The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer and special guest Richard McKown, developer of Level in Deep Deuce, 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.
What do you think needs to happen to further "enliven" Film Row?
Steve: DeadCENTER Film Festival needs to grow into something larger than it is now... as to what that can be, I don't know. But the potential is huge. I'd place my bets with Lance McDaniel and DeadCENTER to make Film Row magical.
What considerations are taken when determining the style and quality of construction of your projects when evaluating the balance between short term (profitable soon) and long term (what the buildings will look like in 30 or 50 years)?
Richard: That's a good question. The thing that very few people realize is buildings become more complex with the single family home being least complex and the multi-family high-rise being most complex. The fundamental cost of construction goes up with complexity.
Our ambition has been to build timeless buildings that will not look dated or out of fashion 50 years from now. We follow strong principles of form follows function. And if you look back through solid architecture in great cities you'll find that buildings hold their value and architectural integrity when they are built on solid principles of form follows function.
Everything about Level is in the language of durable materials that can be repaired and replaced with normal wear and tear on a building in order to keep it feeling like a wonderful place to live. We designed out many of the problems that you see in large buildings. For example, had the hallways been closed up and carpeted, it would feel pretty worn out in a few years. But the open air corridors bring light and fresh air, polished concrete floors, are easily kept in good shape.
We think a lot about the ability to maintain the building a tremendous number of years. But with every project, there is a breaking point at which you could add gold trim, but it loses all feasibility. So it's neither short term nor long term. All of us who are building downtown are working on substantially smaller margins than buildings being built on the suburban fringe. And that is true whether you're talking about apartments, housing, office buildings or hotels.
But the reason to build downtown is because you believe in the city. You believe that the city will continue to hold its value and continue to become a more and more wonderful place. Whereas with a suburban apartment complex, you simply can not create a sense of place. You can't walk to work. So the city and it's inherent location has greater stable value over time.
And even though we're working for a smaller margin, we believe that over time the building will maintain its value better than a suburban property.
Is Level West still on track to begin construction this summer?
Richard: Yes, Mosiac, aka Level West, will be breaking ground the week after the Fourth of July holiday. Of course, we don't necessarily put a shovel in the ground the first day of work. But a construction trailer has been ordered.
It seems like all the apartments in the Deep Deuce area are at capacity and the ones being built will probably be filled up before they open. At what point do you think the supply will outweigh the demand? Have there been studies to show what the demand is for rental units near downtown?
Richard: It's a game of musical chairs. You don't want to be the guy standing when the music stops. The thing that is impossible to predict is job growth and opportunity in Oklahoma City. So if Oklahoma City continues to attract the best and the brightest to bring their talent and treasure and invest in our city, then the demand will continue to grow. If we give up and settle to become an average city that stops investing in its core, then we will be back in the brain drain of 20 years ago. And the demand will disappear. I believe in Oklahoma City. I believe in the leadership of Oklahoma City. I believe in a leadership that has been visionary in investing in the city's identity. I believe we need to rally around that leadership and keep all the boats afloat.
What kind of street level interaction can we expect for the Mosaic project? What is next for your group?
Richard: Mosaic has very little street frontage on Oklahoma Avenue. But we have gone to great length to activate the frontage we already have with retail space that envisions maybe a coffee shop but it could be good for a small bar or deli. Not a full kitchen restaurant. It's way to small and doesn't have that kind of ventilation. But we want it to be a community gathering place more than a nail salon.
What is the probability that the new GE Research Center will be located downtown?
Steve: It might land in the Oklahoma Health Center on the east edge of downtown. But don't be shocked if Oklahoma City loses out to Norman.