I’m taking a couple days off, so let’s do some coffee talk, shall we? My question today is, if you could bring back one favorite restaurant from the past that no longer exists and reopen it downtown, what would it be? And what existing available space or location would you seek for it to get a new start on life?
I’ll start first: I’d seek a Molly Murphy’s (no surprise here) to be opened by the Hal Smith Group, and I would try to either build a new place from scratch in either MidTown or the Arts District, or I would try to find the funkiest building imaginable.
I really like these guys….
But what does that mean?
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought the past few days. The challenges and opportunities ahead will prove to be a historic time for downtown and the city as a whole.
Let’s begin by looking back once more. Can anyone argue that the past decade is a once in a century transformation for downtown? Looking back, you would have to go back to 1910 to find a time when downtown went through such a growth spurt. It was a time that defined OKC as a major player in the west half of the United States. It’s a bit of irony that OKC lost that momentum just as First National and Ramsey (now City Place) towers were rising up into the sky. After all, the great skyscraper race simply couldn’t compete the powerful (and woefully inaccurate) portrayal of Oklahomans in “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Since the 1930s it seems that OKC has been stuck in a position of trying to get people to like it once again. We pitched one incentive after another, one plan after another, trying to lure in industry and the sort of attention city leaders hoped would get OKC noticed again.
In 1993, the gameplan changed – and with the passage of the Metropolitan Area Projects OKC decided to spend some time, money and attention on itself. For once we decided to make ourselves happy – and improve our own city – instead of chasing after the latest economic hot shot halfway across the country.
The self investment worked, and got us to where we are today – a Major League City.
It’s easy to find areas where the city is still lacking – public transit, poverty, crime – but clearly things are moving forward.
We’ve retained our humility and friendliness, and that’s good. But maybe it’s time to do some showing off as well. I’m not suggesting a “fake it ’till you make it” approach as what can be found in cities like Dallas (yes, they really are faking it in so many ways). But let’s get a little cocky. Here are some suggestions made over the years that have yet to really get off the ground:
1. Get a great big flashy sign in front of Ford Center that can let everybody who passes know of the caliber events going on inside – including the upcoming NBA season.
2. The All Sports Association did a great job of transforming the dull blank south walls of the Cox Convention Center into a giant tournament rankings scorecards during the 2007 Big 12 Basketball Tournament. Let’s put those walls to use more often …
3. Trigen Energy has been quietly providing cooling and heating to downtown properties from its plant at Sheridan and E.K. Gaylord for some 30 years. During a master planning study several years ago, a consultant suggested placing a flashy LED sign on windowless plant that would promote various OKC events.
4. Other consultants have suggested using light pole banners to promote downtown all year long. What are we waiting for?
5. Snazz up the Oklahoma Spirit Trolleys. In San Antonio, similar trolleys have signs outside the entry doors promoting attractions on the routes. This has the advantage of not just making the trolleys easier to use for visitors, but also promote what downtown has to offer these visitors (and let’s not forget addressing complaints of unreliable service I detailed in this week’s Main Street column).
6. Visitors often comment how clean and modern downtown is. They like Bricktown, but then they wonder why so many buildings still have boarded up or broken windows and why so much space is still empty. If we’re a major league city, surely these relatively inexpensive flaws can be fixed pronto – as one might expect from a major league city.
7. I’ve often wondered why so many downtowns are free of 19th century technology – yes, overhead electric lines – and yet they muck up much of the streetscape in Bricktown.
8. Let’s brag more about our history. We’re building a great attraction with the Land Run Monument along the Bricktown Canal, yet we have nothing to my knowledge that explains to visitors what they are seeing or the unique founding of the city.
9. We have great historic characters – people like W.B. Skirvin, Charles Colcord, Perle Mesta, Jimmy Rushing, Charlie Christian, Roscoe Dunjee and so on … Yet these figures really aren’t celebrated. Some small town main streets in this state pull off great festivals where performers recreate historic figures and tell stories from the places where these folks’ ghosts are almost certainly still kicking back. The DeadCenter Film Festival proved we have a great creative class in town – let’s give them another shot at showing off by re-introducing us to W.B. Skirvin sitting back in his old chair in the lobby of the Skirvin, or Charles Colcord discussing the finer points of law enforcement at the Colcord Hotel, or Jimmy Rushing showing off his musical shops in Deep Deuce.
10. Yes, the NBA is coming. But I’ll argue being a major league city is a frame of mind, not something simply bestowed by a group of team owners. Think small town, and the major league status will remain elusive. Think like a major league city, and no one can take that away from you.
On vacation this past week (and yet I hope I kept you entertained for most of the week). I took the young one on a river cruise. Will be posting art and observations tomorrow.
In the meantime, coffee talk time:
I’ve noticed on the Tulsa-based sites a lot of animosity, jealousy and put-downs aimed at anything OKC-related (upon the Devon Tower announcement, they criticize downtown OKC, and with announcement of funding for the Indian Cultural Center, they claim it was stolen from Tulsa, and then there are comments that argue OKC doesn’t deserve the Mickey Mantle Museum).
So here’s my question to OKC-area readers – do you have the same ill will toward Tulsa? Do you want to see Tulsa fail in its similar ambitions to become a modern world-class city, or do you think Oklahoma would benefit from having not one, but two successful thriving metro areas?
Discuss amongst yourselves…. I’m going out with my favorite six-year-old to go fly a kite.
An Oklahoma lawmaker, Shane Jet, has a tourism-generating dream of turning the Oklahoma oil boom into an iconic landmark rivaling the Eiffel Tower. Story appeared on Oklahoma Horizon, as noted this morning at www.okctalk.com.
This is the first I’ve heard about it.
I’m not sure how some do it, this day to day blogging. Just four months into this new role and I’m amazed at how some, like Charles Hill at Dustbury and Michael Bates at Batesline have kept their blogs updated day to day, year after year.
Not sure what to share with you today. The new Devon Tower project is progressing rapidly. I’m seeing more and more sales activities in just about every sector of downtown Oklahoma City. Yes, we’re going to see more housing projects announced. Yes, I expect we’ll hear some more hotel projects announced. Yes, more restaurants will open. Yes, more restaurants will close. Yes, I expect we’ll see some sort of limited grocery open downtown. No, it probably won’t meet everyone’s expectations. Yes, the is getting pretty serious about developing Core to Shore.
Yes, I’ll likely remain busy throughout the year and next.
But it really is time for me to hit the road, to reconnect with some Main Street communities across the state (my last trip was in June, 2007 – way too long a gap). It’s also been too long since my trip to Tulsa (September, 2007).
Of course, you’re not checking in to hear all this, right? So I’ll give you some intriguing “cliffhangers” that a lot of people are eagerly awaiting to see resolved:
1. Will SandRidge seek to tear down the Braniff Buildings?
2. Will SandRidge and Devon Energy attempt to buy city-owned garages, and if so, how will that change downtown parking supply?
3. Why is Nicholas Preftakes buying up chunks of properties at Sheridan and Hudson? Will Chip Fudge succeed in his efforts to redevelop Film Row? Will the city get aggressive in prompting Bricktown property owners to take the district to the next level?
4. Will the Urban Renewal Authority allow Randy Hogan to proceed with plans for a one-story building on one of the last undeveloped spots along the Bricktown Canal in Lower Bricktown?
5. Will the city find a consultant with new ideas?
6. Will the Sonics come this year, next year, 2010 or never?
7. What will rand Elliott’s plans be for Kerr Park?
8. Will it rain on Wednesday’s downtown Farmers Market?
9. What will Devon Energy do to improve the Myriad Gardens?
10. Will this blog, now ranked No. 2 among all of the NewsOk blogs, ever top the Nerd blog authored by Matthew Price?
Here’s the latest from Downtown OKC Inc:
Yard Dawgz this Saturday
OKC Yard Dawgz vs Iowa Barnstormers
May 17, 2008
5:30 PM – Fan Fest on Reno
7:05 PM – Kick off
Ladies Night (special giveaways to celebrate Mother’s Day)
Compassionate Care Hospice proud Yard Dawgz sponsor
Tickets starting as low as $10 each! Call 228-3294 to reserve your tickets today!
Camille Harp Today at SoundBites in the Park!
SoundBites concerts happen Fridays in May and June from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in Couch Park, located between Broadway and Robinson at Robert S. Kerr, adjacent to Kerr Park.
SoundBites concerts include:
May 16….Camille Harp
May 23….Horseshoe Road
May 30….Starkweather Boys
June 6…..Shakespearean Afternoon Delight by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park June 13…..Aranda
June 20…..Groove Merchants/SoundBites at Sunset 4:30 – 6:30
Hungry downtowners are encouraged to visit one of the many fine SoundBites restaurant partners to grab a lunch to go and enjoy the tunes. These restaurant partners are offering a special $5 “SoundBites2Go” lunch special! Couch Park features tables with umbrellas and cozy shaded seating areas and is the perfect spot for a midday Downtown retreat from the office.
To take advantage of the SoundBites2Go $5 lunch specials, visit the following:
Quizno’s………………110 N. Robinson….232-7773
Sub Stop……………..120 N Robinson…..232-3332
Interurban……………..204 N. Robinson….235-4448
City Bites……………..211 N. Robinson….232-3322
Ground Floor Café…..211 N. Robinson….232-2233
Crave……………………211 N. Robinson…..606-6691
SoundBites in the Park is presented by the Downtown Oklahoma City Business Improvement District, managed by Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.
For more information regarding SoundBites in the Park or the BID, contact Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. at (405) 235-3500.
Untitled [ArtSpace] Features installation by Narciso Argüelles With works by Luis Jiménez and Joe Ramiro Garcia through June 28
Narciso Argüelles grew up on both sides of the US and Mexican border and developed the issues surrounding that divide installation at Untitled [ArtSpace],
Narciso Argüelles collaborated with the internationally known Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo while an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego. He currently teaches at the University of Central Oklahoma and creates art that deals with Chicano issues.
Luis Jiménez, who died in 2006, was a sculptor who is most locally known for his eight-foot-high sculpture Mesteño (Mustang) whose glowing red eyes stare out from the edge of the University of Oklahoma campus. He was killed while working on a larger version of the Mustang for the Denver International Airport. His large fiberglass sculptures, paintings, and prints were often controversial and centered around Southwestern and Hispanic imagery. His work is included in many museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico, the National Collection of Fine Arts Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Untitled [ArtSpace] is a not-for-profit arts organization in downtown Oklahoma City committed to stimulating new ideas and creative thought through contemporary art. Untitled ArtSpace’s exhibitions are f*r*e*e and open to the public Tues-Thurs 11 am–6 pm, Fri 11 am–8 pm, and Sat 11 am–4 pm.
For more information about Untitled [ArtSpace] visit 1ne3.org or call 405.815.9995.
Tickets are on sale for this weekend’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State baseball games at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. The Oklahoma City games are May 17 at 7:35 p.m. and May 18 at 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at The Brick’s ticket office, by phone or online by clicking here
The ticket office is currently open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are also available by phone at 405-218-1000 during ticket office hours or by calling 1-866-698-4253.
Of course, the question is, how would one go about even finding and buying one of these remnants of Americana?
Well, I’m here to help. Go here.
Downtown Oklahoma City skyline as seen from Interstate 40 - the view for most people traveling through from elsewhere in the country. How does it compare to Des Moines, Omaha and Charlotte? PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER
So this week we took a tour of downtown Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; and Charlotte, North Carolina. What’s that you say? Boring cities. Not sexy like Denver, Austin, Dallas or Seattle?
I’m not sure it’s safe for an Oklahoma City resident to tour Seattle right now. And those other cities, well, just stick with me here. Did you join me on this tour? If not, hit the “You Tube Downtown Tour” category button and get a better idea of the downtowns in question.
And then consider these very basis numbers, all pulled from the 2006 estimates provided at www.census.gov.
Charlotte, North Carolina. Population, 648,387. Per capita income, $29,825.
Oklahoma City. Population, 543,524. Per capita income, $22,665.
Omaha, Nebraska. Population, 382,776. Per capita income, 423,759.
Des Moines, Iowa. Population, 196,857. Per capita income, 423,215.
Where should downtown Oklahoma City fit into this mix, and based on the tour, how do you think it measures up to these cities today? (Yes, by all means, use that comment field below).