Reporter Steve Lackmeyer chatted with readers Friday about downtown Oklahoma City businesses and developments. Participate in the weekly chat every Friday at 10 a.m. Read a recap of the chat here.
Topics discussed include: Kevin Durant's restaurant, paid parking downtown, the fate of the Villa Theresa properties, development along the boathouse district, extending The Underground and an update on light rail system.
On paid parking downtown:
It's a debate that has raged for 30 years. I don't see anything really changing either way. Parking supply will continue to improve, but I also sense there are those who simply won't come downtown regardless of the reason.
The lack and expense of parking is a big issue for companies wanting to move downtown. I've seen it first hand. I do believe that Project 180 has damaged existing businesses - mostly the ground floor retail folks - and that completion will allow for recovery to begin.
On Kevin Durant's restaurant:
Everything has gone quiet on the deal. I have calls out on this, but it's looking and sounding as if the deal is dead.
On the Villa Theresa properties:
I suspect it will be quite some time before a deal is done involving Villa Theresa. Keep in mind, for the Sisters who ran the school, this was a painful decision - not unlike the loss of a beloved relative or friend. Interested parties are not difficult to find, but the Sisters, from what I'm hearing, need some time to grieve and collect their thoughts about the future of what is widely seen as one of the most valuable sites left in MidTown potentially open for redevelopment.
On the boathouse district:
An announcement is expected within the next few weeks on when construction will begin on the SandRidge Energy pavilion, which will include a zip line over the river, a wave pool and other amenities. I'm hearing a similar announcement isn't far off for the University of Central Oklahoma boathouse. Planning remains underway for the OU boathouse. Add in planning for the MAPS 3 whitewater venue, a shoreline grandstands and other city improvements, and one can safely say that there is no "stall" along the river - just a lot of work going on behind the scenes that we can't see.
On extending The Underground:
When The Underground was being renovated by Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. several years ago, Councilman Gary Marrs wanted to finish the never opened tunnel that goes under Hudson Avenue between the County Courthouse and the art museum. The museum folks didn't show a lot of interest in the project, and the effort never gained much traction. A grand entrance designed by Rand Elliott, meanwhile, never took place due to opposition by James Cotter, the Texan who owns Chase Tower.
On light rail system:
I don't have the exact timetable in my head, but based on what I recall, and adding in a bit of pragmatism, we're probably looking at a streetcar system being launched in about five years.