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Steve Lackmeyer: OKC Central Chat transcript, Oct. 19, 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 19, 2012 at 11:28 am •  Published: October 19, 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 9:30 a.m. Good morning everyone. Steve will be logging in at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Steve Lackmeyer 9:58 a.m. Good morning. Oh wow... lot's of questions already in the cue! Time to get started.
Gary W 9:58 a.m. What is going to be built on the site of the old photo building on the SE corner of 6th and Broadway?
Steve Lackmeyer 9:59 a.m. Gary, developer Johnathan Russell bought the old Hale Photo building and the adjoining OPUBCO property over the summer. He has shown interest in building a three-story office building there with possible ground floor retail, but he has yet to finalize his plans.
Gary W 9:59 a.m. Have all Project 180 projects been started? If not, what is left?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. No, quite a few Project 180 tasks have yet to be started, most notably the streetscape of Park Avenue, portions of Robinson, Harvey and Hudson Avenues, and I believe Dean A. McGee and Robert S. Kerr are still on the list. E.K. Gaylord is also technically on the list to be done, though some of this work will require good inflow of revenues to continue. Also not done - electric vehicle charging stations.
Gary W 10:01 a.m. With the announcement of a hotel and apartments being built on the steel buildings site north of Sheridan between Joe Carter and Lincoln, it seems like a big piece of the East Bricktown puzzle would be building something on the parking lot in front the Coca Cola Bricktown Events Center. With that site out of the running for the convention center site, do you see it being used as something else besides a parking lot in the near future?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:03 a.m. Gary, you have all sorts of questions this morning!
When Bob Funk owned the RedHawks, he and partner Scott Pruitt proposed doing a development there. I suspect similar interest might pop up again - but not until construction has started on the convention center elsewhere and that debate is finally, truly over.
Gary W 10:03 a.m. Can you give us an update on biking/jogging trails included in Maps 3?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:03 a.m. That project isn't something I've been covering - best to ask Michael Kimball, our fantastic City Hall reporter.
Gary W 10:04 a.m. When can we expect the construction of the Santa Fe train station hub to start?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:04 a.m. The city must acquire the Santa Fe station first, and that's not going so easy. The city and the Brewer family, which owns the station, have so far been unable to agree on a sales price.
Gary W 10:04 a.m. When will the OCU Law School be moving to midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. The OCU board of regents recently approved the sale. The current owners and tenants, American Farmers and Ranchers, asked to be given up to two years to find a new home. So we're likely looking at the school needing at least a year before it can move in.
Gary W 10:06 a.m. Who owns the lot directly north of the Calvary Baptist Church? With the addition of apartments, hotels, lofts and brownstones, do you see that being bought up for more housing? Possibly mixed use?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. The lot on the corner of NE 3 and Walnut Avenue is owned by the Urban Renewal Authority. The remainder of the empty land facing NE 3 is owned by the OIC.
Gary W 10:07 a.m. What is the next concept for A Good Egg Dining Group?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. Something involving really good food.
Mike 10:07 a.m. Now that a grocery store set to open downtown is there any plans for a pharmacy anywhere downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. I've always wondered why the Medicine Cabinet, an existing pharmacy in the First National retail arcade, didn't move to one of the street store fronts and expand its hours and operations. They're a great little pharmacy already in the heart of downtown.
Guest 10:09 a.m. What's going on at 4th and Oklahoma Ave?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Ron Bradshaw is building an $18 million, 139-unit apartment complex.
10:12 a.m.
Bob 10:12 a.m. I am sure the Medicine Cabinet does not want to change their lease since they have been raising the prices for all of the expired leases.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:12 a.m. Good point.
Aaron B 10:12 a.m. Steve, have you heard anything about possible tenants for the space American Fidelity is vacating at 23rd and Classen?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:14 a.m. Recall that Oklahoma City Public Schools were competing with OCU for the old Central High Building. Superintendent Karl Springer wanted Central High for a new administration building. When OCU won the bidding, talk turned to NW 23 and Classen being a good spot for Oklahoma City Public Schools. I am not, however, certain whether such a deal will happen. I've heard other ideas for the property as well. I suspect it won't stay empty for long.
Klint 10:14 a.m. Is there any movement in OKC to bring a Major League Soccer team to town? A downtown soccer stadium would be great.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. I've not heard anything about an effort in regard to soccer in several years. Sorry.
Bob 10:15 a.m. The settlement of the First National mess that was mentioned in the paper this morning does not seem like good news. More talk and no action by those people who bought the Center is probably in it's future...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. Such skepticism is completely understandable in light of this ownership's history and the admission by owner Aaron Yashouafar that he embezzled money from a senior residents' condominium complex in Las Vegas (he is also under federal investigation here in OKC).
John David 10:16 a.m. What are the suggestions for the property by the land run monuments along the canel?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. It's tricky. Randy Hogan once attempted to do a hotel deal on the site, but city leaders were worried it would kill the view of the monument.
Bob 10:17 a.m. Most of medicine cabinet's business comes from the st. Anthony clinic across the hall. They wouldn't want to move far from them. But a street front pharmacy is needed downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. I understand that as well.
Klint 10:22 a.m. Is there any plan for the land just north of The Lofts (between the Lofts and the brownstones)?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. Yes Klint. Developer Richard McKown is working on some concepts with architect Wade Scaramucci (the same team that built and designed Level Apartments). Don't be surprised if it's a different housing concept than anything we've seen before.
Bob 10:23 a.m. I was out of town when the Civic Center park was re-opened. Didn't see anything about it in the paper. What was the reaction to the remodel?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:24 a.m. Those who supported the project during its conceptual planning sounded pretty happy. Those upset with the project, how it designed and then pushed into construction remain very unhappy.
Mike 10:24 a.m. Downtown needs more quick dining options. Any word on anything coming to downtown, brick town?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m. Yes Mike. The national fast casual restaurants are lining up to find a spot downtown. A dam is about to burst.
Ogle Mole 10:25 a.m. If you could pick one building in Downtown to elope with, which one would it be?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m. That's only legal in Texas.
Russell 10:25 a.m. Are they done with the 235 I-44 exchange? I like what they have done and would like to see it continued
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. No, they're not done. We will suffer years of pain and torment before the I-235/I-44 junction is complete.
10:28 a.m.
Mike 10:28 a.m. Any word on dining, bar details at the aloft hotel?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. I need to catch up with Jim Thompson, the developer. As a general rule, I'd say he's had good luck with such amenities at his other hotels.
Bob 10:29 a.m. I was one of the unhappy people... While there are some nice elements to the new layout some things just do not make sense and it was a travesty to cut down all of those beautiful trees
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. I understand.
Mike 10:29 a.m. Any names you have heard of the fast casual restaurants lining up?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. Panera Bread is one name I'll share.
Mike 10:31 a.m. The trees and landscaping along Reno on the south side of the ballpark looks bad. Is that the city or the ballparks
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. I've frequently noticed that as well. I've asked the city and the RedHawks, and I've never gotten a good answer. Seems as if $200 spent at TLC could easily address this embarrassment.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. Wow. So I skip one week, and we see a drop in questions at OKC Central Live Chat. Usually this chat goes 30 minutes over the 11 a.m. deadline! I'm going to stay logged in for another few minutes. This is a good day for me to end the chat early - lots of Sunday copy to crank out.
Bob 10:35 a.m. Now that tratoria is gone not many options before events at the civic center. Anything new on that end of downtown for dining?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. Joey's Pizzeria is a good choice, as is Flint. For coffee and deserts, Paramount OKC is really great as well.
Chris 10:36 a.m. Do you have a timeframe and location where Panera Bread is looking for open? In the CBD?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. Hopefully I'll have a report on this fairly soon.
Bill 10:37 a.m. Well, Shields is open again! No question though.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Yep. Question for you: do you think the city should contemplate extending the Gaylord name on the north half of that street to the highway ramp to address confusion motorists might have about Gaylord/Shields as a major entry into downtown?
Guest 10:38 a.m. Have you heard what possible tenants might occupy the Century Center Garage once its renovated? I've heard everything from a CVS or Walgreens, to a Downtown Gym, restaurant, bakery...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. I think there's a pretty exciting future ahead for Century Center, but nothing is certain yet.
Guest 10:38 a.m. Any update on plans for the Old Arcade building on Main St just south of the Civic Center?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. The owners, R.D. and Scott Smith, submitted renderings to Downtown Design Review Committee on a proposed renovation but we don't have anything more specific on the project in terms of timing, new tenants.
Bob 10:39 a.m. Looks like they are remodeling the spot where Tratoria was. Any idea what is going in there?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. When I last spoke to owner Dick Tanenbaum, he indicated he was moving offices on the second floor to the first floor so he could create more apartments on the second floor.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. Tanenbaum has made it clear he's not very enthusiastic about dealing with ground floor retail space on his residential properties.
Bob 10:40 a.m. Flint is great. I can't wait to enjoy their patio area! I would love to see more patio lounges, outdoor dining options?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Good news - I think the patio along Sheridan has reopened, and the courtyard patio looks like it's ready to open any day. The best outdoor dining downtown, in my opinion, includes the Purple Bar roof at Nonna's in Bricktown, Louie's and Kaiser's in MidTown, The Wedge and Deep Deuce Grill in Deep Deuce, and Fuzzy's Tacos in Bricktown.
Bill 10:42 a.m. Yes, that makes sense. I guess they would have to change the highway signs too.
Bill 10:42 a.m. Even the Gaylord/Broadway part is confusing to most.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Yep. I agree.
jet 10:42 a.m. What's the deal with all the vacant lots-east of Brown's Bakery on 10th? Are there plans in the works?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Those lots are owned by Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Chris Fleming. Based on their work to date, it's hard to worry much about what's yet to come.
Guest 10:43 a.m. Are there any possible high rise buildings being planned for downtown in the next 5 years? 10 years?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Read my story in Sunday's Oklahoman.
Mike 10:44 a.m. I heard that the skirvin may be expanding. Any truth to that or was that tied to the convention center option?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. It was tied to the convention center proposal.
Chris 10:44 a.m. Do you think NW 4th, NW 5th, and NW 6th St. West of Hudson will remain four lanes with parking? With as little traffic as those receive, it seems like those streets should be condensed and made more pedestrian friendly.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. My vow today is to not traumatize city engineers.
Tom 10:45 a.m. Has there been any talk (even idle talk) of relocating the jail? It seems like that jail is going to be a permanent backstop/upper bound on how much positive development can occur in west downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. Absolutely. The county has spent years trying to conceive a tax proposal they could hope to get approved by voters that would build a new jail. But to date.... no such luck.
Guest 10:46 a.m. when is the "durant restaurant" set to open? Are they going to try and feature local foods and/or drinks?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. Randy Hogan wasn't ready to provide a timeline this week. But I wouldn't be shocked if Thunder fans got the chance to celebrate the team's return to the NBA Finals at a restaurant in Bricktown with Kevin Durant's name over the door.
Ryan 10:47 a.m. Is Devon Energy going to build a new tower on the Preftakes block?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. Ready my story in Sunday's Oklahoman.
Andrew 10:47 a.m. Any news on what could fill the vacant spaces in the Plaza District?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. There are vacant spaces? Wow. That's pretty unusual these days. I'm sure they won't be empty long.
Mike 10:48 a.m. I heard harkens isn't doing well? Seems like doing something similar to Warren would ba a great fit downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I've not heard anything in this regard. Harkins seems to have good crowds every time I visit to see a movie.
Bob 10:48 a.m. The 400 block of both Main and Sheridan are pretty deserted now since the Devon construction is winding down. Any idea when we might see things moving there?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. The Sheridan block will home to the new elementary school. Main Street? Hard to predict.
Guest 10:49 a.m. What about Browns Bakery itself? Does it get much business? Has anyone approached the owners about buying the building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. Brown's Bakery has a thriving business. They have the best cakes, cupcakes in the metro by far (I do my best to restrain myself from visiting much). The owners know they have some good potential with the unused portion of that building (a former TG&Y). We'll see...
Bill 10:51 a.m. In further response, I guess another option would be to rename it all back to Shields and pick another street to name after the Gaylords.
Guest 10:51 a.m. High rise building story this coming Sunday or last Sunday?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I'll have a story about what's ahead for downtown's skyline on Sunday.
Mike 10:51 a.m. Any update on the plow building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. Exploratory work is being done.
Nick 10:51 a.m. Is Devon building something on the Preftakes block?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. YES! Devon is building another 50-story tower on the Preftakes block and I'm breaking the story on OKC Live Chat!...... Just kidding. Seriously, I promise, if I were to have such a story, I'd have it on front page ASAP.
Russ Florence 10:53 a.m. How long do you think it will be before Film Row reaches its full capacity and potential?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Good question. I think Film Row is really on the cusp. Add in an elementary school, a sizable development on the Stage Center property, and I suspect Film Row will really hit its stride.
Guest 10:53 a.m. Whats the latest on the light rail system? Are the Brewers trying to hold the city hostage for the Santa Fe Station?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. The Brewers want to receive more money than what the city is willing to pay. It's business. I wouldn't say anyone is being held hostage.
Andrew 10:54 a.m. Particularly the Coin Laundry and the former mattress store.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. Andrew, I need to get a new update on that.
jet 10:54 a.m. With housing, hotels, and a grocery store being added to DeepDeuce/Bricktown, what do you see as the next step? Parking? Retail?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. We're going to see more retail open in Deep Deuce. A wine store is going to open in the Littlepage Building at NE 2 and Central (as well as Le Cep Bistro). I think we will also see more infill housing on the remaining smaller empty lots.
Nick 10:56 a.m. Were you as disappointed with the renderings for the new elementary school downtown as I was? I went from being very optimistic to thinking there were lots of foolish elements and the building resembles a prison.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. I've heard this criticism as well. I'm not hearing a lot of enthusiasm for the exterior facade, especially as it fronts Sheridan Avenue.
Nick 10:57 a.m. Do you think Marva Ellard returns with ideas for Midtown once the Edge gets rolling? I loved her first proposal and would build it myself if I could.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Marva Ellard is working on some concepts I'm sure we'll hear about soon.
Bob 10:58 a.m. Anything planned for the large vacant lot behind the old mckesson building in auto alley?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. Not sure I know the property you're describing. What's the street crossing?
Nick 10:58 a.m. When do you think OKC breaks out of this mold of 3-4 story apartment buildings, particularly Deep Deuce? I'm ready to see something taller.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Maybe. The costs of going above four floors is much higher because it requires steel, rules out "stick" construction.
Guest 10:59 a.m. Does Film Row have a committe or an association for the district? Website?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Not really.
Nick 10:59 a.m. Know of any sizable developments for the Stage Center property??
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Yes.
Guest 10:59 a.m. Are there any plans or talks of purchases of the empty building spaces on the canal level under Zio's and Chelino's? Seems as if those buildings have been deserted for years. If they are for sale, what do you estimate the value of these properties to be per square foot?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. Zio's has no basement. Chelino's... hard to say.
Bob 11:00 a.m. Anything ever going in where margarita mamas and banana joes once were in btown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. A restaurant and bar is preparing to open in the old Banana Joe's (wow, that's a date reference) space (last occupied by Othello's). Gary Cotton owns the Mama's building, and I'm not sure he has a track record in Bricktown that goes beyond buying and selling.
Klint 11:02 a.m. How is the Maps3 funding coming along? I've heard the OKC sales taxes have been way up.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Yes. But remember collections were way down a couple years ago. I'm sure this levels it all out.
Nick 11:02 a.m. Here's a question: OKC has had some really great developments proposed (TAP for the Hill, Marva Ellard's ideas, I'm sure there are others), but they lose out on the space, sometimes through very shady decisions made by OCURA, but then these ideas go away. Why don't these developers build on nearby lots instead of letting those opportunities pass?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. Not every concept can be adapted for other spots.
Nick 11:03 a.m. Why couldn't TAP have built their proposal for the Hill elsewhere in downtown or Marva could have built her proposal for the Edge site on one of the many other empty lots downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. I'm really not sure the TAP proposal for The Hill would have worked elsewhere. Also, these projects assume a discounted Urban Renewal price for land....
Nick 11:03 a.m. Too late for changes to the school design or are we stuck with it?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. I don't think we're stuck with it.
Nick 11:04 a.m. Steve, you're such a tease. Just share some details with us!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Not trying to tease! I promise, I report to you as soon as I can! Don't hate me!
Nick 11:04 a.m. How likely are we to see housing on top of the new Main St. garage? There was a RFP, yes?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Yes, I've been so busy this week, I forgot - Urban Renewal is looking at doing an RFP for housing atop the new garage.
Guest 11:05 a.m. now that the Old I-40 is almost completely torn down, how soon before the new Boulevard construction begins?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Soon. But the debate over the elevation has yet to be settled.
Nick 11:05 a.m. Ahh, the Urban Renewal price. Well, that's unfortunate.
Klint 11:05 a.m. I wish Automobile Alley had more housing options. Any chance of that happening?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. In limited amounts, sure.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. Guys, I've got to say goodbye now. I still have a lot of writing to get done for the weekend. Have a great day!
Nick 11:06 a.m. I really would like to see a highrise on the 4th and Gaylord/Shields/Broadway/whatever other names it has.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. Sounds good Nick!
Nick 11:06 a.m. Thanks Steve! Have a great one!
by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author 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...
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