A downtown housing boom is underway with more than 1,000 apartments set to be built this next year.
For civic leaders and planners, such an influx of residents represents a big step toward creating a 21st century-downtown and the chance to show grocers and other retailers it's safe to set up shop.
But with at least four announced projects in Bricktown, Deep Deuce and Midtown, this progress comes with a cost to those who have already made downtown their home.
Residents at the Brownstones at Maywood Park were already familiar with 4 a.m. concrete pours that took place last year with the Maywood Apartments. Now those residents, joined by neighbors at the 2nd Street Lofts and the Level Apartments, are getting awaked again by concrete trucks pouring the foundation for the Mosaic Apartments along Oklahoma Avenue between NE 2 and NE 3.
Residents have shied away from wanting to be named complaining about such construction. They support the development — but they're pleading to have the trucks arrive later in the morning.
If these crews arrived after 7 a.m., residents might greet them with free cups of coffee and doughnuts.
Developers like Richard McKown, who owns Level and is building Mosaic, find themselves in a tough position. McKown has long sought to help make Deep Deuce the first truly mixed-use downtown neighborhood in Oklahoma. He's attended conferences and visited downtowns across the country seeking to learn more about modern urban development.
McKown designed Level to include a small grocery and then spent months wooing Native Roots to take a shot at the unproven downtown market.
Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, herself a downtown resident, is among those questioning whether 4 a.m. concrete pours are necessary. McKown, hit with complaints after two days of these pours over the weekend, asked the same question of his contractors.
Their answer matched what I've been told by other developers and contractors: downtown residential development is not without pain.
If residents at the Brownstones lived outside of downtown, city ordinances would prohibit such noise. But downtown, where big concrete pours are far more likely, is exempted.
One might argue the exemptions were written when people didn't live downtown. But contractors and developers respond that they really have no choice.
Consider that on Mosaic, the foundation and garage level require 900 yards of concrete being delivered by 90 trucks. To get the job done properly, the trucks arrive at 4 a.m. to get the pour done and properly set before nightfall.
The darker it is as the concrete sets, contractors argue, the odds of flaws and cracks increase.
Another developer I've spoken to suggested that if the city required such pours to occur later in the day, costs can climb by millions of dollars — a potential deal killer.
For folks living near Mosaic, the pre-dawn pours are set to continue for seven more days. They will, however, eventually face a couple more developments in the area with similar inconveniences — housing someday at NE 3 and Walnut and the second phase of the Maywood Apartments set to be built this next year at NE 4 and Walnut.
But when that work is done, Deep Deuce will be a “complete” neighborhood. The payoff is already in sight, with grocers, drugstores and other desired retailers now giving far more attention to downtown than they have to date.
The cost of progress downtown involves some bad mornings for residents, but for Deep Deuce, the end is in sight. Midtown, however, is just getting started. My advice: buy earplugs.