddle and flute work, gorgeous vocal harmonies, energetic foot percussion and guitar and bass accompaniment into a big and jubilant musical feast. Their distinctive sound, sense of humour and stage presence make them a supreme crowd pleaser.
The trio consists of Pascal Gemme (fiddle, foot percussion), Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand (flute, bass and jaw harp), and Yann Falquet (guitar). Each sings lead and joins in the three part harmonies. The songs are all in French, but the spoken intros for American audiences are all in English.
Catch Genticorum at the downtown library a 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4. View a full list of appearances online.
Rediscover the Montgomery
You’re cordially invited to rediscover the historic Montgomery building in downtown OKC on Thursday, Nov. 8. From 3:30 – 6:30 p.m., The Montogomery Events Center (500 W. Main) will treat downtowners to hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and entertainment.
To attend, simply RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 405.601.9451.
Events at the Farmer’s Public Market this weekend
The Girlie Show
The Girlie Show is art, creativity, craftsmanship and funk. Hand-designed … sometimes refined … and all by chicks. It’s not stuffy like an art show or fluffy like a craft show. Think less haute, more hot. Guys, girls, good times. 2012 dates are…
- Friday, Nov. 2, 7-11 p.m. (Must be 18 or older to enter.)
- Saturday, Nov. 3, noon-5 p.m. (All ages welcome. 12 and under get in free.)
It’s all happening at the Farmer’s Public Market Building at 311 S. Klein. For more information, visit thegirlieshow.net.
Urban Agrarian, OKC Food Co-op & The OKC Farmers Market are pleased to announce the 1st Annual FallFest. This family-friendly event will take place on Sunday, Nov. 4 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and will feature live music, local farmers and artists, food and drinks, and kids activities. For more information, visit okcfarmersmarket.com.
Other downtown news
Construction begins on Kevin Durant’s restaurant
With a new NBA season just days away, Thunder star Kevin Durant joined restaurateur Hal Smith and developer Randy Hogan in marking the start of construction on his new Lower Bricktown eatery, KD’s.
Software to create a hypothetical development in downtown Oklahoma City’s Core to Shore area
“Dream course” at the University of Oklahoma during international online charette to use software to create a hypothetical Core to Shore development of future.
Osler Building’s conversion to boutique hotel set to start in December in Oklahoma City
MidTown’s Osler Building, empty since it was acquired by MidTown Renaissance Group in 2006, is set to reopen next year as the latest addition to the Ambassador Hotel chain. View the site plan on NewsOK.com.
Three concepts for Oklahoma City’s MAPS 3 urban park unveiled
Consultants and Oklahoma City staff unveiled three design concepts for the MAPS 3 urban park at a public meeting Thursday. Elements from each design will likely be used as the consultants work to come up with a finalized design by December.
Other downtown events
Art Moves, Presented by Devon, various locations, ongoing
American Moderns, 1910–1960: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell, OKCMOA, ongoing
Nov. 1 – Downtown Dogs, Myriad Gardens Dog Park, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 – Opening reception for Pareidolia, Gaylord Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum
Nov 2 – Season opener: OKC Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 7pm
Nov. 2 – Matt Stansberry Band, Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse
Nov. 2-3 – Disco Days and Boogie Nights, Civic Center
Nov. 2-3 – Girlie Show, OKC Farmers Market
Nov. 2-4 – Wizard of Oz, Civic Center
Nov. 2-3 – All Soul’s Day Celebration, Wings of Desire
Nov. 2-3 – Camp on the Catwalk, Myriad Gardens
Nov. 3 – Nuts & Bolts of Building a Small Business, Downtown Library
Nov. 3 – All About Pies, Myriad Gardens
Nov. 4 – OKC Thunder vs Atlanta, 6pm
Nov. 4 – Why?, Naytronix and The Black Swans, ACM@UCO Performance Lab
Nov. 6 – OKC Thunder vs Toronto Raptors, 7pm
Nov. 6- Live music: Mike Hosty, JJ’s Alley
Nov. 6-11 – Mary Poppins, Civic Center
Nov. 8 – OKC Thunder at Chicago Bulls, 7pm
Nov. 8 – Film: The Dust Bowl, OKCMOA
Nov. 8 – Brown Bag Lunch Speak Series: Wreath Making, Myriad Gardens
Nov. 9 – OKC Thunder vs. Detroit Pistons, 7pm
Nov. 9-25 – Richard III, Reduxion Theatre
Nov. 9-11 – Film: Farewell My Queen, OKCMOA
Nov. 11 – OKC Thunder vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 6pm
Nov. 11- The 7 Project Release Show with O Fidelis and Jabee, ACM@UCO Performance Lab
Nov. 12 – OKC Thunder at Detroit Pistons, 6:30pm
Nov. 13-15 – Lord of the Rings Marathon, Downtown Library
Nov. 14 – OKC Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies, 7pm
Nov. 15 – Downtown Dogs, Myriad Gardens Dog Park, 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 – OKC Thunder at New Orleans Hornets, 7pm
Nov. 16 – A Perfect Finish, wine and food tasting, Boathouse District
Nov. 17 – Natural Creations Jewelry, Myriad Gardens
Nov. 17- Blazing Colors with a French Twist, Civic Center
Nov. 18 – OKC Thunder at Golden State Warriors, 6pm
Nov. 19 – Wiz Khalifa Concert, Chesapeake Energy Arena
Nov. 19 – Tai Chi for Better Balance, Downtown Library
Nov. 20 – Straight No Chaser Concert, Civic Center
Nov. 20 – Tiny Tuesdays: Thanksgiving Crowns, OKCMOA
Nov. 21 – OKC Thunder vs L.A. Clippers, 6:30pm
Nov. 23 – OKC Thunder at Boston Celtics, 6:30pm
Nov. 23 – Holiday River Parade, Boathouse District
Nov. 24 – OKC Thunder at Philadelphia Sixers, 6pm
Nov. 25-Jan. 1 - North Pole Winter Wonderland Holiday Exhibit presented by OG&E, Myriad Gardens
Nov. 26 – OKC Thunder vs. Charlotte Bobcats, 7pm
Nov. 28 – OKC Thunder vs. Houston Rockets, 7pm
Nov. 29-Dec. 1 – Real Music Weekend, OKCMOA
Nov. 29-Dec. 1- The Christmas Show, Civic Center
Nov. 30 – OKC Thunder vs. Utah Jazz, 7pm
It’s that time of week again – OKC Central Live Chat starts at 10 a.m. Folks can begin logging in with questions and comments at 9:30 a.m. – the link will be on the NewsOK business page. See you then!
After my story came out today on plans for the renovation of the Osler building in MidTown into a hotel, questions arose about how a courtyard and pool area will be added to the east side of the property.
Here’s a look at plans shown first by www.newsok.com and www.okccentral.com: