The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer and Cathy O'Connor, president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&As on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Read the complete chat transcript here.
I know there is an ongoing study happening, however, with all the new hotels being announced and built in Bricktown, the 21c Hotel and near downtown, is there any discussion about that impacting the need for a convention center hotel?
CATHY: The addition of new limited service hotels downtown may have an impact on a convention center hotel. I don't think it eliminates the need for a conference hotel, but it does impact the market. Boutique hotels like 21C don't impact the convention hotel in the same way. They appeal to a very different type traveler and don't have an impact on a convention center hotel.
What projects and initiatives can point to that would NOT have happened if the Alliance had not been formed?
CATHY: The most recent example that shows how the alliance brings together all the agencies involved is the GE global energy research center. The project required a very quick response. we had to quickly identify spots the company would be interested in. we worked with the chamber on the early recruitment effort. the site they selected was owned by urban renewal authority, they also were involved in the strategic investment program for job creation and there is tax increment financing and a federal grant we applied for. it's a great example of all the agencies we work with under one management structure coming together to put something together very quickly.
Can you give us an update on Project 180?
CATHY: Package 6A is under construction and it will be wrapping up the next few months. Package B with E.K. Gaylord is still being prepared. There is a seventh package that will be split into two, A & B. 7A will be bid in the next few weeks and will be under construction the next few weeks and will be under construction this fall. 7B will be in 2015. Because we haven't bid the part of 7B, plans are still in the making, we should have time to address changes that might be recommended as part of the retail study for Park Avenue, and we might be able to even make small changes during construction like filling in a tree well to make room for more street dining.
How big of a game changer is your office's efforts to redevelop the NE 23 and Martin Luther King community in beginning that effort to address low and moderate income areas?
CATHY: It's a pretty big game changer. It's giving us a lot of experience in how to collaborate with the community. How to communicate better with the community we're trying to serve. It's teaching us a lot about resources out there that we don't have access to or have limited access to and programs that might be working in other communities we can bring here and implement. That's the kind of project I'd like to see us do elsewhere in OKC. I'm not sure it can take on the same characteristics but it can certainly help us in how we do things. It's an effort I'd like us duplicate elsewhere in the city.
Can we expect any large scale development to be announced in the next six months?
Is there a chance Frontier City moves closer to downtown Oklahoma City?
Now that Costco has announced the fall opening of their Tulsa store is there any news or "rumors" regarding the opening of an Oklahoma city store?
STEVE: The reports I've been hearing is that Costco officials have told folks in Oklahoma City they are going to wait and see how their first store in Tulsa performs before deciding on whether to enter the Oklahoma City market. I think this is stupid and part of the whole weird retail preference for Tulsa over OKC. Why this happens, I do not know.
How many companies a month do you see inquiring about moving to OKC?
CATHY: Sometimes it's as many as 10, other months not so many. The chamber may get more inquiries than I do.
STEVE: It goes like this: the chamber goes out with the fishing rod and tries to catch the fish. The alliance takes the fish and cooks it (this anecdote was given early on by Cathy).