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Transcript of OKC Central chat with Steve Lackmeyer

Reporter Steve Lackmeyer chatted with readers Friday about downtown development and Oklahoma City businesses.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: July 27, 2012 at 11:06 am •  Published: July 27, 2012

Below is a transcript of a chat with reporter Steve Lackmeyer about downtown development and businesses.

Hey everyone. Steve will be signing in at 10 a.m. to chat. You can start submitting your questions now.
- NewsOK at 09:38

Good morning!
- Steve Lackmeyer at 09:59

- at 09:59

Thanks for doing this, Steve!
- Mallen at 09:59

You're welcome!
- Steve Lackmeyer at 09:59

What impact can a large turn-out at the August 21 public hearing have on the boulevard design?
- Brad at 10:00

I'd say there are actually two moments where a large turn-out can make a difference. The first one will be at the city council on Tuesday, in which the council will be given a presentation on the boulevard by City Manager Jim Couch and Public Works Director Eric Wenger.

- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:01

Have no doubt - while the entire city council has indicated they do not like the idea of rebuilding five blocks of the boulevard as an elevated road, they've been lobbied heavily behind the scenes by the engineers to go with this design in the name of avoiding what they fear will be a traffic nightmare if it's built at grade.

- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:02

This is where the more recent tug of war between vehicular and pedestrian traffic gets real. The only way ODOT is pressured to change its course is if the city council INSTRUCTS City Manager Jim Couch to ask for a halt in design work and a start on serious redesigns involving roundabouts and other alternatives. A large showing by residents July 31 may actually be more significant than what may happen Aug. 21.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:03

What development are you most excited about?
- Dan at 10:04

Oooo.... that's a good one Dan. I'm going to give you a couple of developments that have yet to occur that have me excited.
- The Gary Brooks/Andy Burnett hotel and housing project in east Bricktown could be game changer for Bricktown. The Stewart Metal yard has long been a rather ugly bookend to the district. This development has incredible odds to overcome, but I believe they will make it happen. Second - the Oklahoma River. It's potential is huge, and we've barely seen the total picture of what's to come. Finally, IF the Core to Shore park is designed right, IF the transit system is implemented right, IF the boulevard is designed right, and IF the convention center is designed right, and IF civic leaders realize that by allowing some older buildings in Core to Shore to stand and be redeveloped - Core to Shore in 20 years will be an incredible area.

- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:07

Do you have any outside business interests or investments besides the newspaper?
- Mason at 10:07

Mason, the answer is a big NO. I'm a working guy with no advantages other than my keyboard...
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:08

Do you feel like anything can ever be done to the Uhaul storage building in Bricktown? Seems so out of place.
- Todd at 10:08

Todd, I agree. And there is a wonderful building under that U-Haul building..... for those who are unfamiliar with what is under that aluminum siding... moderator, I just tried uploading image. I'm going to email it to you to upload, ok?
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:11

The U-haul folks have been approached by numerous parties wanting to buy the building and restore it. This plan dates back to the founders of Bricktown... the U-haul folks so far haven't been willing to do a deal.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:13

- at 10:13

and that folks is what is under the U-haul metal siding. The windows are still there. Everything inside is incredibly intact.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:14

The city may force the issue as it attempts to aquire right of way to the east of the building to extend Oklahoma Avenue to the future boulevard... this story isn't done.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:14

Your thoughts on what will replace teh Stage Center
- Jimbo at 10:14

Let me first say on Stage Center that I recognize it's place in architectural history and I am not advocating for it to be torn down or preserved. I am sympathetic to all sides of this issue and I understand there are no easy options....
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:15

But JImbo, if I'm put in a position of simply calling how this game ends... it's coming down. I see no saviors on the horizon... and yes, this is now the most prime piece of land anywhere downtown. I'm tracking several MAJOR proposals for the site. It will like be an ambitious mix of retail or housing, or a substantial office development.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:17

I don't think I've ever heard your opinion on the location of the new convention center. Care to share it?
- Brad at 10:17

If I say "no" will it upset you?
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:17

Joking aside....
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:17

It's interesting how that whole process proceeded. The mayor presented the choice as being two spots - either east of the future Core to Shore park or on the current site of the Southwest Producers Coop. If that choice had been followed, in some minds it limited the choice to just the site east of the park because the owners of the cotton coop at the time were asking for $121 million for their site (they have since terminated the contract with the broker who convinced them they could get that sales price)
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:20

Turned out, once the committee process promised during the MAPS 3 campaign got started, they didn't see eye to eye with the mayor and they struck both sites out early on despite being told those were the only two real options.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:21

So the finalists were two sites not pitched at all by the major or during the campaign - the one chosen, on the site of the former Fred Jones Ford dealership south of the Myriad Gardens - and one in southeast Bricktown across from Bass Pro Shops.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:22

The problem the committee saw with the southeast Bricktown site was that it was too far a walk from most of downtown's large hotels.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:22

The site they chose has good and bad aspects...
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:22

It's good because it's within view of Bricktown (you can see the entrance to Bricktown down the street, where as you couldn't have that connection with the one favored by the mayor) and it's still within eyeshot and walking distance of the hotels.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:23

The big knock is that it separates the Myriad Gardens and the future Core to Shore park. There are ideas out there on how to make this a good connector between the two, and remember the city is likely to have a LARGE conference hotel built in connection with the convention center. All in all, I'm not sure there was any ideal spot other the current Cox Convention site, but this one appears to be the one moving forward....
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:25

Now, final answer: if I were king of the world, I would have looked at the Stage Center site and adjoining properties to the west of the gardens and future park.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:25

Ive been to a lot of downtowns that have pretty thriving retail - nordstroms, apple stores, etc. - why do you think that's still such a missing piece of the puzzle?
- John at 10:25

Continue reading this story on the...

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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