Read more in today’s story.
I’m still reeling from the news that Cathy Rigby is STILL performing as Peter Pan …
So despite that and other stories getting your interest this week, let’s recap, shall we?
We’re getting a good glimpse of what’s to come downtown, and if it all comes true, then we’re looking an office market far more vibrant than its been the past 30 years.
When you read my coverage in the Sunday Oklahoman about Devon, you’ll learn more than 2,000 people will be moving into Devon Energy Center when it opens in 2012. We also know from today’s coverage that SandRidge Energy is looking at an expansion of its downtown workforce that will bring the total to 2,000 in five years, and that it will be building a second tower equal in size to its current 29-story tower.
Contemplate that for a moment. Also add into this equation that Continental Resources is looking at employing about 750 people by 2014 as it completes its move to Devon’s current headquarters at Broadway and Sheridan. And have no doubt, Continental is growing. Don’t be surprised if that 750 figure is low – very low.
Also remember that construction will be starting this winter on an 11-story Hilton Garden Inn in Bricktown. And of course the city is very intent on getting a conference hotel built in conjunction with the new convention center. Doing quick math and considering the foot print, this hotel will definitely go vertical Let’s assume it’s the same sort of footprint as the Renaissance Hotel. Add more amenities into the mix, and double the room count, and it’s easy to see it going up 20 stories or higher.
Still with me?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the skyline isn’t finished yet. And I expect even more yet to be announced. In the meantime, enjoy this latest time lapse video of Devon Energy Center by OKC Central contributor Will Hider.
I’m sensing Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid is the kind of guy who won’t be denied an opportunity to speak his mind on an issue. And if the Oklahoma City Council thought that by refusing to defer a discussion and vote on MAPS 3 and the convention center last week (his flight back to OKC got delayed), they were going to shut him up, they’re probably reconsidering that today.
Shadid took out a two-page advertisement in the Oklahoma Gazette today on the convention center. Read it for yourself.
I don’t get to do a column on Tuesday because of the lack of a business section with Monday being a holiday. But if I did have a column that day, I’d say this: Mark this day on your calendar; it’s a historic one for downtown Oklahoma City.
Yep, the city council is set to decide, once and for all, the location of the downtown elementary school. Expect an easy approval of the decision previously made by the Oklahoma City School Board and MAPS for Kids trust to build the school at Sheridan and Walker Avenues, across from Stage Center.
Will a separate decision to approve a recommendation by the MAPS 3 citizens review board to build the new convention center south of the Myriad Gardens be just as easy? Despite the best of efforts by Mayor Mick Cornett the past few years to lock in a different site south of the Oklahoma City Arena, don’t be surprised if the “Core to Shore North” site sticks.
Here’s what consultant Populous has to say about the site:
In our opinion, this site succeeds on several levels. With a prominent civic address on the future Boulevard and an enviable orientation to the newly revitalized Myriad Gardens park and future Central Park, Core to Shore North is ideally positioned to enhance the convention center’s and Oklahoma City’s brand as a great business destination.
This site has excellent linkages to the City’s arena and strong connections to existing hotels, as well as to Bricktown’s dining and entertainment establishments. Hotel development possibilities on-site and on adjacent parcels present many attractive options. Until the current Cox Center site is redeveloped, its current meeting and arena facilities can augment the new convention center’s rentable space.
The Cox site also provides hotel development potential directly adjacent to Core to Shore North. Areas west of this site including the Film Row redevelopment will benefit from the added visitor activity. Another important factor influencing our decision is the on-going implementation of Project 180, a transformative streetscape enhancement project that will significantly improve the pedestrian environment throughout this portion of downtown.
In summary, we believe that the Core to Shore North site provides the best opportunity to create not only a vibrant new convention center but to help strengthen the existing downtown environment.
So will there be any fireworks at all?
Oh yes, my friends, the schedule for all the MAPS 3 projects will be up for a vote as well. And as we all know, this is where the butchering of the steer has gotten a bit messy. Get ready to trash the clothes you’re wearing if you’re too close to this action.
Two options are up for consideration. Let’s get down to the marquee events – the streetcar system, Core to Shore park and the convention center.
Under option one, the first phase of the street car system, which would include a hub and at least a starting route, would be finished by early 2017.
The Core to Shore park heavily promoted by Mayor Mick Cornett would be finished to coincide with his expectation of a new adjoining boulevard opening in 2014. Sort of at least. If I understand everything correctly, this will be bare bones sort of park, nothing much more than green space for the first phase, with later, more elaborate phases to be done a few years later.
The convention center meanwhile, would open by early 2019. Sure, that may seem a long time away for some of you, especially those of you who were in elementary school when the first MAPS started. For me… well, I’ll be shocked if any of these relatively “quick” schedules hold.
Of course all that assumes the council goes for the option one recommended by the MAPS 3 citizens review board. And as indicated last month, they might not.
So what’s up with option two?
Under this option, Mayor Mick gets his full park by 2014, with only a segment for south of the new Interstate 40 delayed a few years later. The convention center opening is delayed to late 2019. And the transit system, from what I can tell, remains on the same track as in option one. At this point Steve Lackmeyer makes no comment about what various political forces might be pitted against each other, and how he’ll be happy to be munching on some popcorn while watching the replay Tuesday night, relieved that the very talented Michael Kimball has taken over as city hall reporter (don’t worry boys and girls, I’m still on the downtown beat).
UPDATE: OPTION ONE PASSED…. JUST AS CRAZY AS I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE…
I’m hearing from a lot of folks concerned about the proceedings of yesterday’s MAPS 3 convention center and the actions taken by consultant Populous. One thing to keep in mind: the consultant started the meeting saying it was their intent to narrow the list to one site yesterday, but then added back the rejected site south of the arena to expand the choice to three in the name of doing “due diligence.”
I’ve heard from more than a dozen people this morning they think the process is rigged. Others say the process is working as it should.
So what’s your thinking on this whole matter? Let’s take a vote, shall we?
I don’t hit “favorite” too often on Twitter, but anyone who checks out my favorites may notice one in particular that at first glance may seem a bit odd:
The Core to Shore Plan exemplifies
the true spirit of Daniel Burnham’s famous
dictum for planning: “Make no little plans. They have
no magic to stir men’s blood.”
A Plan with Solid Fundamentals
The magic of the Core to Shore Plan resides in its big
ideas, whose strength is bolstered because they also
express the plan’s solid fundamentals.
Are those the words of someone opposed to Core to Shore?
As decisions are being made that will shape Core to Shore for years to come, it’s time to revisit the ULI report and ask ourselves – did we learn all we could as we “make no little plans.”
About 11,000 people are expected downtown this week for the annual Pre-Paid Legal convention. Knowing that some of you work at downtown restaurants, I’m curious about how this particular boost in traffic is perceived by hard-working servers, cooks and restaurant managers.
Is this a crowd that is patient as restaurants struggle to keep up with unusually long lines? Do they compliment their servers and give good tips?
Today city staff went out even further insisting that $30 million of the $280 million Core to Shore convention site favored by Mayor Mick Cornett be used to buy out an OG&E substation on the site regardless of whether it’s chosen for the convention center.
As you’ll recall, the mayor tried to tell the MAPS 3 citizens’ advisory board at its very first meeting that this site, and the current location of the Southwest Producers Cooperative are the only two viable sites for a convention center. He also instructed the committee that no matter what, $30 million of the $280 million for the convention center would be used to buy the substation property – essentially telling them if they chose a different site, they would have $30 million less to work with.
Recall also that the resolution the city council passed never mentioned $30 million for the substation – only that $280 million go toward construction of the convention center. The city council never had a public discussion or vote indicating otherwise.
So on July 23 of last year I reported the following:
Councilman Larry McAtee, a member of the oversight committee, said the selection process will be handled fairly, and without bias.
McAtee said the city council never agreed to reserve $30 million for the OG&E property, that no public discussion of such a purchase has occurred, and that $280 million will be budgeted for a convention center regardless of what site is chosen.
“This will get cleared up as we move forward with the process of selecting a site, and selecting the consultants, and looking at the details of the sites,” McAtee said. “There will be an open selection process for the convention center.”
I talked again with Councilman McAtee on Tuesday. He said this whole matter remains to be “debated,” and that he needs to visit with Wenger because he believes the instructions as I’ve reported are incorrect.
“I say give the voters what they voted for,” McAtee said. “And what the voters voted for was a $280 million convention center that was to be located at a later time.”
Conversations with other council members indicate they also had not agreed to dedicate $30 million of MAPS 3 funds for the substation. In fact, on Tuesday Councilman Pete White suggested at the council meeting (Cornett was out of town and not present) that the $30 million be spent on a wellness center for south Oklahoma City if the substation site is not chosen for the convention center.
Now for the good part: Despite all this, despite previous comments by MAPS 3 program manager Eric Wenger in the past that there was no direction on spending $30 million on the substation, that all changed Tuesday at the meeting of the convention center subcommittee. The meeting began with a report by MAPS 3 consultant Mike Mize that the CITY COUNCIL had instructed him to reserve $30 million of the $280 million convention center funding for the substation (when asked about this, he said this instruction came through Wenger).
I asked Wenger, and he confirmed the instruction. I asked him if he could direct me to any moment that the city council had made any such policy decision. He instead told me this instruction was passed on by Mayor Mick Cornett.
I then went to Assistant City Manager Cathy O’Connor. She also could not provide any moment when the city council voted and publicly committed to this expenditure. She insisted, however, that this was always a part of the budgeting for MAPS 3.
Where? When? So far, there is no documentation of any such decision. And clearly there seems to be some dispute by the council on this matter.
So here’s the punchline to all this: the threat of having $30 million less to work with if the mayor’s favored site wasn’t chosen went nowhere with the committee, which includes civic leaders like Russell Perry, Larry Nichols, Roy Williams, and Kirk Humphreys. They threw out both of the Core to Shore sites favored by the mayor and went with four other sites as finalists, three of which were added into consideration after the mayor told the citizens’ advisory board that they really had only his two favored Core to Shore sites to consider.
This committee’s vote was unanimous. Consultants with Populous then provided them with their preliminary scoring, which matched the committee’s choices.
This, my friends, ought to get interesting.
A couple years ago, before voters approved MAPS 3, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber hired consultants to look at potential sites and talk to meeting planners, visitors. Their preference for a new convention center? They liked the Cox Center’s proximity to Bricktown and they wanted to see a new one with similar proximity. They liked having Bricktown as an amenity.
Now locals are chiming in, via a poll conducted in this week’s Gazette. Their preference? You probably guessed it… they want to see a new convention center near Bricktown. they’re also not too keen about the potential of the city paying for a new conference hotel.
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.