The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&As on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Read the complete chat transcript here.
When is the scheduled opening date for the Aloft?
With changes recently approved for the facade, I suspect it's back on track for an opening later this year.
Did you get any great scoops from the people on the trip to Kansas City?
I'd say I gained a better understanding of the people on the trip, their ideas, their ambitions for our city, how they think. I also learned a lot about Kansas City's influence on Oklahoma City and what we can still learn from our neighbor to the north.
Can you tell us more about what might happen on the south side of Sheridan between, Joe Carter and Lincoln?
We know that part of the property has been purchased for a couple million dollars by the owners of the Wormy Dog Saloon, which is widely considered to be one of Bricktown's leading live music venues. Expect them to develop their property into a greatly enhanced live music and entertainment complex. As for the southeastern portion, it was bought by an individual who planned to build hotels on the site, but I am seeing no evidence that this development is progressing.
What is the deal with the UHaul Building in Bricktown?
There's a beautiful building hiding under that aluminum siding.
I've been inside the building. The casement windows are intact. The wood floors are intact. This building could easily be adapted and restored to its original appearance. Developers have attempted deals on numerous occasions. So far, the U-Haul folks have not been willing, for whatever reason, to make it happen.
Is the Dowell Center Tower leased or empty? What is the status of that building?
Rick Dowell moves at his own pace. He gets his projects finished, but it's on his timeline. To his credit, he took a building that would have remained hopeless under other ownership and cleaned up a lot of problems. Dowell Center, which was previously known as the Midland Mortgage building and also was once home to Kerr-McGee, is actually two buildings combined into one. The west half was originally known as the Petroleum Building.
We may be thankful in the end that Dowell has taken his time finishing this project. He was looking at reopening it as office space. But maybe, just maybe, he'll eventually see that it could be far more successful as housing - which could be a game changer for the central business district.
What's the latest on the Embassy Suites for the HSC? Are we going to get some changes to the site plan?
It looks like construction may finally start on the Embassy Suites in the Oklahoma Health Center this summer. But there may still be some design tweaks requested by the Urban Renewal Authority.
Is there any hope for development of the old Rainbow Record store on 23rd and Classen and the buildings to the north and west of it?
It sure would be nice. But there isn't a lot of parking for the property.
There appears to be some sort of work going on on the south side of St. Anthony hospital. Any ideas what it is?
Yep. They're starting work on the $53 million expansion that will include structured parking and a new ICU and Emergency Room.
When can we see more safe parking available for the area of NW 16th and Blackwelder?
The Plaza District is aware that parking has become an issue. They recently experimented with rickshaws to help ease the situation.