Organizers of last week’s first "State of Bricktown” seemed to go out of their way to reinforce questions I threw at them regarding the impression the district makes on visitors. Mayor Mick Cornett, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and first lady Kim Henry all spoke on how important the area is to the city and state’s image regionally and nationally.
If you could sum up last week’s questions, they come down to this: Have the property owners shown the same pride and investment demonstrated by city taxpayers who have spent upwards of $80 million to make Bricktown a top notch destination?
Let’s welcome Jim Cowan, director of the Bricktown Association, to the hot seat. He correctly points out that feedback is good from convention planners, Big 12 basketball fans, regional and national media. But he also admits Bricktown is a work in progress and "to grow long-term, we must get better.”
"Of the 11 buildings on the north part of the canal, seven of them are in great condition and two others are currently under renovation,” Cowan said. "The last two could use some cosmetic improvements, and I will ask both owners to consider what could be done.”
Leasing is top priority
Here’s what I saw: wads of used chewing gum and boarded up windows on the old Hunzicker Lighting building; boarded up windows on the Rock Island Plow building (owned by Phil and Avis Scaramucci, who to be fair, spent a fortune to keep the building standing); sandbags at the canal level of the Oklahoma Hardware Building and broken windows at 19 E California.
The two buildings under renovation mentioned by Cowan are immediately west of Zio’s.
Cowan promises leasing of empty space along the canal is a top priority with a consultant’s land use study coming out in a couple months and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber helping to create a retail brochure for the district.