Old warehouses finally getting developed along Bricktown Canal

An influx of retail is finally filling up old warehouses that have failed to develop along the Bricktown Canal since it opened in 1999.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: October 25, 2011

Visitors are now rocking along the Bricktown Canal — quite literally. The recently opened Captain Norm's Dockside Bar may be unlike any other establishment along the waterway in that it not only embraces being outside, close to the water, but it lives and dies there as well.

Captain Norm's is a dockside bar in the sense that it is built along one of the most elaborate canal patios — and the space inside the adjoining Hunzicker Bros. building is secondary.

When the canal opened in July, 1999, hopes ran high that the old warehouses that lined the waterway would quickly fill up with restaurants and shops. Early-day developers like Jim Brewer successfully argued to have the canal designed with two walkways, one at waterside, one at street level, to double up the opportunity for prime retail space. Brewer built out one of the most elaborate canal side patios in front of his Hunzicker Bros. building where he hosted an annual haunted warehouse.

An initial first burst of development followed with the openings of Bourbon Street Café, Mickey Mantle Steakhouse, Chelino's and Zio's, but except for a few other retailers that quickly came and went, development along the waterway stalled out over the next decade.

A mix of risk-takers and changing ownership are combining to give the canal a new burst of momentum. The sale of the Oklahoma Hardware Building over the summer is already paying off with the announced opening of Guestroom Records. And when Brent and Brett Brewer took over their family's holdings in Bricktown upon the death of their father Jim, they pushed development in a way he either couldn't or wouldn't.

They moved the haunted warehouse to the Coca-Cola Bricktown Event Center east of the ballpark, and finally created a true opening for development of the Hunzicker Building, one of the largest old warehouses along the canal.

That move, in turn, attracted the attention of Bob Bekoff, who as owner of the water taxis may be best tuned in to what visitors want and expect. It was Bekoff, along with the manager of the water taxis, Chad Huntington, who opened the Emporium, which specializes in locally themed gifts and goods. The pair also opened the marketplace, which features dozens of local retailers selling a variety of toys, jewelry, clothing, books, gifts, art, kitchen ware and other goods.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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