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.
Which neighborhood near downtown will be the next one to undergo a major transformation?
Farmer's Market. It has a solid stable anchor, unlike Uptown, where the anchors are dark and the ancillary properties are what are bringing life to the stretch. The hard work is done in Farmer's Market. It's got great ancillary building stock just waiting to be redeveloped into offices, shops, bars, restaurants and housing. It's only missing the visionaries.
What is the timeline for the city's new central park? When are they going to destroy the Original Film Exchange Buildings?
I believe most if not all of the properties have been acquired for the new park. Mayor Mick Cornett was pushing very hard for the park to open in 2014. I seriously doubt this will happen.
First consider that access will be choked off while the downtown boulevard is under construction, and work on the road has been delayed for months while the redesign is being reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation last fall suggested they might be able to resume work on the boulevard by this winter. Don't be surprised if that timeline falls back even further as the feds look at a new option that calls for no middle segment of the boulevard, and instead a recreation of the original street grid.
Finally, construction got started late on a new campus for the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army's current home is in the middle of the park, and the park can not open until the Salvation Army campus is complete. So, even in a perfect world, it's difficult to see how the park construction begins before mid-2014.
As for the demolition of the original Film Exchange Building, I suspect it's not long for this world.
When can we expect the UCO boathouse to break ground?
We're looking at either later this year or early next year.
When do you think a high rise residential tower will be built?
Within five to 10 years of the new Core to Shore park opening.
With large plots of available land getting scarcer, do you think we will see mid-rise or high-rise residential or mixed use developments in the near future?
Downtown will see mid-rise and high-rise housing. Downtown also will see redevelopment spread into Core to Shore, where there is a lot of vacant land, and increasingly in to MidTown, and eventually into the area south of Film Row and surrounding Farmers Public Market. If trends continue, our definition of downtown will span Western Avenue to the Oklahoma River to NW 13 to Lincoln Boulevard.
Has the space that Devon left in the Chase Tower been filled?
Some of the space at Chase has been filled, and the rest of it would be filled if not for scarcity of parking. This is why the city is eager to support Don Karchmer's garage proposal for Main Street, which is being opposed by rail transit advocates who insist the property be kept clear in case it's needed for a spur for regional commuter rail or high-speed rail. First National Tower is a different situation, though it's not hopeless. There are a lot of upgrade and ownership issues to overcome.
Is the Tower Theater the key to completing the revival of 23rd Street?
The Tower Theater and now the Gold Dome are the two missing key pieces to making Uptown a complete district. It's like the central business district with a dark Skirvin, or Deep Deuce with a boarded up Littlepage building, or Midtown with a darkened, closed Plaza Court. You have to have these properties revived and occupied for the districts to truly click.