The news goes on friends. I’ll be watching every property transaction in Core to Shore, and I’ll still be asking questions. And this goes out to one person in particular… I hope you have a very good day today.
Even if Greg Banta never takes another step into MidTown, his place in the district’s history is already secure. In today’s Oklahoman, I’m reporting Banta’s departure from the MidTown Renaissance development. Partners Bob Howard and Mickey Clagg, whose financial backing was critical to Banta’s success to date, have bought out his interests and they say they are continuing with his vision.
And what a vision it is. MidTown was so bad just a few years ago that St. Anthony Hospital was seriously considering abandoning the neighborhood. Their decision to stay and partner with the city to improve the community was significant. But it was Banta who came in and created a plan to buy up almost all of the area’s flop houses and convert them into offices and housing. Ironically, it’s that initial part of the development has yet to be proven out – much of the property is just about done being renovated. The bigger bounce came with the arrival of Howard and Clagg. They bought the long empty Plaza Court and a string of diliapidated but interesting looking buildings along Walker Avenue and NW 10.
Some properties they bought at slum prices (what they were worth). As word got out, they had to pay more than face value. Either way, this neighborhood is no longer blighted – it’s clearly become an alternative to Bricktown. It’s an entertainment district for locals with no paid parking (though it’s increasingly difficult to find spaces when the district is really rocking).
Of course people will wonder why Banta sold out. Gossip will always follow an event like this. But regardless of how and why, if the folks running the Dean A. McGee Awards are looking for a good candidate for next year’s Neal Horton Award, maybe it’s time to consider a three-way tie.
One must wonder what Banta will do next. There are a lot more properties in the area with different owners that could use his sort of vision. If he can get some of those into play, and Howard and Clagg continue with their development as they say they will, who is to say this won’t end up being a win for everybody?
By the way, having just read www.newsok.com, I can tell you you’ll get more information on this story if you pick up the paper.
For those interested in what’s going on in Dallas’ West End district – an early model for Bricktown – here’s the latest from a poster at Dallas Metropolis Online:
“Despite the WE Marketplace being vacant the West End is actually thriving from a commercial aspect. The Awalt and Moline buildings are 100% occupied, Landmark is at95% and is about to close on the last space, The Oil Well Supply building just renewed the lease and increased the space of Turner Construction, Higghambotham Pearl Stone is at least 75%, and having hired a new leasing agent Market Ross is on it’s way back up having just passed the 55% threshold. If you go down there at lunch the restaurants are pleasantly full and it’s hard to find a parking meter.
I had lunch with an employee of E-Com Realty who owns the Marketplace (and about 40% more of the buildings down there) and he said that they have no intentions to sell the building or to lease the space out as retail. They just completed an interior demolition of all the floors (removing all store front glass, etc.)and are just going to wait the market out and try to land a 100,000 sq.ft. tenant. Last year they did accept bids from 15 companies to see what they would offer to buy it and the WE Parking Garage. Bids came back, they narrowed it down to three offers, borrowed everybody’s renovation estimates and then decided not to sell. I talked to a guy with Colliers International who was on one of the three “finalist” teams and he said they offered $14 mil for the two structures and estimated another $13 mil for renovation. He said it would take a cool million alone just to undo the movie theater! So basically they just gutted the building and are going to let it be until they can land a large tenant then dump the moolah for renovation. Looks like we’ll be looking at a sad dark building for a while.
I think we need to quit thinking of the WE as an entertainment district and think of it as a commercial district with some restaurant/retail. Clearly Victory has done nothing for entertainment.”
The wait in MidTown is over. McNellie’s is open at the Plaza Court – and everybody can decide for themselves whether this much beloved Irish pub in Tulsa is as great as everyone says it is.
(For what it’s worth, I visited prior to the opening and couldn’t help but be impressed by what these folks have done with the one-time home of Veasey Drugs).
Quick comments about catching dinner last night at 1492 New World Cuisine in MidTown:
- The restaurant was doing great business. Bar had patrons, about half to two-thirds of the dining room stayed full from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.
- I observed similar business at nearby Irma’s and Cafe do’ Brasil.
- With all the old trees and shrubs removed around the old Osler Building, it’s even more stunning to look at. I was surprised to see a corner front balcony I had never noticed before, and the architecture, well, it’s stunning. Greg Banta has said he wants to convert the building into housing.
- James E. McNelly’s Irish Pub is getting very close to opening. I’ll visit there today and report back.
- Parking, parking, parking. Nobody is charging $5 or $10 to park as they are in Bricktown. But spaces are getting hard to find. Can MidTown learn from what many say is Bricktown’s greatest weakness?
Things are cooking up in the Plaza District. Here’s the latest from the Plaza District Association:
Second Fridays in the Plaza will never be the same, as Live on the Plaza walks transform the district streets into an open atmosphere of art and entertainment.
The Live on the Plaza walk, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, will feature Plaza District businesses showcasing performing and visual art, including Struble Studios, DNA Galleries, PhotoArt Studios, Plaza Java Cafe and Performance Dancewear, who will host live ballroom dancing by Rose of Sharon Expressions.
Kids can participate in making recycled art creations, or watch as artists paint live. Musical performances can be found at Plaza Java Cafe and the Convergence Collective.
To cap off the evening, deadCENTER Film will screen the shorts from their upcoming Festival in June, a perfect chance to preview all the festival will have to offer. These screenings will be shown in the courtyard of Struble Studios. For more information on Plaza District Happenings, contact Kristen Vails at email@example.com or call 642-0318.
And now, a visit to the Plaza District by Dave and Angi:
Steve Mason and architect Tony Blatt – one year ago – and now certified, battle tested preservationists and urban developers. Mason’s journey actually started even earlier – when he bought up the 1000 block of N Broadway, one of the last unimproved stretches of Automobile Alley.
1015 N Broadway is now fully rebuilt and home to Mason’s Cardinal Engineering, Bicycle Alley and Coffee Slingers. Yet another building on the block has been renovated and leased to Cricket Communications. Mason has accomplished much of what he set out to do – but we won’t be seeing the Iguana Mexican Grill at 1007 N Broadway as originally envisioned.
The question at www.okctalk.com is what happened?
There’s a reason this block took so long to develop. The buildings were in terrible shape. Habitat For Humanity’s Renovation Station occupied the first floor of 1015 N Broadway for a while, but the rest of the building was pretty much inhabitable because of structural problems. Mason’s costs were double the original estimates, and he had to gut the building to save it. But he was able to stay in the black thanks to historic tax credits. The building at 1007 N Broadway ended up being too big for the restaurant, and the structual problems there were even worse than at 1007 N Broadway. So Mason has moved the restaurant just one block east to NW 9 and Broadway (next to the new Oklahoma City Community Foundation headquarters) and as of last month the future remained murky for 1007 N Broadway.
Don’t assume the building will remain dark and empty forever. Mason indicated he’s continuing to look at how to make the project work with more tax credits, etc. It could be Mason is simply hoping to see increased demand for space on the block that might then make a renovation more feasible.
Sidenote: only three significant empty buildings remain on Automobile Alley – the old Marion Hotel, 1100 and 1101 N Broadway. All three are owned by Greg Banta and are part of his MidTown Renassaince development.
Grant Humphreys submitted the winning bid for the Ferris Wheel at the legendary Santa Monica Pier. I’ve got what no other television station or newspaper has – an interview with Grant. Full story in tomorrow’s paper and at www.newsok.com.
If you haven’t cruised along Sheridan Avenue lately, the Hampton Inn is really beginning to take shape. The nine-story, 200-room hotel will be the tallest building in Bricktown when it opens later this year. But that honor may be surpassed by the Cotton Exchange, a 12-story building proposed for the corner of the Bricktown Canal across from the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. I talked with developer Gary Cotton today and he says plans are proceeding, and schematic designs are underway.
Have no doubt, McDonald’s is coming to Bricktown. Site work began this past week. So, with that underway, one has to wonder if the blue metal building next door, last occupied by the now defunct Fox Collision, might soon disappear and be replaced by a more ambitious commercial venture. Imagine … a huge pad, next to McDonalds and across from Bass Pro Shops and within eyeshot of the highway … and big enough to include its own parking.
Ok, first things first…. hopefully this post is not as challenging as my past ones. I’ve tried to follow Mr. Hill’s instructions on making photos easier to download. This is especially important today as I provide some quick blog only updates on downtown projects. The above building is the future Candy Factory, which is being developed by Jeff Moore and Chuck Ainsworth. Observers have been waiting to see if this long dormant building at the main entry to Bricktown might finally be brought back to life.
I talked to Chuck today and he reports interior demolition is underway, and that he hopes the project will be completed by 2009. He’s also eager to see work start on the neighboring American Banjo Museum.
Here’s a drawing of the project published last year:
The project, which was originally planned as a mix of residential, retail and some office, has since been switched to retail, office and “some” residential.