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.
Thank you KD.
When I became re-involved in 2003 in OKC development, I touted TIF (Tax Increment Financing) as the means through which the MAPS sales tax incentive could be “bootstrapped” to help create a dense mixed use environment. The target: a broadly defined “triangle” bordered by I-40 on the south, I-235 on the diagonal and on the west, a north-south boundary splitting what is now known as MidTown.
My first efforts were with ERC on Deep Deuce, then the Arts District, then The Factory, in which I was technically “Oh for three.”
However, we learned a great deal that we have tried to apply since. We conducted a market study of 14 peer cities that had neither sexy mountains nor shorelines and found that each had between 2 percent and 8 percent of their MSAs’ population within the urban core. At the low end for OKC, that math translates to 24,000 people. Even counting the Jail, we are under 2,000 today.
Now that a number of players have emerged downtown, the geographic focus has naturally gotten blurred. The Thunder and Devon Tower have brought into the game two 800-lb gorillas – the NBA owners group and Devon Energy. To a significant but lesser extent, Sandridge, the Humphreys family, Roy Oliver/Mark Beffort and CHK/McClendon have gained strong positions in the core. Greg Banta/Bob Howard/Mickey Clagg and Corsair/Smith Brothers have made a number of speculative buys in MidTown that are starting to see life. Steve Mason, Chris and Meg Salyer, Nick Preftakes, BMI and Earl Neighbors have taken very different but positive approaches as user/owners.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the City Staff are clearly and rightfully feeling their oats, while the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority has been weakened by Larry Nichols’ departure and the controversial pick of The Hill’s developer, which probably has spawned a winding down of some trustees’ long running influence. The approval of a un-Urban design for the Chamber’s building was an unfortunate reminder of the darker days in OKC history before the Bombing made consensus and grass roots projects possible over politics.
A perceived negative out there is that the former Triangle group has splintered, which is true but not necessarily a bad thing, as each of us can now play in their own sandboxes and probably get more done, and I think Maywood Park has been unfairly maligned as a bit of a bust as most of the brownstones sit empty. I say unfairly because I think they will ultimately sell, and because the City got exactly what it asked for from all of the Downtown housing developers – expensive, high-end for sale homes.
Neither the City or Urban Renewal wanted affordable rentals, as they turned down both of my ERC proposals for mixed income apartments in the competition for the Deep Deuce site (2002, with Benham) and the Arts District site (2003, with ADG and Raptor). The only for sale projects that have sold out have been the Centennial (albeit to mostly corporate buyers) and the Harvey Lofts rehab (only 17 units between $100k and $200k).
Dick Tannenbaum has made a very successful entre into housing development (Park Harvey and Lincoln), but not without hiccups (eg the failed attempts to condo both the Montgomery and the Classen). Block 42 has more dark windows at night than not, and The Hill deal is a ticking time bomb; the unpaid contractors will soon grow tired of waiting for their money and will no longer play as nice as they have been.
The national meltdown has been a big factor, but the reality is that OKC has never been a big condo market. Also, no one can blame even the richest buyers for a reluctance to buy if the surroundings of a real dense and active urban village does not materialize as quickly as everyone would like.
The reality that the City is experiencing downtown is that critical mass and density matters most, and is not delivered quick enough through the linear production and absorption of for-sale housing. The decision by Urban Renewal and the City to promote and push for upper end, for-sale housing first was ill-timed to be sure, but generally a violation of real estate development fundamentals.
In my opinion, the critical path to successful infill Downtown development in OKC begins first with creating density of people using the real estate on a 24/7 basis. This happens quickest through 2 uses – Hotels and Rental Apartments, which more quickly put more heads on beds than any other use.
Everyone wants to experience an urban “Magnificent Mile” environment like Michigan Avenue, but Daniel Burnham’s Plan For Chicago took 15 years to draft and adopt and over 90 years to develop, culminating with Millennium Park, absolutely the coolest urban green space in America. That is why I think that the current Core to Shore emphasis puts the cart way before the horse. We need to finish the Core first in a most excellent way.
I believe that the following represents a better chronology for a critical path for OKC’s Downtown Development
1- Plan for Core to Shore through a broader 20 year long process and horizon, led and participated in by more than a couple dozen people, incrementally stopping and adjusting every 3-5 years to review how the market is responding. Mix in Social Initiatives like the Jail (on a more modest, phased basis, not as a response to another unfunded Federal mandate) and Homeless Center with the sexy stuff so that voter fatigue doesn’t kill the Goose that Laid the MAPs Eggs.
2- Avoid the consolidation of power in administering Business Improvement Districts comprising the current and emerging “districts” that make up the Downtown Core. Remember that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
3- Let the Neighborhoods and Districts decide where their boundaries begin and end and manage themselves through Business Improvement Districts and other Owners Associations. The localized characteristics of Auto Alley, Bricktown, Deep Deuce, Maywood Park, Midtown, Film District, Lower Bricktown, Courthouse Block, Devon/Botanical Gardens each have their own forces of will, market attraction and good design attributes that will help compel and sort out the timing and priorities of projects – politics should not.
4 – Use TIF creatively and broadly to include Sale and Room Taxes for discrete user-driven projects, as per the examples of the Skirvin Hotel and Devon Tower.
5- Inventory current infrastructure opportunities and challenges in the Core and create a priority list that gets addressed by TIF. Example on one end of the spectrum – we can cheaply double parking on Broadway through angled striping and narrowed, slower traffic; versus the other end of the spectrum – the costly Boulevard through nothing to nowhere, which only happens five years after the Feds fund I-40.
6 – Agree that density, shared parking, connectivity and walkability are good and should be the paramount ideals for Project design.
7 – Focus on Big Users and what they need to come into the Core.
8 – Rental apartments can be tailored for sites big and small, renters rich and not so rich, and are the most finance-able class of real estate today and for the foreseeable future.
9 – The Quiet Zone (property owners are seeking new gates along the BNSF railroad to quiet train noise as it passes through the Flat Iron district) is a threshold need that must happen first BEFORE any other project Downtown – it is absolutely essential to any private project of scale, and will create incremental value on both sides of the tracks for miles East and West, North and South.
10 – Do not try to Force the Core to Shore – it is my sense that a relatively small group of parties are unduly influencing priorities. I am okay with the MAPs 3 Convention Center Idea just South of the Ford Center, but it is still a long ways to the South shoreline. Our version of Millennium Park will have to be birthed and season for 10 years before development happens naturally further South. The thing that could change this is if a huge User shows up, but none are on the horizon that I can see.
Just watch this report and you be the judge. As Kelly Ogle stated on KWTV’s separate report on this interview, this “OKC and the Thunder are struggling” bit is now pretty much an exclusive theme come out of Seattle….
Now, don’t get me wrong: if you have a death wish, just walk around downtown Seattle with an Oklahoma City Thunder shirt and “I Love Clay” button. But for the past year we’ve seen the bitterness over the Sonics/Thunder situation translate into slanted anti-OKC coverage and ridicule of our town.
Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer recently visited and reported back to his readers that maybe, just maybe, we’re not all that bad:
Easiest assignment ever: Go to the town that abducted the Sonics and write some impressions.
Or, in other words, sip some Hater-ade and let ‘er rip.
But a crazy thing happened on this disdainful mission. I learned to tolerate Oklahoma City. Then I learned to kinda, sorta like the place. And then, shocker of all shockers, I learned to accept it as an NBA city and stop connecting the Thunder with the Sonics.
(Comment: now, if Jerry had met Mayor Mick, I could see Jerry actually being talked into making Oklahoma City his new home).Thanks to Paige Gregory for bringing this column to my attention!
Valet parking in Bricktown has had its share of ups and downs the past several years. For a while, it was the wild west in Bricktown with some questionable operators casting a bad shadow on such services.
Efforts to regulate valet parking improved matters – but it looks like the city has an entirely new set of issues to consider. Before delving into this any further, read the following email I received from a reader:
Some may think its silly but there seems to be a battle every night at Mickey Mantels downtown for parking.
The poor Valets are caught in the middle, the police (usually about 7 of them) sit and wait for some one to park in the wrong
spot and then ticket them, whether they are the Basket Ball players or restaurant patrons, you might say what’s the big deal.
Since Mick Cornett and others worked so hard to bring them here we seem to ” not know how to act” other cities deal with this but in a more mature, professional manner.
The cops harassing the Valets in the reserved Valet parking and then the small stretch of CURB in front of Mickey Mantels.
You can go down any night that they have a Thunder game and watch the antics.
The players/patrons of the restaurant request their car be parked up front, it gets parked (with them being told that it will be
ticketed) then comes the cops to ticket. The restaurant then eats the ticket. You may think its the restaurants business to eat the ticket if they so choose but some of these cops get harsh with the Valets. Lets pettion the mayors office to designate that stupid curb as parking for the valets, what ever it takes.
I made a few calls on this matter. It appears that the city is working with Bricktown on yet more revisions to the valet parking regulations. But there are some other issues involved here that aren’t so simple to address with a vote by the city council. Let’s start by naming names and getting down to the nitty gritty here: the Thunder players and visiting players with other NBA teams love eating at Mickey Mantle Steakhouse. I’m not exaggerating – they are in love with the whole atmosphere, the bar, the ability to have a private dinner late at night after a game, and they really love the steak.
And that’s great. That’s money coming back into the local economy. But Mickey Mantle Steakhouse has no parking. It provides valet parking. And some of the players, I’m told, aren’t very comfortable with giving keys to a $75,000 automobile to a valet. And so some, I’m told, would prefer to simply park along the curbside mentioned by the above reader. And police officers, well, if they’ve got nothing better to do, they write tickets.
Is this what happens in other major league cities? Or are there special accomodations made for major league players? I’m not the expert on this one – so I went to Berry Tramel, our sports columnist, who has spent a lot of time in the major league sports world.
His opinion? The players have “posses” who can handle their parking needs and setting aside special spaces in Bricktown probably isn’t needed.
Now I ask you the readers – how should this situation be handled? Should the meters across the street from the Mickey Mantle Steakhouse be bagged on game nights and reserved for players? Or should we ask the players to park across the street at the Power Alley Parking Garage? Or should we trust this problem to be resolved by the folks at COTPA?
Great write-up today about Oklahoma City’s support for the Thunder in USA Today…
For Oklahoma City faithful, Thunder claps are sweet sound
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By Chris Colston, USA TODAY
OKLAHOMA CITY — To some, this game might be a meaningless blip in the NBA’s 1,230-game regular season. But inside Ford Center on Sunday, it doesn’t feel that way. Overhead speakers rumble with recorded thunder, and nearly all game the pale-blue-clad crowd roars when the home team scores.
It’s Oklahoma City’s ninth sellout in 23 games — and third in its last four. Even with the NFL conference championship games on TV, the upper deck is packed, going we-just-won-the-NBA Finals crazy when team star Kevin Durant hit a three-pointer to cut the Miami Heat’s lead to five with 9:44 left.
Don’t the people know their team has the NBA’s worst record (9-34)?
Read the rest of the story here.
Yeah, it’s getting a lot more enjoyable these days. The team is clicking. But I’ve got to pick on Thunder TV. They are using very old aerial footage of downtown that really isn’t as complimentary as they might think.
First of all, the video shows a dead Skirvin hotel. Lights out. Dormant. No guests. No life. If you don’t believe me, slow it down while watching it on DVR. And while you’re at it, notice that the Sonic neon sign is glowing atop its old headquarters along Robert S. Kerr Ave. That dates the video back to pre-2002.
Come on Thunder, let’s show off downtown as it is today, not from six years ago!
Sure, it might cost your ad firm or whatever some extra money, but here’s a freebie game intermission idea to make up for it: Rickrolling. Sure, it’s a two-year-old gimick, but people still love to sing along with ole Rick… so put a new spin on it. Have a regular segment where the crowd votes for the best rickroller caught by the Thunder Cam. We’re talking about fans who dress like Rick, dance like Rick, lipsynch like Rick… they are the embodiment of Rick!
And if you’re clueless as to the whole idea before rickrolling – well… do some research or just enjoy the above video.
The boys at www.thelostogle.com bring us this latest tidbit – the Wichita, Kansas newspaper has created a Thunder section. Though the enthusiasm for such a beat is bit mixed in the first column, it still goes to show that the impact of the NBA’s arrival goes far beyond city limits.
Does this make Oklahoma City a regional city? Was it a regional city all along and we just never knew? Or am I the only one a bit surprised by all this?
I certainly wasn’t sure what to think when Carl’s Jr. opened for business earlier this year along Main Street. The spot chosen, at first glance, should be a good one. Lots of visibility to Main Street and Broadway and good pedestrian traffic.
And yet the spot has seen plenty of restaurants come and go over the years. Some were good, some not. For whatever reason, one eatery in that spot, The Zoo (I think that was the name) sticks out in my head as one of the better restaurants. But that dates back to when I worked downtown in the early 1980s as an office intern.
Anyway, Carl’s Jr. is now closed. Which is odd, because with the NBA coming to town, it might have become a popular cheap and quick meal on the go before home games. I suspect the space won’t be empty for long. I’m seeing evidence of an onslaught of new restaurants and clubs being planned around the arrival of the Thunder at Ford Center.
Now, will any of them be any good? How many will stay open for more than a year or so?