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Downtown Tulsa transformation is under way

OKC Central columnist Steve Lackmeyer says a visit to Tulsa shows that city is overcoming obstacles to redevelop its downtown area.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: May 8, 2012

Eight years ago, a mysterious pair of investors — Henry Kaufman and Maurice Kanbar — swept into Tulsa and bought one-third of downtown. Hints of an ambitious makeover of their properties faded, however, as the two longtime friends and business partners ended up battling each other in a nasty court fight.

Imagine such a scenario in Oklahoma City — one that had the effect of freezing redevelopment of one-third of our downtown. Would Oklahoma City be enjoying the renaissance we see today with such adversity?

After a two-year absence, I made a return visit to downtown Tulsa over the weekend. Progress in redeveloping the downtown, in light of odds not facing Oklahoma City, is impressive.

What I saw matched up well with a glowing report released in March by the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce that estimated downtown's development totaled $386 million since 2009. That figure, by the way, does not include the $250 million BOK Center, which is a Mercedes-class arena design compared to Oklahoma City's respectable, but not glitzy, Chesapeake Energy Arena.

While downtown Oklahoma City is about to see the opening of its first small boutique grocery with Native Roots Market in Deep Deuce, downtown Tulsa is celebrating the opening of not one but two groceries.

Downtown Oklahoma City enthusiasts, meanwhile, might ask why we have yet to see the sort of urban infill housing development in Bricktown that has taken place with the five-story Metro at Brady in Tulsa's Brady District. The housing, along with a new park and other noticeable improvements, has turned a district I once saw as a wannabe Bricktown into a distinct neighborhood of its own.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author 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...
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