The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&As on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Read the complete chat transcript here.
Biggest predictions for the coming year for Western Business District? For Paseo? For Plaza?
Western Business District: buckle up, play it safe. Tough times are ahead with ongoing challenges, belt tightening taking place at the area's biggest employer, Chesapeake Energy. Paseo: slow, steady ongoing improvement with increased pedestrian connections taking place with redevelopment of nearby NW 23. The 16th Street Plaza District: stay funky, but pay close attention to the parking situation. It's starting to get painful.
What is the history behind the building The Oklahoman will be moving into?
The Sheraton Century Center Hotel (now just known as the Sheraton Hotel) and Century Center Mall were developed concurrently and really represented the only hotel and retail ever built during the heyday of downtown Oklahoma City’s original Urban Renewal era of the 1960s and 1970s.
The hotel opened with great fanfare in 1977, but the mall lingered for a couple of years even though the shell itself was done at the same time as the hotel. But in a city that seemed to spend 25 years chasing an elusive downtown Galleria, Century Center didn’t fare as badly might believe – at least not at first.
By the early 1980s, the mall was home to an F.A.O. Schwartz toy store, a newsstand, gift shop, clothing stores, jewelry store, restaurants, a fitness center and offices.
The Century Center Mall was pretty much doomed from the start and most would say it's an example of failed urban planning in the 1970s that dictated old retail had to go and be replaced by the same cookie-cutter style retail centers taking root in the suburbs.
The mall also suffered from what many would say was a bad design that pretty much ignored the street. If you were driving past the mall, you couldn’t really tell what was going on inside. Add in a devastating oil bust starting in the mid-1980s, and the mall’s days were numbered. Starting in the early 1990s, it was pretty much empty and remains so today.
The Wormy Dog relocation to the east side of Bricktown seems like a significant development, particularly with the retail component and the number of hotels planned. How important is this move to Bricktown entertainment?
A lot is yet to be seen with the Wormy Dog redevelopment. Certainly the price, $2.4 million, would indicate they are looking at a project that is far more ambitious than the Wormy Dog currently operating a block to the west. Dream up your ideal vision of how such a venue might be developed; it could be very cool for Bricktown. But let's wait and see what happens.
With the success of Kitchen 324, will we see more dining options downtown open during the weekend?
Good Egg Dining has a hit on its hands Kitchen No. 324. As I wrote in last week’s OKC Central column, owners Keith and Heather Paul have broken all the rules: they dared to open a restaurant in the central business district with no parking, no big visitor draws nearby, and expected to have customers on the weekends. And they are drawing a full house every Saturday and Sunday, open to close. I can’t imagine restaurant operators aren’t watching this development. But will they match the Pauls in terms of taking such a big risk?
With the lack of parking in the downtown OKC area, do you see the growth of downtown being hindered due to no place for people to park?
Hard to say. More garages are being built. And a lot of hope is riding on the MAPS 3 streetcar system restructuring how downtown flows. But right now? Yeah, it's an issue.