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Unedited transcript of OKC Central chat with Steve Lackmeyer, August 24, 2012

Reporter Steve Lackmeyer answered questions from readers Friday during his weekly chat about downtown Oklahoma City developments and businesses.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: August 24, 2012 at 11:52 am •  Published: August 24, 2012

Below is an unedited transcript of a chat with reporter Steve Lackmeyer about downtown Oklahoma City businesses and developments.

NewsOK 9:30 a.m. Good morning. Steve will be signing in at 10 a.m. to chat. You can start submitting your questions now.
Steve Lackmeyer 9:58 a.m. Hmmmm.... it's quiet this morning....
Steve Lackmeyer 10:00 a.m. As questions get loaded up (last week's chat went over by 20 minutes!), a couple of updates for all of you logging in....
Steve Lackmeyer 10:02 a.m. I went by the future home of Native Roots Market at Level in Deep Deuce. The space is far bigger than I imagined. This is going to be a REAL urban grocery like what one would find in other cities. It's not a supermarket. But I suspect downtown folks might discover this is a good first step toward what they've been demanding for several years.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:04 a.m. Also, check out my story from Thursday's paper on The Paramount OKC on Film Row. This is really a great addition to downtown - an independent screening room (complimentary to the always wonderful Oklahoma City Museum of Art theater), wine bar and coffee shop.
Joel 10:04 a.m. Why is it so hard for the City Council to implement a Quiet Zone for downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. The city staff is always balancing projects, and this is one that has, in the opinion of some, too often ended up on the losing side of that effort. Talks have continued for the past several months about how to move this project forward, and I'm told we may hear promising news about how a quiet zone can become a reality in the not too distant future. One thing is clear; downtown residents and businesses are very tired of hearing those train horns and development has progressed too rapidly in the immediate area of the tracks to just ignore this issue.
Joel 10:07 a.m. There have been serious talks between the Texas Department of Transportation and ODOT, about implementing HSR (High Speed Rail) from OKC to DFW by 2020, is this a good or bad thing for downtown Oklahoma City? Some people think it could have a negative effect, and OKC will be a suburb to Dallas.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. lI know there have been talks on this subject. But are they serious? I'm not so sure. Such a project would require the expenditure of many millions of public dollars at a time when the legislature is grappling with a segment of lawmakers who are intent on cutting spending down to just core needs (roads, education and public safety). So it's difficult for me to imagine how this project will proceed in the foreseeable future. If the state can't find $40 million in funding to complete an American Indian Cultural Center where they've already spent tens of millions of dollars, how will they agree to spend far more money on high-speed rail? I'm not convinced Congress is going to see it any differently. I'm not saying I'm for or against high speed rail here - I'm just noting the political realities.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. As for becoming a suburb to Dallas ... there's a pretty strong Okie hatred of Texas here that would prevent that from really happening, don't you think?
Carol 10:12 a.m. We all know now the Lunch Box is closed for good, so is Nick Preftakes going to let the public know what he has planned for that block? It's hard to see historic business close down, with no explanation.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. Well, we can assume the Lunch Box is closed for good, but we don't know for sure. Another newspaper reported this, but the story is based on assumptions since neither Nick Preftakes or the operators are answering reporters' calls on this subject. What we do know is there is a sign in the door saying the restaurant is closed for remodeling (a message that does often indicate, but not always, that a restaurant is actually closing for good). The windows are papered up, so we can't see what's going on inside the restaurant. Preftakes has listed the property for lease. But we DON'T know from all this that the restaurant is permanently closed. Preftakes previously indicated to me he was weighing the possibility of relocating the eatery. What if his plan is to have The Lunch Box reopen in the old Olive Branch spot in One NorthHudson? I am an old school journalist cross-bred with new media tools and sensibilities. The old school journalist in me says that the other newspaper jumped the gun on this story. They might have it right, they might have it wrong. I'd rather know for sure it's right before reporting it.
OKCTALK Member 10:17 a.m. Any news how how many residential floors will be added to the new parking garage on Main St.?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. The last count I heard on the parking garage is it will hit nine floors, if three floors of apartments are added up top. I suspect the size of this garage will vary based on what proposals the Urban Renewal Authority receives on the residential component. Either way, the garage will be a substantial structure and will close one of the last large scars that separated west downtown from the Central Business District in the aftermath of the 1970s-era implementation of the I.M. Pei Plan.
Nick 10:20 a.m. Heard any rumors about Midland moving to downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. Yes, and I've heard rumors of several other companies moving downtown as well. For now, we're in a wait-and-see mode.
OKCTALK Member 10:20 a.m. I drove to Deep Deuce on my lunch break the other day, trying to find a nice little bakery or coffee shop with WiFi for a quick snack, and had no luck, whats wrong with this picture?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:24 a.m. Answer: the picture is still being painted? In one year you will likely have that coffee shop at the new Aloft Hotel at NE 2 and Walnut Avenue. You also will have a grocery and deli, with sidewalk seating and tables, at the Level Apartments when Native Roots Market opens this fall. You also could have visited the Deep Deuce Grill, a great neighborhood restaurant and bar that has WiFi, or the Wedge Pizzeria, also nestled in among the apartments. Or if you really wanted to visit a bakery, two great ones, Brown's Bakery and Prairie Thunder, await you in MidTown!
Guest 10:24 a.m. What is the status of the bus station? It was my understanding that the bus service was moving East to I-40 and MLK but there doesn't seem to be anything happening.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m. The project is proceeding. The new station needed to go through Planning Commission for zoning changes, which I believe was finished up last month or so. Don't be surprised if this continues to go a bit slowly, with a move not done until early next year.
Greg 10:25 a.m. The Cage is a great idea, do you see this growing, and maybe Thunder players hosting it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. Yes, I do see the Cage taking off. Downtown used to have annual street hoops contests 20 years ago and they were always very popular. I have no idea why they ever ended. As for the Thunder.... I hear Kevin Durant tends to prefer a random game of flag football, but you never know...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. For those unfamilar with the Cage, it's a series of tournament games being held in the new outdoor basketball court set up by Downtown OKC Inc. at the corner of Hudson and Reno Avenues. Visit my blog at www.okccentral.com to learn more ...
Guest 10:28 a.m. The parking garage will ruin our view from Main Place and 100 Walker. The price of progress I guess...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. Guest, if I'm nailing down your work address correctly, it seems to me it is "your company" (The City of Oklahoma City) that is to be blamed or credited for this progress!
Robert 10:29 a.m. House of Bedlam in Bricktown, what happened?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:31 a.m. I'm digging into this question today. But it is not moving forward. For now, read this blog post from last year: http://blog.newsok.com/okccentral/2011/11/09/unfulfilled-dreams-and-questioned-motives/
Dan 10:32 a.m. Has there been any new news on the redevelopment of the downtown bus station?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. The bus station must move first, which I expect to take place by early next year (but I could be wrong). Those calling the shots on this property have indicated they have no desire to raze Union Bus Station. So dream up an idea ... it may be that the future has yet to be determined.
Nick 10:33 a.m. I understand that she spent the money to prevent the building's imminent collapse, but why does Avis continue to let the Rock Island Plow Building continue to deteriorate, especially on such a prominent corner in a district she has a strong interest in?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. Nick, I've been notified that the Scaramucci's are aware of the growing public criticism over the Rock Island Plow Building at Oklahoma and Reno Avenues in Bricktown. I suspect we'll see some development on this property in the next couple of years barring a change in the local economy.
Another newspaper 10:37 a.m. I think you need to read the story from that other newspaper about the Lunch Box again. I never said I knew the Lunch Box was closed for good, just that the place has been locked up for the past month and a half and nobody is talking.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. Just did. Yep. There are some caveats in that story. My apologies. There's really nothing to report on The Lunch Box at this point other than it's not open at this time ....
Juel 10:38 a.m. I am hearing the asking price of the proposed convention center site is cost prohibitive and alternatives are beginning to be considered. Any validity to that.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. I've asked City Manager Jim Couch last week about whether other sites are getting second look. He denied that the city is doing anything other than proceeding with ttrying to buy he site chosen south of the Myriad Gardens and move forward with designs. But those rumors are out there.
John 10:39 a.m. You recently floated the idea of Farmer's Market filling the void for a midsize urban music venue. Obviously, a renovated Tower Theater could also fill this void. Any update on the Tower Theater project? There appear to be no signs of work and the neighboring spaces in the building are still for lease.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. The Tower Theater project seems to be one of those perpetual "work should begin soon" stories.... I am seeing no indications that this status has yet to change.
Nick 10:40 a.m. Were you able to draw something up to show what the new 10th st exit off 235 is going to look like?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. No, not yet. I asked God to add another 10 hours to every day and He has yet to oblige. It's on my list...
Nick 10:41 a.m. Are you at all worried that Preftakes is going to demolish the block he's acquired?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Based on Preftakes' history, I suspect some buildings will come down while others will be preserved. I take Preftakes at his word when he says he is not interested in razing One North Hudson (the old Hotel Black) or the Union Bus Station.
Nick 10:42 a.m. Is work going to start on the Hilton Garden Inn in Bricktown anytime soon?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Yes. Tell me if it is going to rain next week. It's literally that close to starting.
Maggie 10:43 a.m. MAPS 3 promised taxpayers 70 miles of new sidewalks, but we were recently told only 26 miles will be built. MAPS Program Manager David Todd blames ADA rules, stating that the 5-foot sidewalk requirement has inflated the cost. My question is: were cost estimates made for 5-foot sidewalks when this project began? I can't help but suspect the City is blaming ADA for their own miscalculations.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Michael Kimball has done some great reporting on this topic. Iif you as a taxpayer believe that you're not being given a straight story on this matter, I would advise you to contact your council member. I too am confused at how the city could make such a significant miscalculation on what is a very basic function of public works. Questions: could the city get more sidewalks for its money if they chose to use a design-build contractor instead of their usual practice of splitting up the work among several different contractors? And would Project 180 have gone more smoothly if Public Works had considered changing its decades-old approach to street and sidewalk construction?
Guest 10:47 a.m. Steve,
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. Guest, ??
Robert 10:47 a.m. How tall will the next hotel in downtown be, not counting Pitman's 11 story, nor the Brook's 8 story?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. Six stories?
Guest 10:48 a.m. The park in front of the Civic Center is supposed to be finished for the celebration at the end of September. Doesn't look promising. Are you hearing any news on that?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Guest, the Civici Center park is the on Project 180 contract in which crews are not just working on it every day, but also at night. Interesting how that is taking place, isn't it? I've seen the stretch of roadway in front of the Oklahoma City Art Museum go untouched virtually the entire summer.
Sheila 10:49 a.m. Will the new downtown elementary school have an effect on how the Stage Center site is redeveloped?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. From what I'm seeing and hearing, I suspect the elementary adds to the certainty that Stage Center will go away and the site will be redeveloped.
Guest 10:51 a.m. After reading the article about the sidewalks I was wondering if they are sidewalks or bike paths?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. Guest, the sidewalks are, from what I understand, intended to be sidewalks. There is a separate trails part of MAPS 3 being planned as well.
Jet 10:52 a.m. Do you know if the MAP3 sidewaIks are supposed to be bike trails? I guess I assumed they would be part of a trail system? Please educate me. Thanks.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. Jet, see my last answer.
Roc 10:52 a.m. Like the idea of having a Cains Ballroom in OKC, however until the Farmers market gets a good booking agent OKC music scene will no improve. Any word on that while researching your article?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Let's see what happens. One must wonder if the bitter contract rejection of Howard Pollack and FMG at the zoo amphitheater might create new opportunities for the guy at Farmers Market and elsewhere. Regardless of what one might think of Pollack, he has brought good musical names to the city.
Nick 10:54 a.m. Surely there's a better place to put the convention center anyway...?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Nick, the consultants and selection committee came up with a site just north of Bass Pro Shops as a close second choice. There was a controversial last minute restoration by consultants of the site immediately east of the future Core to Shore to the list as a third choice. It was one of just two sites that Mayor Mick Cornett initially insisted to MAPS Oversight Board members was their only real picks (the committees disregarded these instructions and came up with choices not mentioned by the mayor or city staff)
Matt 10:57 a.m. Any updates on a rumored project by Richard McKnown in Deep Deuce on the east side of Oklahoma Ave. between 2nd street and 3rd street?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Yes. Richard McKown is weighing different designs and options.
Gary T 10:57 a.m. How long until the greyhound buses relocate to that truck stop on Reno and Eastern?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. See my earlier answers - in short, we're likely looking at a move early next year.
John 10:58 a.m. Why does the proposed street car route not go by the Stage Center, Downtown Elementary School, and Preftake's Block, via Hudson/Sheridan as future intense development will be in this area?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. The streetcar route, as currently routed, will pass within a couple of blocks of all these properties (a very short walk). It's a balancing act between serving existing demand and promoting new development. One can't put a track on every street. So this is the path that's been chosen.
Nick 11:00 a.m. When is the Midtown R group hoping to start work on their garage and renovation of the Marion Lofts?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. I don't recollect an actual timeline on this - hit me up on this again next week.
Brad 11:01 a.m. How many employees do you see being added downtown in the next fer years?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. Brad, IF the economy stays on its current course and if the prospects I'm tracking all come true ... we're looking conservatively at 1,000 new workers, minium, joining the downtown workforce in the next few years. The number could climb much, much higher.
Nick 11:03 a.m. Where has Bob Funk gone? He had a nice development proposal for the area in front of the Coca Cola center in Bricktown, but when he couldn't get the land (or something to that effect) he just disappeared and I don't think he ever bothered to look for another site that might have worked just as well...
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. Bob Funk sold the RedHawks and shut down the Blazers and with that his interest in downtown seems to have faded quite a bit.
Nick 11:04 a.m. Steve, do you have any really juicy rumors for us? Anything just beyond exciting that might be on the horizon for our fair city?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Imagine what's possible and simply go from there.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Alright folks, time to wrap up.
Matt 11:06 a.m. Thank you Steve
Maggie 11:06 a.m. Thanks, Steve. These chats are awesome!
Nick 11:07 a.m. Thanks Steve!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. One final note: there is no text book for me to follow in doing these live chats. It's one of those "jump in the water and swim" moments. I'm balancing a lot of balls while answering these questions. Today in answering a question about The Lunch Box I went on memory of a story I read earlier this week and I missopoke in answering the question. I sincerely apologize to anyone who I might have offended. I have some great competitors in this town.
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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