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Economy slows downtown growth plans

by Steve Lackmeyer Published: September 16, 2008
The shaky national economy has in some cases slowed but not stopped development downtown.

Certainly, the banking crisis is being felt. One major Oklahoma bank was quietly looking at opening new offices downtown and has put those plans on hold.

Developer Judy Hatfield, meanwhile, found herself having to secure eight presales for her conversion of the former downtown library into condominiums as an additional financing requirement for the project. Likewise, Grant Humphreys had to delay construction of The Flatiron from July to hopefully next month. He, too, faced tougher financing requirements for a project that's set to include housing, offices and retail.

And at least one project, a previously announced 12-story "Cotton Exchange” housing and retail development along the Bricktown Canal is in limbo. Developer Gary Cotton already confirmed the project will be smaller than first planned because of financing difficulty.

Still moving forward
If all this is amounting to a yellow light on moving forward, it hasn't slowed downtown's overall momentum.

For Hassan Daneshmand, owner of Italian Express at First National Center, the problem these days is too much business for his tiny restaurant. Just a few years ago, he could have easily found bigger spaces nearby. But that's no longer the case, and even if he wanted to move, good options are limited.

Jim Glover and Dan Corder, owners of the Ground Floor Cafe at Leadership Square, are pretty happy, as well. They've seen a sharp spike in business, especially with catering where the sound of "thunder” at Leadership Square is welcomed by Glover and Corder.

Thunder booms into town
And one of the last great street-level storefronts along Park Avenue was taken up by the NBA Thunder's new team store.

Office vacancy is down to 23 percent — the best since the oil boom of the early 1980s.

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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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