A controversial development that would have added surface parking along the Bricktown Canal is being scrapped, and the property is for sale.
Chris Johnson, owner of USA Screen Printing, struggled over his plans with the Bricktown Urban Design Committee for four months last year before members narrowly approved the project under city attorneys' advisement they couldn't block construction of parking along the waterway.
Johnson's plans called for the creation of parking lots on both sides of the canal just west of Mickey Mantle Drive. The site also was to include 30,000 square feet of retail split among two buildings on each side of the waterway, with the largest continuous space to be located under a street-level parking deck across from the JDM Building.
During the discussions, Johnson was accompanied by attorneys and court reporters, and he frequently indicated he was eager to start construction.
But at a meeting of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee in June, he confirmed the project was on hold due to discussions under way with other potential developers.
Johnson could not be reached for comment Thursday.
But Don Hayes, whose Hayes Brokerage has the properties listed for sale for $3.5 million, confirmed that Johnson no longer plans to move ahead with the west half of the development. He said Johnson may still proceed with the east half of the project facing Mickey Mantle Drive at a future date.
Hayes said Johnson is willing to sell part or all of the property, or entertain development partners. The site spans 52,721 square feet or 1.2 acres.
Johnson bought the property in 2011 for $2.4 million, nine years after he told the Oklahoma City Council he planned to buy the site to build a $5.5 million, 70-room, three-story hotel that would cross the canal. But he did not proceed with those original plans.
During that nine-year period, residents were tantalized with the prospect of a 12-story residential tower pitched by Gary Cotton, who bought the land from Jim Brewer for $1.475 million when the original Johnson deal didn't materialize. Cotton, however, couldn't get his $36 million development financed, so he sold it to Johnson after failing to sell the land at a public auction.
Johnson's scaled-down proposal of surface parking along the canal with two two-story buildings on each side of the canal was met with criticism from the public and from members of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee.
Tom Wilson, an architect whose firm drew up plans for the Cotton project and who was on the design committee that fought Johnson's proposal, said Thursday the city's planning department is working on revised ordinances that would create more restrictions on parking along the canal.
Wilson called Johnson's proposal “a travesty” because of its lack of density and the plans for canal-side parking. He said he wondered how such a small development could be financed with the high cost of the land when it was bought by Johnson. He said Cotton's development, with the land cost spread over more square footage, wasn't able to wasn't able to maintain a proper cash flow.
“My sense is he (Johnson) had the opportunity to get it priced out and he couldn't make his project work,” Wilson said Thursday.