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New public parking cited as downtown challenge

BY STEVE LACKMEYER Published: July 17, 2011

As president of the newly formed Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, Cathy O'Connor is tasked with addressing some of the toughest challenges impeding continued development of downtown and the city at large.

O'Connor sees two big challenges ahead for downtown: the need for new public parking and an uncertain future with First National Center.

O'Connor notes workers with Continental Resources and Enogex, along with SandRidge's growing workforce, will quickly absorb the space left behind at the Santa Fe Garage by Devon employees when they move to the expanded City Center West garage at Park and Hudson Avenues.

“That's why COTPA (Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority) is doing a study now that we're hoping to wrap up soon,” O'Connor said. “It's time to find new locations for parking garages, which I don't think anyone thought would happen as soon as it has.”

That study leads to the final two challenges facing downtown as its office market continues to grow. O'Connor admits large empty blocks suitable for new buildings or garages, once sadly abundant just a decade ago, are hard to find in the downtown core.

The final unresolved matter is First National Center, which remains tied up in bankruptcy with a notable uptick in ground floor retail vacancies this past year.

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