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Steve Lackmeyer: OKC Central Chat transcript, Oct. 5, 2012

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: October 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm •  Published: October 5, 2012

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 9:31 a.m. Good morning! Steve will be signing in at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Steve Lackmeyer 9:55 a.m. This is Steve, even if the message says another person. As I recall, there was a reference to Aaron being a "scumbag," which obviously we couldn't put online. If I said similar, I should have just said "another name" and let it go at that. Keep in mind, my brain gets pretty worn out after these things are over. Please accept my apology!
Nick 10:02 a.m. Hi Steve. Ready for another chat?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:02 a.m. Yes! I hope you got my message this morning about last week's live chat.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:02 a.m. Good morning everybody!
Gary 10:03 a.m. Good morning Steve. The construction of the wind screens and lighting for the Oklahoma River is already underway. What next for that portion of the MAPS 3 improvements?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:04 a.m. I hear that the University of Central Oklahoma should be ready to soon make an announcement on when work will begin on the next boathouse. Ditto for the SandRidge pavilion that will have the wave pool and zip line. Planning is underway for the whitewater rapids.
Gary 10:04 a.m. Looks like the connection between the canal and the Oklahoma River has been approved. When do you think that will start construction?
Nick 10:04 a.m. No problem at all Steve! I can how imagine how worn out you are when these things end. Hope you're rested for today's! I just didn't want to come across as using such harsh terms. Scumbag was inappropriate for a man I don't even know, I just don't like how he's conducting business lately. Anyway, was it me you were asking about on Twitter?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. Soon. I'll check into it. But I think construction on the river/canal connection is set to begin this winter.
Gary 10:06 a.m. Have you seen the renderings of the Santa Fe Railway station as the hub for OKC? What do you think of it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. I saw conceptual renderings that came out earlier this year. Keep in mind, they will almost certainly change once an architect is done. But as a concept? It looked pretty cool.
Gary 10:08 a.m. You stated in an earlier chat that you think if there is another MAPS, it would focus on public transit (light rail, expanded street car routes, bus improvements). What would you think about the canal extension to the west ending at MBG or the proposed convention center to link DT and BT?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. A coalition of Bricktown interests pushed for a canal extension as part of MAPS 3, and Mayor Mick Cornett clearly did not favor it. I'm not sure I see this project happening under current leadership. Their focus is very much on Core to Shore, and less on Bricktown. I am not saying that is right or wrong - just what I've observed the past few years.
BethanySooner 10:09 a.m. Steve, was wondering if you knew when The Hill was going to begin constructing the next phase and if the Club House was going to be part of that. It seems that the properties that will front I-235 would have less than an ideal view. Could the clubhouse be going in on that east-northeast section?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. As I recall, the clubhouse was being eyed as part of the next phase of construction. Seeing how The HIll has suddenly become the lead in for-sale housing downtown, and that the current supply is sold out, I believe the developers when they say they want to start work on the next phase as soon as possible. As for the location of the club house, my recollection is it will be built toward the south east section, on the side closer to Bricktown.
Brian 10:11 a.m. A MAPS4 seems inevitable. What projects do you believe should be included?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:12 a.m. I've said this before, I'll say it again: MAPS 4 is not inevitable. We're seeing a lack of funding plans for operations, upkeep of MAPS 3 projects we did not see in the original MAPS. We're also hearing reports of projects falling far, far shot of what was promised. The MAPS 3 tax doesn't expire for another five years. But if MAPS 4 were to come to a reality, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see it focused on public transit.
Guest 10:13 a.m. What is your opinion about Custinos opening up a new restaurant
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. I don't have an opinion. I was a big of fan of the original Custino's back in the earl 1990s when it was operated by Phil Custino. His son Angelo posted the following message on the chat board www.okctalk.com, which indicates we may have two restaurants (the one that is now run by Bud Elder who is at odds with the Custinos), and the one being opened by Angelo Custino - and that neither will be run by the elder Phil Custino. Here is the comment from Angelo Custino: This is Angelo Custino. Son of Chef Phil Custino, former 50% owner of Custino's Italian Kitchen, and owner of Custino's Restaurant & Bar. I am very flattered by some of the things I have read on here, but also saw there were a few posts that obviously came about "through the grape vine." If you have any questions about Custino's the source is now on okctalk. I am a retired actor and independent food broker as well as restauranteur. I made it to Hollywood and West Palm Beach to realize there is no place like home, good ol' Oklahoma.
Pete 10:16 a.m. What's the latest on Stage Center? Also, the Gold Dome?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. I have nothing new to report on Stage Center. As for the Gold Dome, it should be closing soon if not already to David Box.
Brian 10:17 a.m. Do you know when construction of the I-40/I-35 and I-40/I-35 junctions are scheduled to be completed?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. The junctions likely will be finished before the national debt is eliminated and peace breaks out in the Middle East.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. (But I make no promises)
Brian 10:18 a.m. Do you know of any big-name national retailers not in the Oklahoma City area that are looking at building a store(s) in the area?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. We keep hearing that Trader Joe's is circling.
Ed 10:19 a.m. How about a small train ride along the Oklahoma River for fun and people who do not want to walk? It could be used as a small shuttle and or entertainment.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. Ed, maybe just an extension of the planned MAPS 3 streetcar system?
Jarred 10:19 a.m. Do you think we will see more retail and restaurants build in the mid town section?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. Yes. Absolutely. I reported on Waffle Champion opening up in the 1212 Building. Saturn is planning to open next to Go Go Sushi. And I'm aware of small retailers wanting space in MidTown as well. Most of the downtown retail momentum, however, appears to be centered along Automobile Alley.
Gary 10:21 a.m. I guess I should have spaced out my questions more, huh?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. I think I'm keeping up with you Gary!
Drew 10:21 a.m. Any idea why there are random windows still missing on different parts of Devon tower?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. I'm not sure if those are missing windows or vent shafts. I'll ask!
Pete 10:21 a.m. Steve, in your dealings with the okcCoCo and US Fleet Tracking, what have been their attitudes been toward you, and did they change post-gag order?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. I've always had a lot of respect for Sam Sims, the communications officer for US Fleet Tracking. I have no hostility toward US Fleet Tracking - just a desire to let readers know what's going on. I'd say that US Fleet Tracking at first took my questions and attention personally, but Sam did a good job at redirecting the conversation, and we're now finding out more about what's behind their dispute with the Oklahoma City Co-working Collaborative.
BethanySooner 10:23 a.m. Steve, is it your understanding that the next phase of the Convention Center planning will provide a study to determine whether the chosen site is even feasible for the scope and budget they have to work with? And if so, will this information be made public? And could this force an alternate location if the numbers don't work?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m. Populous has been hired to do cost estimating, design and preparation for construction. It looks like Populous will be tasked with reporting back first on feasibility and costing of the site they recommended during the first phase. I do not know the timetable yet for this work.
Nick 10:25 a.m. As a huge fan and proponent of the urban renaissance that Oklahoma City seems to be experiencing, I often find it quite difficult to temper my expectations and contain my enthusiasm. Do you have similar troubles when you get anxious about a project?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. I've been following the development of downtown since the mid-1990s, and I've learned to not get excited about every rendering and development announcement. I can pretty much sense who and what is the "real deal," and who is just seeking publicity to attract investors. In all honesty, I never expected the the Cotton Exchange proposed by Gary Cotton along the canal to become a reality, and I shared what I saw as its challenges with readers when it was announced. Ditto for the current owners of First National ...
Nick 10:28 a.m. We're seriously getting ahead of ourselves with all this talk of Maps IV.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. Um, yeah....
Nick 10:28 a.m. Are you as excited about OU's purchase of the PHF Research Park as some others are?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. There seems to be a lot of potential with PHF being purchased by OU in terms of branding and better joint promotion of the entire medical district. This may be a good time to remind everyone I will be hosting my first Google hang-out next Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. with several major players in the Oklahoma Health Center. We will be talking about development, promotion, design and branding. We will also have a live chat like this going on consecutively where you folks can enter questions not just for me but the entire Google hangout panel. Here's the key thing to know: I am told you do NOT HAVE TO HAVE a Google+ account to watch the Google Hangout. I'll post more details on my blog, www.okccentral,com, early next week.
Nick 10:32 a.m. Does OKC finally get the railroad quiet zone completed downtown by the end of 2013?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. There are conversations going on behind the scene. I can picture an announcement of the project in 2013, but with railroads involved, I seriously doubt the project would be finished next year.
guy 10:33 a.m. Do you foresee any eventual housing development along the riverfront (akin to what Tulsa has)?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. Yes and no. I definitely see housing. But I think it will be different from what Tulsa has done.
Will 10:33 a.m. Anything new on the Rock Island Plow Building? I visited this week and already looks better with working windows.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. Just exploratory work being done by Richard McKown.
Sid Burgess 10:34 a.m. Any updates on what is going in at LEVEL next to Native Roots?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. Expect a restaurant announcement for the space next to Native Roots.
Dustin 10:34 a.m. Are you planning in stories about the loss of productivity at state agencies due to the new no smoking on state property policy. See car leaving the parking 4 times in the morning and four times in the afternnoon to drive to the nearest parking lot to smoke.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. That's a different beat, but I'll forward on your question to the appropriate editor!
Nick 10:34 a.m. I really would love to see a 20 - 25 story residential building built somewhere to the north of downtown, maybe near St. Anthony's. Likely?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. I can see Rick Dowell someday building his mid- to high-rise apartment tower along NW 5, but I don't think he plans on it being 20 to 25 stories.
Nick 10:35 a.m. Is there a logo coming to the Sandridge building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. Good question!
Nick 10:35 a.m. Is Continental going to build a new headquarters downtown? I hear they're busting at the seams already...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. One never knows...
Will 10:36 a.m. 229 E. Sheridan next to Crabtown in Bricktown looks to be renovated. Have you seen the renderings?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. I've seen the renderings. The project is proposed by Chris Johnson, who has in the past presented renderings for several projects in Bricktown that later did not materialize.
Sid Burgess 10:37 a.m. Native Roots waited a while for their "green post-it notes" from inspectors. Le Cep seems to be in a constant "opening soon" mode with no county health inspection notices on the doors. Is there a backlog at the county? Business as usual?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. I don't know Sid.
Clint 10:38 a.m. Steve, I bet you know this. Who has access to the cameras mounted on many of the stoplights in the OKC area? I've also seen them in Yukon, Bethany, Mustang, MWC, and El Reno. Also, what EXACTLY are they used for? Thanks.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. I recall The Oklahoman reporting a while back that they are used to monitor traffic and red light runners.
Jazz Hands 10:39 a.m. What would you do for a Klondike bar?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. I don't like Klondike bars. But I also don't hate them as much as Spencer over at SPY radio does...
Richard 10:39 a.m. When the cox center is eventually targeted for demolition following the opening of the new convention center, do you keep the arena or demo it too? I wouldnt mind taking away all the convention space to create space for new deveolpment but leaving the arena and put a new exterior on it. It would still be a good complement to the CHK arena. Thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. A few years ago civic leaders were very reluctant to consider tearing down the Cox arena because it gave them an advantage in drawing the Big 12 basketball tournaments. But now it looks as if the tournament is locked up again by Kansas City. I suspect Cox Center will be torn down after the new convention center opens to make way for new development.
Brian 10:43 a.m. If you were Oklahoma City mayor for a day and could do anything without council approval, what would be your first decision?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Build lots and lots of sidewalks and plant lots and lots of trees.
Cocohead 10:43 a.m. A tangential Coco question: It seems like this space was needed because rents in downtown, film row, automobile alley are two expensive for small startups. Thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. I've been thinking about this quite a bit.... I wonder if there is a role for the Greater OKC Chamber or the Alliance for Economic Development to play in addressing this need.
Flip 10:44 a.m. Seems Derrick Parkhurst is now laying low... Has he answered your questions about the 404?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. He's not laying low. He told me late last night he is meeting with his lawyers to answer my questions in a manner that doesn't violate the gag order requested by US Fleet Tracking.
Sid Burgess 10:45 a.m. Calvery Baptist Church has a new tenant. That tenant wants to put a new surface parking lot on 2nd street. I've been counting parking spaces and taking pictures to help build the case against it, but not sure it can be summarily stopped. From what I understand, you can't keep them from putting it in. How would you specifically advise Deep Deuce residents to promote urban development here?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. I know about it. I'll be delving into this today or on Monday.
Nick 10:45 a.m. Is there a project built, or coming online, that could get you to live downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I wish. The truth is this: I have a special needs child, and Oklahoma City Public Schools does not provide what I need to ensure my children are properly educated (this is not to be translated as me saying OKC Public Schools are not good enough for my kids - just not a good fit). I also have a wife who works in Edmond, and finally, I can't afford to live downtown with the prices being sought for housing.
Nick 10:48 a.m. Is there any chance at all that we ever get to see the U-Haul building converted to residential or something of higher use than it currently is?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. It's not for lack of trying by our local development community that the U-haul building has remained as is. It will likely require a lot of money to get something going.
Guest 10:49 a.m. Does your answer below also apply to the work on the old Kerr McGee park south of the Sand Ridge building? That is taking forever. The junctions likely will be finished before the national debt is eliminated and peace breaks out in the Middle East.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. No. Kerr Park is being redone this next year by Chesapeake Energy and SandRidge Energy. It should be done by 2014.
Nick 10:50 a.m. What's the latest on the POPS in Bricktown? I haven't seen much happening there.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. As far as I know, it's still moving forward.
Pete 10:50 a.m. Food trucks are gaining lots of popularity in OKC and the operators seem to suggest the city is a pain to work with when it comes to permitting. Has the city done anything to cater to them? Or are the food truck folks just complaining...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I've been talking to some folks about this.... I honestly don't know.
Bill 10:51 a.m. When will the old crosstown over shartel be done. They said 6-8 weeks, but based on the progress to date, I dont think that will happen. And whose idea was it to work on Western and cut down the lanes at the same time this work was being done.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I'll check into this and get back to you.
Bid Surgess 10:51 a.m. What is your take on local restaurants in terms of helping the downtown community. It seems like so many are boom are bust. Which owners do you see having staying power and impact when opening something that lasts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Good Egg Dining Group, Chris Lower's restaurants, Hal Smith ... these are folks who all know what they're doing. If you see a start-up by someone who came from one of these operations (like Waffle Champion), that's a good omen for their odds of success...
Cocohead 10:53 a.m. Thank you steve. It seems to be that there are upper floor spaces, epecially along Auto Alley, that are empty or underused. We often talk about the storefronts, so do you know about the developments of any of the upper floors of buildings?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. Automobile Alley has a good track record of seeing upper floors developed. Bricktown? Not so much...
Sid Burgess 10:54 a.m. I see the Mayor riding Spokies around town. Has he mentioned what he thinks about the project to you?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. No. But I can imagine he's pretty happy with it. Can't see why not.
eli 10:54 a.m. Any word on The Oklahoman relocating downtown? That would bring you full-circle.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. I'd love to see it happen and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone I've been a strong advocate for such a move. But there are people on a higher pay grade here who have to weigh in all considerations - costs, business operations, travel, etc - so I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.
Will 10:55 a.m. What do you think of the downtown bike tours?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. I heard about the history tour - sounds like they had a lot of fun!
david ball 10:56 a.m. is there a chance that there will ever be affordable housing downtown? looks like the plan to "do it right" meant "do it rich"
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. I understand your concern. The market is certainly out there, so who knows - maybe the market will meet the demand.
wookin pa nub 10:56 a.m. Maybe Wayne Coyne can buy up film row and lease it to the CoCo...er the 404 or whatever it is now. Only I wouldn't give them any money for naming rights.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. Wayne Coyne is a great civic leader, especially when it comes to the Plaza District. But don't over-estimate the music industry right now - Wayne and the Lips are working very hard out there, always on tour, always cooking something up - I don't get the sense the guy is a billionaire. The music industry as a whole is a complicated business model - everyone wants everything online and for free. ;(
BethanySooner 10:58 a.m. With all the empty lots in Midtown, are you aware of any new plans on the table such as were presented by the competing groups for the old Mercy Hospital site? Might there be another project of the magnitude of The Edge in the works?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. I think there is a good chance we will see some in-fill housing development.
Trombone Charlie 10:59 a.m. How do you think the inevitable demolition of Stage Center will impact the arts festival? Will it have to relocate?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. I don't see why demolition would need to take more than a couple of months at the most. They could probably do it before or after the festival.
Nick 10:59 a.m. Are you disappointed with Sandridge Commons so far? Personally, I'm very pleased by their renovation work on the Braniff Building, but I'd be lying if I said I was pleased with the rest of what they've done surrounding their centerpiece skyscraper. I know there's more to come, but your thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. I think the work they've done on the Braniff Building is stunning. I understand why people are divided in opinions about the overall SandRidge Commons development, especially the decision to turn the corner of Robinson and Robert S. Kerr Avenues into a plaza....
Pete 11:01 a.m. And speaking of downtown restaurants, any rumors or news on getting the space filled at the Myriad Gardens?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Nope.
Nick 11:01 a.m. Echoing some of Cocohead's thoughts, why don't we see more upper floors used in Bricktown? If there's such a dire need of space for coworking, surely the floors above Spaghetti Warehouse could help fill that void.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. You must have owners with the vision, experience and willingness to look at the long term when it comes to full scale renovations of these century old buildings in Bricktown. I know many critics who say Bricktown, more than any other of downtown's districts, is sorely lacking these sorts of owners.
Cuatro 11:03 a.m. On the U-Haul Building...do you think that the aquisition of the Right of Way for the Oklahoma Ave. & Boulevard intersection will force something to change there? The new street should wipe out the loading areas.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. I think the city sees an Oklahoma connection as being critical for boulevard access to Bricktown, and they believe the loading docks can be relocated along another side of the building.
Trombone Charlie 11:03 a.m. how do u keep track of all that is going on downtown? It seems ike there are three conventions at cox, a concert at the Chesapeke,, plus a million other thingsint eh fall. I cant find a good calendr online.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., Urban Neighbors and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art tend to have the best event calendars for downtown.
SupposedToBeWorking 11:04 a.m. Steve can you tell me anything about supposed tunnels in Okc that lead to The Hilo and Ednas from the prohibition era and where they possibly start or lead to?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. I have not heard anything about tunnels at Classen Circle, but it's certainly not impossible that these existed.
Bid Surgess 11:07 a.m. Reading the commments on your blog about the OKCoco and USFT shocked me. Many of those people said: USTF has a lot of money, so they should just forget $23,000. What the heck?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. I can almost assure you a lot more than $23,000 is being spent by both sides for legal fees on this dispute.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. As for the comments... a lot of folks are very passionate about this fight.
Brian 11:07 a.m. Is there any city where downtown housing isn't for the rich?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. I assume so...
Nick 11:08 a.m. Where has Marva Ellard gone? She had two very interesting proposals for land in MidTown (I loved the first one!), and there is no lack of space for such things, why can't she bring one (or both) projects to life on other lots?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. Marva is working on a couple of projects behind the scenes and is developing the corner where Allen's cafe used to be.
Will 11:08 a.m. Anything new on the old Mercantile Building in Bricktown on Main? Sherman Building?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. Sherman Building was bought by Standley Systems as I recall. Nothing new at the moment on the Mercantile
Anti-local 11:09 a.m. I hate to say this, but I think downtown suffers by not having enough national brands. There's a subway, but not much else. Even another starbucks would help. I think local places don't have competition, so they can charge a lot for simple things like coffee and hamburgers.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. Well then, this should make you happy: several major nationals are searching for space downtown.
Will 11:09 a.m. Do you see Skinny Slim's being a success? Do you know anything about the other building near it on the other side of the Walnut Bridge on Main?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I don't know. The building is an odd duck. Not sure what other building you are referring to.
Nick 11:10 a.m. I agree, Bricktown seems to sorely be lacking those kinds of owners. And that's a shame. Sometimes in OKC, more than any other place I've lived, I feel like we fall short of potential and fail to even see the opportunities.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I understand.
wookin pa nub 11:10 a.m. How does it feel that this page is getting more hits than Football Friday Hangout?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. Is it really? I'll have to ask Tiffany Gibson about this...
Nick 11:11 a.m. I miss Allen's more than anything. Ever.
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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