Ah, the life of a newspaper guy in the multi-media world. Doing this job is like playing whack-a-mole. Get ahead on feeding the daily beast (the paper and NewsOK), and you get behind on doing the NewsOK videos. Master those two, and you get behind on either blogging or social media. Add in the challenge of meeting book deadlines, raising a family, well, it’s all quite the balancing act for us all, isn’t it?
So I’ve been remiss in posting the past couple of weeks, and I’ve got a terrible backlog. I’m trying to rectify that this morning.
First up: this wonderful video by Will Hider, documenting the progress on Devon Energy Center, the Skydance Bridge and the new I-40, the riverfront, and downtown in general. It’s long, but at least enjoy the first several minutes (including great footage of the new bridge).
I think most of us can agree this NBA stand-off with the players needs to end yesterday or rather, many yesterdays ago. Gotta love Kevin Durant, however, for continuing to show the love to OKC. His latest national Nike commercial is one of the best portrayals I’ve seen yet of the city, especially in such a short clip. I’ve thought, for the longest time, we are a big city with the soul of a small town. We’re not hicks, we’re not backwards or naive “Okies” as portrayed by some, nor are we the traditional definition of a “major league city” as some here aspire to as well. Yes, the commercial is probably all staged. But consider this: in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant really could drive up to a basketball court at NW 23 and Classen or at gathering of seniors and be warmly greeted, treated as a new friend, without a mob scene ensuing. Yeah, that weather-worn wood frame church is in Oklahoma City, as is the Love’s gas station and the lit up skyscraper hovering as Durant continues his travels.
Thanks KD. Hope to see you back on the court real soon.
With today’s story on the potential closing of Johnny’s Lunch Box at Sheridan and Walker, questions are renewed about the intentions of the property’s owner, Nick Preftakes. Last night discussion of this story led to an unfortunate exchange via Twitter about “hearing rumors.” So let’s delve into all this. For the past few years Preftakes has been buying up the block bordered by Main Street, Hudson, Sheridan and Walker Avenues and for the most part letting them stay empty (everything he’s bought on Main Street) or running on auto-pilot (like One North Hudson, historically known as the Black Hotel).
Nick is a businessman. He’s not sentimental. He’s respected for knowing the difference between buying “retail” and “wholesale.” Usually Nick always buys “wholesale” – meaning he’s no fool in the real estate game. But when it came to buying out much of this block, truth be told, he’s definitely paid some retail prices. So when he first began his buying spree, which occurred at a time when Devon Energy’s plans for a headquarters across the street was not a secret, his explanation that he was buying the land as “an investment” was laughable. It was also a curious matter that Preftakes was seemingly quite able to sit on $14 million or more for four years and counting.
But he wasn’t able to buy everything on the block. The city owns, and fully occupies, the largest building on the block, 420 W Main. He also has yet to buy nearby Pizza Town or Coney Island Hot Dogs. And most elusive of all was the Union Bus Station. As I’ve noted previously, it was also odd that when Preftakes bought the Auto Hotel at 17 N Hudson, he ended a contract with Republic Parking and closed it down. He said he wasn’t in the parking business. That response came off as odd to those who know Preftakes as a man who is in the business to make money (he later reopened the garage when Devon shut down the City Center West Garage as part of an expansion, creating a shortage of parking for the area).
It was at an October, 2009 meeting of the Downtown Urban Design meeting where Preftakes sought to demolish a rather unremarkable building at 419 W Sheridan, next to the Lunch Box, that he fessed up – a bit. Preftakes confirmed for the first time he is preparing to redevelop the block and that he wanted to acquire the Union Bus Station before taking that next step. Then, a few months ago, owners of the bus station announced they were shutting down operations and yes, the property might be sold. So far, however, so sale has been recorded at the county.
Preftakes has repeatedly declined to say whether Devon Energy has any involvement in his development plans (note I also made no headway in getting a clear answer on this matter from Devon Energy Executive Chairman Larry Nichols). Also note that during that urban design meeting in 2009 Preftakes was accompanied by a Devon attorney. When asked about why she attended, the attorney responded she was there as an interested neighbor. I’ve reported most of this in the past, but it’s important to put all of this into perspective.
Now let’s consider yet another detail – the new Devon Energy wellness center on the second floor of the company’s new and expanded garage that overlooks Main Street. The wellness center is designed so that dozens of employees exercising on treadmills, stair-stepping machines and stationary bicycles are doing so looking out onto the mostly vacant, haggard-looking buildings along Main Street now owned by Preftakes. So ask yourselves – would Devon really design this sort of view (a wide expanse of windows no less) without having any control over the surrounding area or at least an idea that the view would soon change?
Also consider just how much the Myriad Gardens make-over has improved the immediate area, and how a new downtown elementary will be built across from the Union Bus Station.
Are we getting a picture yet? Nick has done some impressive mixed-use development both locally and elsewhere. He knows how to do adaptive re-use of old buildings. He also knows how to tear down a building and replace it with offices, housing or retail. He knows how to do urban development. So when you hear about “rumors” concerning Nick Preftakes and this block, with everything I’ve shared, at this point a picture must emerge ….
I don’t deal in rumors. I deal with what I know, and I’m only going to share what I know. And now I’ve done just that….
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.
William Hider has a new video of Devon Energy Center and downtown that is even more stunning than the first. I love the activity captured along the Oklahoma River.
I’ve been a fan of William Hider since getting him last month during one of his downtown filming expeditions. I do believe he’s doing more to document this great moment of change in this city’s history than anyone else I know. This film showcasing Devon Energy Center is the finest I’ve seen to date. I fully expect it will get a few viewings Thursday at 20 N Broadway.
I spent more than two hours touring Devon Energy Center with photographer Jim Beckel and sadly there wasn’t enough room in the paper to feature all of his work. Jim is a veteran at The Oklahoman, and without disparaging the other Oklahoman photographers, who are also great, but Jim is my favorite. When it comes to downtown, he gets it. We work very well together. And I was thrilled when he was assigned for this tour.
More of Jim’s photos:
Looking at the NewsOK Skyline cam, it appears as if some folks who were working on the Devon tower may have the day off.
Live video streaming is available throughout the week to Oklahoman/NewsOK subscribers at http://www.newsok.com/okcskyline