veloper Randy Hogan fought off legal and political challenges by an unsuccessful rival for more than five years before he was able to start construction along the south part of the canal.
The resulting development, Lower Bricktown, has more offices than originally planned and has little resemblance to early renderings. The area does have the mix first pitched by Hogan — a theater, entertainment venues, shops, restaurants and condominiums.
Several buildings remain boarded up and some key lots remain undeveloped. And for every long-term success story — Mickey Mantle Steakhouse, Chelino’s, Bourbon Street Cafe, Zio’s, Maker’s and Hooters, dozens of failed restaurants and shops have come and gone.
"The public side of the canal is outstanding,” Humphreys said. "On the private side, there have been hits and misses. I don’t think it’s a good use of land to have surface parking on canal frontage. It’s some of the best land in Oklahoma City, and that’s not the highest and best use.”
Hogan and the Brewer family are the only owners of canal-side parking. Hogan was permitted to build his canal-side parking by the Urban Renewal Authority, which oversaw the development of the Lower Bricktown area.
Cowan agrees that despite plenty of success stories, he had hoped to see more development after 10 years. He blames speculation and property owners who, not knowing what to do, thought sitting and doing nothing would simply result in increased property values.
In response, Cowan said the Bricktown Association is working with a master plan consultant and has developed a retail recruitment brochure in an effort to bring more diversity into the area.
"It’s less than I expected, but I’m encouraged that in a couple years, it may become a lot more than I ever expected,” Cowan said. "It’s very encouraging we’ve had two businesses open up in the past week — one on the canal (Coyote Ugly), one just barely off the canal (The Bricktown Candy Co.). That shows there is still a strong interest among entrepreneurs to be on the canal.”