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Busy Months Ahead

by Steve Lackmeyer Published: August 27, 2009

The economy has crashed, the recession has hit Oklahoma and we’ve discovered Oklahoma City is not “recession proof.”

So where does that leave us in terms of downtown development?

- Hotels: This time last year we were looking at the addition of up to six hotels in and around downtown. Now that number is down t0 two. The Embassy Suites for the Oklahoma Health Center is a bit scaled down from what was initially proposed, but is on track to be be built this fall. Developers of the Candlewood Inn & Suites at Lincoln and Sheridan, meanwhile, need only to overcome bureacracy at ODOT to get their project started.

- Downtown housing. With banks still frozen on lending, everything is pretty much on hold though surprisingly enough there does seem to be some effort to add more apartments in Bricktown and MidTown. The next immediate influx of new rental housing will come with completion of Hadden Hall and the Kline Hotel by Bob Howard and Mickey Clagg along NW 10.

- Retail. Another surprise: it’s not dead at all. Maybe the property owners are sobering up and getting more realistic in their rent expectations. We have more retail in Bricktown and Automobile Alley today than we did two years ago. But expect some disagreements ahead as some power players try to steer retail away from Bricktown and into Automobile Alley.

- Downtown school: Yep, it’s still out there. And where it gets located could have significant impact on downtown’s future development.

- Upscale market: I don’t see one locating downtown in the foreseeable future. But I do see one locating within 10 minutes of downtown within the next two years.

- DEVON, DEVON, DEVON, DEVON, DEVON. A 50-story tower, a New York Times style auditorium, a massive rebuilding of downtown streets (get ready to feel the pain), a massive makeover of the Myriad Gardens and more.  The average person in this city has no idea as to how much all this will change downtown. I said before and I will say it again: the Devon TIF package alone will have almost as much impact on downtown as the original MAPS did.

- New events. The new events being discussed for downtown could be game changes in terms of image and branding.

And now, for the dangers lurking ahead:

- Arrogance. A great track record has been set by City Hall and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. But plenty of people close to the action worry that arrogance has set in and the grassroots concensus building of the past has been cast aside. Could this sort of vibe kill the chances of a MAPS 3 ballot? And if it were to fail, how big of a loss would that be to future efforts to improve not just downtown, but all of Oklahoma City?

- Power struggles. Enough said. See above.

- Maintaining momentum of the existing downtown. Can Core to Shore be launched without slowing development of the rest of downtown. Can we make a good downtown bigger while also making a good downtown great? Or is it an either/or proposition?

Now, go forth and talk amonst yourselves….

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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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