More than $1 billion in construction is under way downtown — at this moment. Some of the projects, most notably the 50-story Devon Energy Center, can be spotted miles away. But others are less visible, and yet more work is on the drawing boards and on the cusp of keeping the construction industry gainfully employed for years to come.
I recently visited with key decision makers and assembled a score card of what can be expected over the next year, as well as an update on previously announced downtown projects.
• The Level Urban Apartments, 228 units, at NE 2 and Walnut — Developer Richard McKown confirms construction is on schedule for an opening of the $24 million complex this spring. Build-out of the Native Roots Market grocery is about to begin within the next few weeks, and McKown reports negotiations are under way with “a very exciting operator” for restaurant space next to the grocery on the complex's first floor along NE 2. McKown reports he has a waiting list of 150 people and he expects his development efforts in the area will continue after Level is completed.
• Maywood Apartments, 139 units at NE 4 and Oklahoma Avenue — Developers Ron Bradshaw and Jason Bradshaw are awaiting final approval of plans and financing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They hope to start construction on the $18 million project later this year.
• The Edge, 252 units, at NW 13 and Walker — Developer Gary Brooks is targeting a summer start for construction on the $34 million complex. He reports efforts are ongoing to address concerns voiced by nearby Heritage Hills residents.
• Aloft Hotel, NE 2 and Walnut — Construction is well under way on the $18 million, seven-story Aloft hotel being developed by hotelier Jim Thompson. He reports the hotel should be open by mid-2013 and that ground floor retail will include a restaurant, an XYZ Bar, a coffee shop and a small market.
• House of Bedlam, Reno Avenue and Mickey Mantle Drive — Chris Johnson, owner of USA Screen Printing, is expecting to begin construction this spring on parking and two buildings on two undeveloped plots of land along the Bricktown Canal. The project, which include a “House of Bedlam” gift shop and restaurant, is scheduled to open next winter.
• SandRidge Commons, Robert S. Kerr Avenue and Broadway — Demolition is under way on the old Petroleum Club garage at 120 Robert S. Kerr, and construction is set to begin later this year on a four-story amenities building that will house a fitness center, day care center, restaurant and rooftop basketball court for SandRidge employees.
Renovation of the Braniff Building on the west edge of the campus along Robinson Avenue is also under way, with the ground floor set for opening later this year.
Plaza work and other renovations to the main 29-story SandRidge tower also are ongoing.
• Devon Energy Center, Sheridan Avenue and Hudson Avenue — The largest development in downtown history is set for completion this summer with the first round of employees expected to move in next month. The $750 million development includes a 50-story tower, a “Garden Wing,” public Rotunda and an auditorium.
• Greater Oklahoma City Chamber headquarters, Broadway and NW 4 — This project remains on hold. Spokeswoman Cynthia Reid confirms a new headquarters still is needed, but the original plans, including the site itself, likely will be re-evaluated when the project is relaunched.
• Dowell Center, Robert S. Kerr Avenue and Robinson Avenue — Developer Rick Dowell is adding 52 windows and new brick cladding to the 20-story building's 12 through 18th floors of the east wall as it is exposed by the demolition of the adjoining Petroleum Club garage.
The building has been largely vacant for the past 20 years as Dowell has slowly cleaned up the property's split titles and removed asbestos.
• Hilton Garden Inn/Homeward Suites hotel, Sheridan Avenue in Bricktown — Developers say financing, final designs are wrapping up for the 11-story combined hotel tower and construction is set to begin later this year.
• New restaurants — Cafe 7 is expected to open later this year in the ground floor of First National Tower at Park Avenue and Robinson Avenue. Fuzzy's Tacos will open in the space formerly occupied by Falcone's Pizzeria in Lower Bricktown this spring.
With the ongoing implementation of MAPS for Kids, the upgrade of the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Project 180, and upcoming construction related to MAPS 3 and new police and city court complex, public investment downtown will be ongoing for the next several years.
The following updates were compiled from Mayor Mick Cornett, Public Works Director Eric Wenger and City Hall Special Projects Manager Tom Anderson:
• New police headquarters, Main Street and Shartel Avenue, and Oklahoma City municipal court complex, Couch Drive and Shartel Avenue: Design work is under way on the $50 million project, which will replace the current facilities that date back more than 40 years.
• Downtown elementary school, Sheridan Avenue and Walker Avenue: Conceptual designs for a multistory school expected to be unveiled to the public this spring.
• Emerson High School, NW 6 and Hudson: Design work continues. Construction bids are expected later this year.
• Project 180 conversions of one-way streets to two-way traffic: With the elimination of the areas around Hudson and NW 5 from Project 180, the city also eliminated funding for streetlights at those intersections that would have completed the two-way conversion of Hudson Avenue.
City staff say they have funding for traffic controllers, but will need to evaluate at a later time how to fund and proceed with the two-way conversions. As a result Hudson Avenue is set to become a sequence of two-way, one-way and then two-way traffic patterns between Interstate 40 and NW 6.
• Project 180 streetscape of Main Street between Hudson Avenue and Walker Avenue: Businesses along this street have complained of monthslong delays that were caused by unexpected waterproofing issues involving the basement of 420 W Main, an office building owned by the city. City staff expect work on this street will continue for at least several weeks.
• Status of other current Project 180 streetscapes: Sheridan is expected to reopen no later than March. Robinson between Sheridan and Main will be reopened in next few days. Robinson from Main to Park is set to open in mid- to late-February. Hudson Avenue at Main Street will be open by March.
• Installation of streetlights along Sheridan Avenue in Film Row: Installation of the light installation, delayed for more than a year, began Friday.
• Addition of angle parking spaces along Automobile Alley: City staff received the request for angled parking for Broadway between NW 4 and NW 10 from the Automobile Alley Association and a review is under way.
• New downtown boulevard, Interstate 235 to Agnew Avenue: Demolition of the current alignment of Interstate 40 is expected to begin later this year.
Design work is under way on an $80 million boulevard that will replace the highway. Mayor Mick Cornett reports the city is progressing in its efforts to build a boulevard that is narrower than the originally proposed six-lane thoroughfare.
• Skydance pedestrian bridge over the new Interstate 40: The bridge is set to open in April, with sidewalks or trails leading up to the span from both sides of the highway. The bridge's multicolored LED lighting was on display New Year's Eve, but no plan is in place for future lighting.
• New downtown parking meters: After a decision to switch vendors, a contract is being negotiated by city staff but no schedule is available yet for installation.
• Canal extension from Regatta Park along the Oklahoma River to the Bricktown Canal. Final plans in review: Construction is set to begin this summer on the $2.5 million project. The extension will provide a pedestrian link between Bricktown and the Oklahoma River, and the canal segment flowing from the river will have a turnaround just south of the southernmost tip of the Bricktown Canal.
• Core to Shore park, at Robinson Avenue and south of the current alignment of Interstate 40: Property acquisition is under way. The city is preparing to raze structures on the site, including the Salvation Army headquarters and the former home of the City Rescue Mission.
• Oklahoma Gas & Electric substation at SW 5 and Robinson Avenue: The MAPS 3 Parks Subcommittee is looking at screening the substation at the urging of the city council, a reversal from the early push by Mayor Mick Cornett to send $30 million on relocating the operation. City staff is evaluating options.
• New Convention Center, Reno Avenue and Walker Avenue: Site acquisition negotiations are under way with property owners Bob Howard and Fred Hall for construction of the $250 million convention center approved by voters as part of MAPS 3.
• Streetcar system, downtown wide: Route engineering studies are under way.
• Downtown transit hub, E.K. Gaylord and Sheridan Avenue: The Oklahoma City Council recently authorized city staff to negotiate buying the Santa Fe Depot from Brewer Entertainment.
• Chesapeake Energy Arena, Reno Avenue and Robinson Avenue: The $91 million renovation and expansion largely will be finished with the new Sunset Grill on the club level opening in May. The Grand Entrance facing southwest toward intersection of the future Boulevard and Robinson Avenue also will be opening in May. The only part of the project not yet bid is the build-out of the Thunder space.
Upcoming construction will include a rooftop garden that will face the southwest corner.