Downtown is about to undergo changes that could arguably rival the original MAPS program. Developing ….
NewsOk video on Sara Sara Cupcakes, which will open at 7 NW 9 this fall. The old house was quite dillapidated, but is currently being renovated by shop owner Toni Hoffman and block developer Steve Mason.
A very, very cool vibe is emerging along NW 9, where the Iguana Mexican Grill is already proving to be one of the hottest new restaurants to open downtown in quite some time.
In case you missed it, I got to visit a pretty hip new downtown cafe last week (and by hip, I mean, can you dig it?). Read the story here.
“Nothing has changed. Talk has changed but regulations haven’t changed, lending systems for these things haven’t changed. The notion — and I tell you this one even worries me that it extends into New Urbanism—the notion of the shopping center a valid kind of downtown. That’s taken over. Its very hard for architects of this generation even to think in terms of a downtown or a center that is owned by all different people, with different ideas.”
- Jane Jacobs interview with James Howard Kunstler, Metropolis Magazine, 2001
Sorry about the scarcity of postings of late, but sickness befell the Lackmeyer household this past few days thanks to “Typhoid Toddler.” Ah kids… so much fun.
So what was my point last week on retail? Simple – a lot of energy is starting to go into drawing the sort of retail presence that has eluded downtown for 40 years. And downtown is at a point where some of this might just be possible. But the wrong concept, the wrong approach – and bye, bye, an opportunity is lost.
America is littered with examples of failed downtown malls. If you don’t believe me, visit www.deadmalls.com and find out for yourself. Sure, a few success stories are out there. But consider where they are located – places like Boston’s Faneuil Hall have a history and sense of place that really are unique and not really feasible elsewhere.
Could you build a carbon copy of Faneuil Hall in another city? Sure. But don’t be surprised if it’s empty a few years later.
A successful strategy for downtown retail for Oklahoma City may very well end up being unique to – guess what – Oklahoma City. Maybe it will result from some grand plan. But don’t be surprised if the wisdom of the late Jane Jacobs applies here – a random mish-mash may ultimately be the retail we’ve long sought out. Planners might not like it. Developers certainly won’t be comfortable with it. It might not be neat, streamlined or orderly. But it will be the sort of vintage, rich urban stew Jane Jacobs fought so hard to preserve back when she was battling Robert Moses for the soul of New York City.
Think Austin. Rowdy? Yeah. Weird – proudly so. But definitely not boring, and decidedly not suburban. Probably a place that would have entertained Jane Jacobs and horrified Robert Moses.
(Now, for all of you who don’t know who Robert Moses or Jane Jacobs are, go to the bookstore. Don’t delay – I’m told that the written word is about to disappear forever. Find and buy copies of The Power Broker, a biography of Moses, and Jacobs’ 1963 revolutionary urban rallying cry, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Make liberal use of a highlighter pen – nothing makes a better tribute to Jacobs’ memory than a dog-eared, marked-up copy of her life’s work.)
Owner hopes to revitalize landmark
By Steve Lackmeyer
|Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Edition: CITY, Section: BUSINESS, Page 4B
The Criterion Theater and Baum Building were architectural jewels in Oklahoma City by anyone’s standards — landmarks that were razed in the heyday of Urban Renewal. In their place stands Century Center Plaza, a mostly empty one-time attempt at a downtown shopping center that isn’t highly rated by any local architect.
Thirty years ago, a shopping mall was considered the Holy Grail for downtown development. The 89,000-square-foot Century Center Plaza, built along with the Sheraton Hotel in 1977 at Broadway and Sheridan, was the only one to be built.
A much bigger mall, an envisioned 600,000-square-foot Galleria, was talked about for years and was to be built a block west of the Century Center. Four square blocks of old retail properties — including the John A. Brown’s flagship department store — were bulldozed to make way for what civic leaders pledged would be a shinning new monument to downtown shopping of the future.
That vision never came true, though the Galleria name remains attached to the massive parking lot built in its place. Is the Century Center Plaza a hint at what might have happened if the Galleria had become a reality?
Walk into the plaza today, and you will likely be alone. Even during its oil boom heyday, the place never quite had an identity. At one time, it was home to a fitness center, several restaurants, florist, eyeglass store and even an FAO Schwarz toy store.
“It was originally designed as a retail mall area that would serve downtown office tenants and also convention visitors,” broker David Huffman said. “It never had an anchor tenant. Its definition was unclear from the very beginning.”
Meristar, which owns the plaza and attached Sheraton Hotel, recently renovated the property and hired Huffman’s firm, Wiggin Properties, to bring it back to life.
Out are the old awnings left behind by Schlotsky’s when it closed 20 years ago. The interior of a Mexican restaurant that closed several years ago also has been gutted. One of two escalators was removed, creating one continuous open space that spans the length of the plaza.
New paint and carpeting have brought the building into the new century. But it’s still quiet — with the only visible tenants being an office for the Yard Dawgs arena football team and a salon where the plaza is adjoined to the hotel.
But the location along Sheridan Avenue is enviable. To the west are the Myriad Gardens and the historic Colcord building, which is being renovated into a boutique hotel. To the south is the Cox Convention Center. And to the east are the Renaissance Hotel and Bricktown.
Huffman isn’t sure it can ever come back as retail. Maybe, he says, the plaza could come back as a “quasi-retail” center with a tenant mix of a copy shop, fitness center, brokerage firm, video arcade and restaurants. He’s also open to less commercial uses — maybe a school, organization, printing company or even simply for storage. He said the 90,000-square-foot center also could be home to an entertainment complex. Discussions, he adds, are under way with a “strong prospect.”
The Century Center, Huffman concludes, is a “unique space.” What’s needed is a “unique tenant” — and a chance for the property to finally stand out on a street that is rapidly becoming the most important corridor in a revived downtown Oklahoma City.
So here’s a quick question – how do I know so much about this place?
Once again, it’s the elusive dream for downtown developers, residents and civic leaders. Some say downtown retail will anchor the area known as Core to Shore. Others say the east end of Bricktown will inevitably end up with more retail. Or maybe it will be in the Flat Iron.
But to quote Harry Truman, the only thing new is the history you’ve not heard…
So let’s begin with “Fight to the Suburbs” from the March 22, 1954 issue of Time:
Business Must Follow The Dollar
THE enormous growth of the U.S. population has meant vast new markets in everything from baby carriages to washing machines and wrist watches. Will every retailer cash in on the bonanza? Not at all. The reason is that since 1940, almost half of the 28 million national population increase has taken place in residential suburban areas, anywhere from ten to 40 miles away from traditional big-city shopping centers. Thus, to win the new customers’ dollars, merchants will have to follow the flight to the suburbs.
In the ten years from 1940 to 1950, St. Louis’ suburbs grew 48% while the city itself added only 6% to its population. In the same period, Philadelphia’s suburbs expanded twice as fast, Boston’s eight times as fast, as their already-crowded metropolitan districts. The numbers tell only part of the story. Suburbia offers not only more new customers but better customers. Suburban families are younger and have more children, thus are potentially bigger spenders than city families. Average income in the suburbs is estimated at $6,500 a year, fully 70% higher than that of the average U.S. family.
The do-it-yourself life in suburbia has also opened up a vast new market. Power-lawnmower sales, for example, shot from 42,000 (worth $5,000,000) in 1940 to 1,275,000 (worth $144.5 million) last year. Home-freezer sales zoomed from 210,000 (worth $80 million) to 1,200,000 (worth $480 million) in just seven years. Papa, puttering around in the basement, spent $150 million on power tools in 1953, and a grand total of nearly $3 billion for all his home carpentry work. Many big department stores are already taking advantage of suburbia’s cash and energy, stock hundreds of items in suburban branches that would look out of place in their city stores.
The huge shopping center, surrounded by wide parking lots, has done much to build the new markets. There are already 93 such centers around the 20 largest U.S. cities, and at least 25 more on the drawing boards. The investments run high—$20 million at Chicago’s Park Forest suburban development, $30 million at San Francisco’s Stonestown, $100 million at Los Angeles’ Lakewood. And an increasing number of big city department and specialty stores, sensing the trend, are building their own suburban branches.
The growth of suburbia has changed the pattern of U.S. retail trade so much that only a relatively few new stores have gone up in the center of big cities in recent years. Even the old, established stores are feeling the competition from the suburbs. In Boston, retail trade increased 275% faster in the suburbs than in the city in the last two decades, while in Detroit, the J. L. Hudson Co. expects to lose fully 15% of its business to its new store in its suburban shopping center. To combat such losses, downtown businessmen are offering special lures to shoppers. They hand out cut-rate bus and streetcar tokens, even carry suburbanites to & fro in special buses.
To read the rest of this story, go here.