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Change ahead as largest shopping center in Oklahoma City's Plaza District is acquired by familiar name

Steve Mason, who developed part of Automobile Alley, has bought an active retail area in the Plaza District in Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: May 22, 2014


photo - Developer Steve Mason and Kristen Vails , executive director of the Plaza District Association, discuss Mason’s acquistion of the Plaza Shopping Center as they walk past some of its tenants on Thursday.  Photos by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman  PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND - 
PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND
Developer Steve Mason and Kristen Vails , executive director of the Plaza District Association, discuss Mason’s acquistion of the Plaza Shopping Center as they walk past some of its tenants on Thursday. Photos by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND - PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND

Kristen Vails swears she had no conspiracy to lure Steve Mason into investing in the 16th Street Plaza District when her organization awarded the Automobile Alley developer with the 2010 Urban Pioneer Award.

The Plaza District Association was still struggling to establish the district as a home for the creative class and was still lacking for restaurants. Mason, meanwhile, had revitalized the 1000 block of Broadway and a blighted stretch just east of Broadway into a mix of offices, restaurants and shops.

“That started our relationship,” Vails said. “He learned more about our district, got interested and started coming to our events.”

Mason joined with Aimee Ahpeatone in tackling two of the most challenged properties on the strip — a used mattress store and a run-down laundry. Those buildings are now home to DNA Galleries, Pie Junkie and Empire Slice House. Earlier this month, Mason added the district’s largest shopping center — 27,000 square feet along the north side of NW 16 — for $2.2 million from its longtime owner Charlie Shadid.

The shopping center just east of Indiana Avenue includes notable tenants Bad Granny’s Bazaar, Dig It and Urban Wine Works. The transaction also included a sports bar at 1708 N Indiana Ave.

“It’s been a very active four years,” Mason said. “In that time, we’ve seen restaurants open, including The Mule, Pie Junkie, Urban Wine Works and Empire Slice House. We’ve seen those places and others like DNA and the Guatemalan restaurant (Antojitos Guatemaltecos) all improve the district.”

Making fixes

Mason’s immediate plans are to start long-delayed repairs and an overhaul of the shopping center’s heating and air conditioning systems. Rachel Cope, who owns Empire Slice House at the former coin-operated laundry, predicts existing shopping center tenants will be pleasantly surprised with how Mason develops and manages the property.

“I sought him out,” Cope said. “I had been looking for a space to do a project in for a while, and I couldn’t find a place that fit the character we wanted,” Cope said.

“I heard that in the Plaza District they had a website up called Popularize that they were doing a contest with for this space.”

Cope was largely unfamiliar with the Plaza District. But she fell in love with the former laundry space and pitched a business plan to Mason.

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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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