The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in his OKC Central Chat today. You can join the OKC Central Chat on Fridays at 10:00 a.m on NewsOK.com/Business. Here's a recap of the Q&A about downtown OKC businesses and development.
ON THE DOWNTOWN ‘MYSTERY TOWER’ AND THE STAGE CENTER SITE:
As I sat here enjoying my Kamp's coffee, I thought we shouldn't waste any time by just killing two birds with one stone, what's the latest on Mystery Tower? Now you can say there's nothing new and we can get the repeat questions started.
I believe an announcement will occur within the next 30 days.
Question about who is going to build an office tower downtown ... just kidding. With all the speculation about the Stage Center site, how would a redevelopment of it affect the Arts Festival?
Redevelopment of the Stage Center site could very well have a significant impact on the annual Festival of the Arts. I cannot say whether the bid now under consideration by the owner of Stage Center, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, calls for incorporation of the surrounding arts plaza and properties. But I can say that at least one of the original proposals did require clearance of the entire block. Don't be surprised if that ends up to be the case with the winning bid as well. The good news is that the Myriad Gardens, revamped as part of Project 180, is much better suited to incorporate more of the festival than it was in prior years. Of course, we could see an entirely different outcome where Stage Center stays in place. But that would be a big surprise to me.
Here’s an obligatory mystery tower question (shocking, I know). We've all assumed the mystery tower will be a new corporate headquarters, but is that the case? Can you tell us if the proposed tower will be used for a single company, multiple tenants, or might even contain some mixed use retail or residential component?
All such details will be reported when the story is ready for prime time, Matt!
Since you haven't been able to divulge the name of the company that seems to be bidding on the Stage Center site, what can you tell us about OG&E's expansion? Are they looking to consolidate operations downtown? Can you report on a company that is already here and is already located downtown with Enogex?
When I have something that is ready for prime time to report, I promise I will do so.
Is there a deadline on when the Stage Center offers and concepts are due? I heard they have narrowed it down to 3-5 different developments.
Negotiations are under way with a single party.
The Stage Center site we now know is confirmed as the mystery tower site, is there a possibility that this could be a spec tower or do you feel it is a corporate headquarters of some kind. Thanks
A purely spec office tower? Not so sure about that. I'm feeling feisty this morning. So let me throw one back at you that will get your heads spinning ... You keep referring to Stage Center as "the mystery tower site." How do you know it's not just "one of the mystery tower sites"? (Heads are now exploding at OKC Talk.)
So the first tower announcement is likely to occur within the next 30 days ... how about the next one? Is there a second one that is firm enough for you to think that we might have another announcement before the end of the year?
Do you see a residential tower in our future? NEAR FUTURE!
Rick Dowell has long planned to build such a tower at NW 5 and Walker. He's started work on the garage expansion, and once that's done, he's long said completion of the old Midland Mortgage building follows, with the apartment tower the final component of his plan. But is that in the near future? Mr. Dowell follows his own timetable.
A few days ago you hinted (at least that is how I took it) that there were an idea floating about to build 1,000 housing units in the downtown and/or downtown adjacent area. Was it really a hint, and if so, would it be 1,000 units in one location or spread out across the area? Or is my imagination just creating things out of thin air?
There's been some talk of a developer building a very dense apartment complex of such magnitude, but I can't say it's very serious. But even the suggestion of such an expansion has triggered some questioning about how much is too much.
If you were to guess how many new towers would be built in the next two years, what would be your number?
Next two years? They might start one.
Stage Center: when you say 'the entire block' do you mean California to Sheridan? Or south to Reno, as well?
It could go either way.
ON BRICKTOWN AND DEEP DEUCE DEVELOPMENTS:
With the renovation of the top three floors of the Mercantile building, the new Holiday Inn Express and the renovation of the Sherman Iron Works building, do you see the large parking lot north of Main street being redeveloped to tie BT and DD together?
Everyone wants to see a better connection between Deep Deuce and Bricktown, but the sharp drop in elevation just north of the Main Street parking lot makes it difficult. The challenge is exacerbated by the existence of dormant Union Pacific railway tracks that the railroad wants left in place and won't allow to be bridged over. Don't be surprised, however, if the parking lot is developed someday into structured parking.
Who owns the property south of NE 4th between Oklahoma and Walnut in DD and are there any plans for that area?
Steve I believe that land is owned by Ron Bradshaw, if I'm picturing it correctly, and is slated for the next phase of the 4th Street Apartments.
Do you see the Brewers being more proactive with the development of their Bricktown property now Switch momentum in hotel and residential projects in BT? Also, is the Coca Cola center dead with the potential Wormy Dog development?
The Brewers are actively trying to develop their properties. As for the Event Center — it's already up and running, the new Wormy Dog venue is not. And I am aware that the Brewers have always enjoyed the entertainment/concert side of their enterprise, and I wouldn't be surprised if they upgrade their venue to be more competitive with whatever is attempted by the Wormy Dog.
The article that came out Wednesday about numerous planned projects lists $750k for sprucing up BT and $2.25 mil for parking garage renovations. Can you get us more detail on this, what it will improve, etc.?
Bricktown has long been a net contributor to the tax increment financing district. Until the recent application by the owners of the Mideke building, we've not really seen any successful draws from the increment fund for development in the entertainment district.
The city is acknowledging this net contribution status by moving forward with a plan to tap into the fund to build sidewalks where none exist, improve landscaping (hopefully starting with the dying trees along Reno Avenue on the south side of the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark), and add lighting where needed. The $2.25 million is for renovations needed to mechanical systems and structural repairs at the Santa Fe and Century Center garages.
Can you clarify why the Aloft Hotel requested the switch in materials for parts of their facade?
Jim Thompson was attempting to build a high quality Aloft hotel. He designed it as a permanent addition, heavy on the use of concrete, foregoing the use of more disposable materials we often see attempted with limited service hotels.
Construction on the Aloft began at a time when the market was still in bad shape from the Great Recession. And Thompson wasn't the only developer who was benefiting from low bids submitted by desperate contractors located in Texas.
I am told the concrete contractor who worked on Level across the street was running on fumes as the company finished up that project and began work on the Aloft. The company, I am told, went bankrupt after finishing Level and only getting started on the Aloft. This led to very costly delays on the Aloft as Thompson reassembled the workers and hired them to finish the job.
In the world of business performs and financing, a difference of a few months in the opening of a hotel can be horrible to the bottom line. He needs to make up lost time, and the granite proposed for the first floor is a slower means of construction. Thompson is attempting to make up lost time by substituting the granite with a material some might confuse with synthetic stucco, but it’s not the synthetic stucco we are used to.
It's been proven to be extremely durable, and Thompson is hoping to win approval by the Downtown Design Review Committee with the argument he believes it will be just as attractive as the granite. The material goes up much quicker than granite.
The committee deferred a decision on this matter until they can see and study the proposed new material. Everyone I've talked to believes this is not a "bait and switch," but rather an unfortunate fallout from the hardships we've seen with the economy the past few years. I have seen nothing to indicate this is a bait-and-switch.
Will there be a carousel built in Bricktown in the near future?
The idea of a carousel in Bricktown was floated a few years ago by folks who really didn't have much of a plan as to how to make it a reality. But how is this for an idea? Why not buy the Ferris wheel the Humphreys family obtained a few years ago, also buy a carousel, and place them as the center of the new Core to Shore park.
I tried contacting the ballpark management about replacing the trees on the south side of the stadium, but I have yet to receive any sort of response. Who would be a good contact for a second attempt?
Call your city councilman.
I looked inside the former Sage in Deep Deuce and saw the inside has been stripped to the walls in the old dining area. Any news on a new dining spot there?
The space was slated to be a Le Cep French bistro. But then that deal fell through, and I am now hearing it will be home to a cigar lounge, similar to the much missed Makers in Bricktown.
I'm sure she has her hands full with the recently announced apartments project, but would Marva Ellard take a stab at the Spaghetti Warehouse building's vacant upper floors? Her work has been amazing and I think she could turn that building around.
Marva Ellard is one of several developers who would love to take a shot at the Spaghetti Warehouse. But the property's owners have so far been unwilling to entertain any deals.
I had high hopes for the Brewers in terms of developing their properties, but they've really let me down. They're holding out on the city for the Santa Fe Depot and their BT holdings haven't really improved any.
Compare the Hunzicker Brothers building five years ago to how it looks today. Give the Brewers some credit ... it's far more built out than it was.
Has there been any interest for the OCURA lots in DD? If so, anything you can share?
Yeah. But it's nothing I can report yet.
Fantastic info on the Aloft material change — thank you for adding some background and perspective. Any news on what might be going in to the old Coach's spot at the ballpark? I pray not an Applebee’s.
No, I don't have any other info.
Coaches is gone? When did this happen?
A couple months ago.
Pete (of OKCTalk) is saying there have been demolition permits issued for the metal buildings on the site of East Bricktown development. I take it this means things are progressing well, albeit very slowly, with this development?
Yes, I've reported demo permits are issued ... but it may be a few weeks before it starts.
Do you know anything about the permit for parking somewhere near Union Station? Is it for construction related to the Central Park?
I'll look into it.
What's up with the wonky LED lights on the Devon Tower? They going to fix that?
The LED lighting is being tweaked and worked on ... obviously it's taking longer than Devon would like to get fully functional.
How many small companies have moved to downtown OKC from other states over the past three years?
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