I visit www.okctalk.com everyday. If I didn’t, I’d miss out on finding out about things like this:
Breaking story today about study suggesting up to $400 million be spent to build a new convention center. More coverage in tomorrow’s paper. So what do you think? Should this be the centerpiece of a MAPS 3? If so, when should it hit the ballots? Or should we simply stick with what we’ve got?
Where would you like a see a new convention center built? What should be done with the existing building?
I meant to write something earlier this week about Michael Bates’ recent trek through downtown Des Moines. His observations about the lack of development around the city’s arena is a caution to Tulsa as it celebrates the opening of BOK Center, and something that Oklahoma City should also consider as it looks at where a new convention center might be built.
Let’s start with the idea that building an arena downtown will spur development around it. Here’s what I said in a May 2, 2006 column:
“Oklahoma City and MAPS is being mentioned a lot these days in Tulsa. The campaign for Vision 2025 was filled with comparisons to Oklahoma City, including the idea that Ford Center has boosted fortunes in neighboring Bricktown and that a Tulsa arena could spark similar development.
Bricktown merchants will readily admit the arena has been a bonanza to their businesses.
But they were all doing well before the opening of Ford Center, and it’s difficult to identify a single a business, other than the Courtyard by Marriott, that tied its opening to the arena.”
So BOK Center is open. It’s difficult to see how it isn’t a huge asset to downtown Tulsa – the design is stunning, and it’s clearly drawing Tulsans to rediscover their dowtown. But the verdict on surrounding development is still uncertain. A nice restaurant is open across the street, and owners are hoping to open a bar on the next block. And Tulsa has moved its City Hall in hopes of having the old one razed (no big loss for architecture or preservation folks) and replaced with a hotel or other arena-related development.
Michael Bates has his doubts:
“Since Des Moines has been cited as a model of downtown redevelopment — remember Bill LaFortune’s “No more! to Des Moines” at the BOK Center groundbreaking? — I was curious to see what was new.
I found the Iowa Events Center, cited six years ago by Whirled sports columnist Dave Sittler as a compelling reason for Tulsa to build a new downtown arena. The nearby area was as dead as can be — parking ramps, parking lots, office buildings. The arena sits near the river, but turns its back to it.”
Michael Bates should not be confused with a suburban anti-anything-downtown type. I’ve been reading his blog for years, and I’ve found his writing on downtown development and preservation issues to be consistently thought provoking.
In this same post Bates had some interesting comments about the Des Moines farmers market – and it makes me wonder what is ultimately possible for downtown Oklahoma City.
“On my way south to the stadium, I saw a lot of foot traffic and what looked like a street fair. Coming back north, I found the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market, which occupies a four-block stretch of Court Street, plus two blocks each of 2nd and 4th Streets, from the old county courthouse to the river, every Saturday morning from early May to late October.
It was interesting but not surprising that the market was not held near the arena or in the ballpark parking lot or along the river. Instead, it was in perhaps the most interesting part of downtown, an area where old buildings had been converted to lofts with retail and restaurants on the first floor. New infill buildings were built to fit in with the old. Once again, old buildings — not rivers or ballparks or arenas — are the key ingredient to lively streetscapes.”
So, how does all of this play into Oklahoma City’s consideration of a future convention center site? Every site proposed to date has been in Core to Shore – away from existing hotels, restaurants and clubs. And the Core to Shore discussions I’ve listened to have envisioned a convention center as the means toward sparking development of the area. And all along, we’ve been told Core to Shore is the only realistic place left to build a huge new convention center. But what if that’s wrong? What if there were a spot no local had ever considered – what if there were a spot that is located in the heart of all the downtown hotels, restaurants and clubs – and had immediate access to hundreds and hundreds of parking spaces?
And what if choosing this location could literally be the final key to having a strong, vibrant and full Central Business District, Bricktown, Deep Deuce and Automobile Alley? Couldn’t such a feat be the key to sparking development of Core to Shore? Think about it – instead of trying to create a new island of development next the existing incomplete downtown, wouldn’t it make sense for Core to Shore to grow as a result of downtown being finished?
Such an option doesn’t exist you say? You’re wrong.
Tom Corcoran, for anyone who might be interested, happens to be chairman of Irving, Texas-based Felcor Lodging. He is the company’s co-founder and the “Cor” in Felcor.
He’s also one of 150 top hotel executives from around the country meeting this week at the Skirvin as part of the annual summer summit of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
I don’t know how Mr. Corcoran or his peers are spending their free time while in Oklahoma City. But my sources tell me that at least some of these executives are indeed meeting with downtown property owners and real estate brokers and looking at doing deals – especially in Bricktown.
Doing something better than iconic. That’s the vision of architectural students I met with earlier this week at the studio of Hans Butzer along Film Row. The story is here.
The top three sketches are by OU architectural student Brent Gathright, who is also known as BG918 at www.okctalk.com
OU architectural student Kimberly Monroe envisions a convention center that would collect rainwater from the roof and circulate it in an interior courtyard, as shown below.
Kyung Namgoong drew her inspiration from the city’s terrain:
I’m moving this from being a comment to a post because it deserves a good discussion here and elsewhere. Let’s start with what was said by Grant Humphreys (developer of Block 42, the Flatiron and the former Downtown Airpark site):
Been wanting to share an opinion with you regarding a possible (probable?) MAPS III project. I have read several times (including in your articles) the prospect of MAPS III including construction of a new convention center.
My feeling is the City should approach this with great caution. I believe many resident will respond as I do – which is, we spent a bunch of money renovating the Myriad to Cox, it looks great. If more convention space is needed for continued economic growth downtown I think the City will need to make a very quantified, data-driven case for that.
My thought is, why would developing / filling in the “bowl” of Cox not generate sufficient additional convention space for much less than building an entirely new one? Wouldn’t a new convention center in addition to Cox create a glut of convention space at least relative to the downtown hotel space? I think it would be better to designate a piece of real-estate in Core to Shore for a potential new convention center but NOT make it part of MAPS III.
On one other MAPS III note, I think it would be a VERY good idea to include an outdoor amphitheater as part of the Core to Shore space. Look at downtown Chicago and their Millenneum Park. That’s a great venue and OKC could be just as good as that!
Good question. The old Myriad Arena is yet another unresolved issue from the original MAPS projects – one that a lot of people never fully understood. At one time city leaders were hoping to convert part or all of the arena “bowl” into additional convention space, but the project ran into two obstacles. The first, and primary obstacle, was money. MAPS was ballpark guess at funding needs when the items were placed on the ballot. The costs for the convention center were already way over budget and the idea of converting the arena bowl was quickly shelved. All along, the All Sports Association and other sporting groups contended the city could benefit from keeping the old arena open – and operating across the street from the new Ford Center arena.
At first that contention wasn’t given much consideration. But then came along the Big 12 Basketball championships, and the idea of having men at Ford Center and women at the Cox Arena was a huge hit that put OKC into regular contention for future championships.
So now, the question is, if the old arena bowl were to be converted into more convention space, what would happen to the city’s chances of luring back the Big 12? Would they be happy with the women’s teams playing at State Fair Arena? Or would the magic be lost? Mayor Mick Cornett himself commented that really, if one were to build a convention center right now, the current spot would likely still be the very best choice.
Choices, choices, choices…..