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OKC Central Chat transcript, April 26, 2013

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: April 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm •  Published: April 26, 2013

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. Good morning - let's get started.
Gary T 10:01 a.m. Good morning Steve! What are your thoughts on the new proposed layout of the convention center and hotel? Are you worried about the water table that Devon had an issue with when digging their foundation?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:03 a.m. The water table is something that is a known factor in much of the construction downtown, and, according to Populous, it's not a "fatal flaw" for the site. The latest proposed layout for the convention center and hotel is clearly better favored than the previous concepts, but a lot of questions remain to be answered.
Gary T 10:03 a.m. I noticed Spokies put another rack north of Stage Center. Any word on more going in around downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:05 a.m. I think you're referring to a temporary Spokies station placed for the Festival of the Arts. The system is doing very well, and yes, I wouldn't be surprised if it's expanded in the future.
Alex Phillips 10:05 a.m. Any word on Waffle House expansion in the area?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:05 a.m. Nope.
Angad S. 10:05 a.m. Can the Thunder beat the Knicks or the Heat? I DON'T THINK SO. I'm new to basketball so I'm drawn to the Heat.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:05 a.m. OK.
Gary T 10:06 a.m. When will we see the final renderings for the Central Park?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. Probably sometime this next year or so if they really want to start construction in 2014.
Gary T 10:06 a.m. When is the new police station supposed to break ground?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. This summer.
Gary T 10:06 a.m. When is the Greyhound station expected to move to Reno and Eastern?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. They've been slowly working through various zoning issues. It shouldn't be too much longer.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. Nick, I need more time.
Jonathon Walker 10:07 a.m. Any update on Urban Renewal's plan for Midtown? I went to their meeting at the Seiber.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. Not yet.
Gary T 10:07 a.m. Will you be at Better Block OKC next weekend?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:08 a.m. I hope so!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. Sorry folks. Cover it Live crashed on me. I had to reboot.
Nick 10:19 a.m. By the way, saw you at the Arts Festival last night! Did you get anything good to eat?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. Nope. But I did enjoy the artists' booths and said "hi" to Steve Mason and others at a reception he was hosting.
Andrew 10:20 a.m. Good morning, Steve. I would really like to see a grocery store, centrally located and in walking distance to all these new residences, in midtown. Do you know if there is any chance that couple happen soon?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. Probably not. We have Native Roots in Deep Deuce and Homeland at NW 18 and Classen. Until we hit about 7,000 to 8,000 rooftops downtown, that's probably going to be about it.
Gary T 10:21 a.m. Does U-haul own the large parking lot to the north and west of their building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:22 a.m. Nope - that's owned by Randy Hogan's group, which developed Lower Bricktown.
Charlotte Anderson 10:22 a.m. It seems like every time that they finish something downtown in Project 180 they rip it back up and do it over. Why can't they get it right the first time?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. Because city engineers imposed a timeline of getting everything done by 2014 (which they won't accomplish anyway)
Dan 10:23 a.m. Good morning, Steve! With all the space at the Plaza filling in, what do you see happening in terms of future growth for the area?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:26 a.m. The revival of the 16th Street Plaza District creates some intriguing possibilities for addressing decades of blight in the adjoining Classen-10-Penn neighborhood to the south. Also look for the improvements to create some momentum to the east toward Classen Boulevard.
Rick 10:26 a.m. Hey Steve, there's a some land between the Chesapeake Arena and where the new boulevard will be. It's where the Robinson offramp used to be on the old I-40. Do you know what the city will do with that extra land considering the new convention center's southern edge is several feet south of it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. I'm not sure this has been totally figured out yet. I'll look into it.
Guest 10:27 a.m. Now that places like Saturn Grill and the Candy Store are in midtown, are there plans for any development in the grass lot facing them? Dare I suggest parking lots??
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. You can suggest parking lots. But expect to see a lot more development there as well.
Main Street Joe 10:28 a.m. Has the possibility of an Ed Shadid mayoral run gotten any feedback from the business and development community? Heard they aren't crazy about the idea (and neither is the chamber).
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. It makes them skittish.
downtown worker 10:28 a.m. Do you see additional skyscrapers developing along the westside of Downtown in the coming years?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. It's possible. Not soon, unless you're talking about the western fringe of the central business district.
Just Some Guy Named Larry 10:29 a.m. What did you think when you saw "GO THUNDER" on the side of the Devon Tower?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. I thought it looked cool.
Craig T. 10:30 a.m. Steve, I'm getting a little worried about Seems like a lot of sensational and tabloid news on their now, pushing out the real stuff. Thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. I didn't agree with the decision to post a link to the Houston sports radio post where there were some very mean, non-news comments made about a Thunder cheerleader. That link was later yanked, and the Houston radio station later yanked the post itself. But we're in a very challenging news environment... I don't envy the task our online editors face in being innovative and constantly trying to figure out the right new direction for NewsOK. There is no textbook for what we face anymore...
Edward 10:33 a.m. With everything going downtown this weekend - where will you be spending time? Arts fest, H&8th, Film Row art walk, all of them, none of them?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. I will be doing yard work and working on my latest book.
Pops 10:34 a.m. Where's the best place to buy some good seafood in town?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. Super Cao near NW 23 and Western is pretty good.
shawnw 10:36 a.m. I notice paint going on the south side of RockTown. Did that deal finally get worked out or is someone else doing it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. Nope. The mural by Rick Sinnett is going up!
Doctor Tom, Ph.D. 10:37 a.m. Good morning Steve. Wow it really seems like the Plaza District has a lot of momentum right now. Similar hip, semi-urban areas, like the Paseo or the Western Avenue District (around 45th & Western, really seem to be running in place, without a lot of business growth in the last few years. Is the Plaza just the current "It" place having its moment in the sun, or is something fundamentally different about it than other business districts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. I think the Plaza District has some very unique things going for it. Will this momentum last forever? I don't know. But I don't think it's just a fad...
BethanySooner 10:40 a.m. Good morning Steve. With the new Convention Center proposal going west under Hudson, I was wondering if that block to the west of Hudson can be built up. Do you know what their plan is for that area?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. It's possible we'll see some redevelopment of the area.... I'm not going to make any guesses however until we know the final outcome of the boulevard design.
Larry G 10:41 a.m. Is there any chance that downtown is getting a little too hipster-ish? There are only so many bearded twentysomething creative types to support the economy. That's why chain restaurants (or a Walgreen's for goodness sake) might be good to see....
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. I like the hipsters. I think we've got a good mix of young professionals, hipsters, married couples and empty nesters. And we are starting to see families living downtown as well.
shawnw 10:42 a.m. Can you please do a story about how much emphasis was placed (by more than one speaker), at the Placemaking Conference, on the immediate economic impact and value that could be incurred by adding housing to upper floors of existing buildings?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Sure.
BethanySooner 10:43 a.m. When can we expect to learn of the next housing development in Midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Likely later this year.
Angad S. 10:43 a.m. Where do the Thunder players live in OKC? Do they live in Edmond?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. A lot of them live in northwest Oklahoma City and Edmond.
Guest 10:44 a.m. How dependent is OKC on Oil/Gas sector relative to other industries in the city? Is there any contingency planning in terms of planning/development that takes into account an oil bust and it's affect on OKC? I'm thinking over 20 years oil/gas will fluctuate quite a bit.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. We're more diversified than we were in 1983. But is there a plan for how we would survive if oil crashed to $10 a barrel again? No. It would be another depression....
Matt 10:45 a.m. A month or so ago, someone said something about the recently renovated myriad gardens looking sort of rugged. I've noticed it myself as well. Are you aware of how often the park is given maintenance?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. I am aware of the Myriad Gardens Foundation hiring more help....
BethanySooner 10:45 a.m. Is parking not included in the Convention Center proposal? If not, what are the plans at this point, and where would it go?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. No, parking is not included. There might be parking built under the hotel. And the city is prepared to build a garage with separate funding sources.
Senzi 10:48 a.m. How far north on broadway do you see new things springing up? Will the new art museum spur more around it, Saxum, Garage lofts, etc.?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. I see Broadway being fully developed through NW 13 within the next few years.
BethanySooner 10:49 a.m. Shouldn't they be getting close to starting construction on the new Downtown Elementary School?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Yep. Construction will start in the next few years.
downtown worker 10:49 a.m. Will the OKC metro area ever get a commuter rail? I know it would help with all of the workers living outside of OKC.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. Hard to say. We don't even have a functional bus system.
Gary T 10:50 a.m. What is everyone's obsession with Waffle House? Very strange.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I have no idea.
BethanySooner 10:51 a.m. Does Devon own the Stage Center site as well as the block to the west of their current facility?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. Devon does not own Stage Center - it is owned by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. The block to the west of Devon Energy Center is mostly owned by Nick Preftakes, with the exception of 420 W Main (the city) and Coney Island Hot Dogs.
Landon 10:52 a.m. Steve, there has been plenty of talk about the mew convention center, & I apologize if this question was already covered, but to me it seems counter-intuitive to put the convention center hall spaces underground. Doesn't this seem to undermine the effort
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. They're talking about putting the exhibit halls only underground - and exhibit halls are typically enclosed rooms....
Gary T 10:53 a.m. Best pizza in the city?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Humble Pie
Ray 10:53 a.m. When is the new deadline for proposals for the Main Street Parking garage? When are they planning on building it? What is the city's plans on future parking garages downtown...besides bricktown and Midtown...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. The Main Street garage construction started this week. The RFP for housing or offices is due this next month. We'll likely see more garages built in Bricktown and by the new convention center.
BethanySooner 10:55 a.m. Is there another company close to announcing the building of a tower besides this midstream energy company that we are waiting on?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. I'm not saying there's a tower to be built by a midstream energy company, so for what that's worth.... I've said all along we could be looking at multiple towers. But I'll also add that the situation with SandRidge Energy creates a lot more uncertainty in the downtown office market.
Landon 10:56 a.m. Seems that to build the image of our fair city, we should build bigger structures rather than have them hidden underground.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Yes, but planners also want to avoid having to big a barrier between the Myriad Gardens and future Core to Shore park.
Bryce 10:57 a.m. What are your thoughts about the announcement at Crossroads?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. I think it's cool - it could truly become a tourist attraction.
BethanySooner 10:57 a.m. What do you think the odds are that Rick Dowell converts his Robinson tower to housing rather than office space?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. I think the odds are better now than they were a year ago...
BethanySooner 10:58 a.m. Can you divulge at this time on what site the next tower will be built?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. Keep focusing on the Stage Center site....
BethanySooner 10:58 a.m. Do you find it unusual that work is being done on conceptual plans for the Convention Center before the land has even been purchased? What happens if the city and the seller can't come to an agreement? It seems like a lot of time and money would be wasted.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. It's not anymore unusual than work being done on conceptual planning for the Core to Shore park and the Transit Hub before property acquisition is done with those projects. We're looking at the urban renewal authority using eminent domain to acquire the properties if deals can't be done. This is standard, and occurred with the original MAPS (most notably the arena site and parts of the canal).
Ray 11:00 a.m. Are there any updates on the Century Center?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. It's still moving forward.
Mike 11:01 a.m. Did I miss the second tower announcement?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Uh.... I hope not. If so, I missed it as well.
Gary T 11:01 a.m. It crashed? Never let it happen again. I. NEED. THIS.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. OK, OK!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Steve, I AM YOU AND YOU ARE I!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. And I am tired. How about you?
Guest 11:02 a.m. Steve the construction at Memorial and Western, is it a new OnCue?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Yep
Guest 11:02 a.m. How many rooftops are downtown currently?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. It depends on whether you include Heritage Hills. Generally speaking, we have a few thousand.
Matt 11:02 a.m. About a month or so ago someone commented about the poor state of the recently renovated myriad gardens. On my last visit noticed it too. Are you aware of any special maintenance given to the park? I would assume so due to its location.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. Yeah. And I've seen photos of some of the torn up portions. Hopefully they can stay on top of it.
Matt Landry 11:03 a.m. Update on the Midtown Urban Renewal Plan:
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. Yes! Thanks for the reminder!
Russell 11:03 a.m. I235/44 - I know you usually show the renderings and there was a recent announcement that constuction is about to start up, what will be next section to start? Southwest around 50th?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Yep. They just closed the entrance ramp. Bye bye NW 50 access from Broadway (forever)
Your Worst Nightmare 11:04 a.m. Steve, how are you today? Did you have a busy week?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. It's been somewhat busy.
Ray 11:05 a.m. How many of the empty grassy lots in Midtown does the city own? What is with all the empty lots?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Most of the lots are either owned by the MidTown Renaissance group or St. Anthony Hospital. Almost all of them are in play for redevelopment.
Klint 11:05 a.m. Are there any plans for family housing near the Downtown Elementary School?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. Not yet. But I won't be surprised to see such development eventually take place.
Ronnie 11:06 a.m. Steve, did you know that you are like a drug and we're all addicted? Keep up the awesome work!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Um.... bad news.... I'll be taking quite a bit of vacation time this summer.... (thanks!)
Jen R. 11:07 a.m. What do you think is the most important current, or future development for downtown Oklahoma City?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. Devon Energy Center is the most important "current" development for downtown Oklahoma City. The next big game changers include the batch of hotels being built in Bricktown, the white water rapids and other improvements along the river, and the youth-driven effort to revive the area around Farmer's Public Market. Oh, and then there's the "mystery tower ..."
Matt Landry 11:10 a.m. Is it true that a Cajun/Po-Boy place is opening at the old Pachinko Parlor site?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. yep
Landon 11:10 a.m. Steve, does'nt the idea of putting part of the new convention ctr underground take away from the effort to build bigger, more majestic structures for okc?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. Maybe?
Andrew 11:10 a.m. Any chance we'll ever see the downtown co-op move and that land be developed by something that is not so much of an eyesore?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. It will require a lot of money. But yes, I do continue to see it being possible.
Elise 11:11 a.m. Hi Steve. In my daydreams I picture Forward Foods moving out of the Whole Foods orbit and moving into the building owned by Corsair on about 9th and Walker. It looks like a grocery store already.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. I've had a similar daydream. I've never understood why Forward Foods opened on Western near Whole Foods when they could have enjoyed quite a busting business opening up in MidTown.
Andy Rooney 11:12 a.m. Did you ever notice that there aren't many modern art statues downtown? I like that. Makes the city seem real and not pretentious.
Pessimist 11:12 a.m. Seems like this mystery tower everyone was talking about turned out to be a pipe dream.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. I disagree.
Gary T 11:12 a.m. Any new tv shows like Man V. Food or Diners Drive Ins and Dives coming to town?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:13 a.m. I don't know.
Richie Rich 11:13 a.m. This might be a sensative question, but which developers have benefitted the greatest from the, let's say, last five years of downtown boom? I'm sure lots of folks bought very low and sold or developed into something very lucrative... Steve Mason? Preftakes? Humphries, etc...
Steve Lackmeyer 11:16 a.m. The idea that Humphreys has a lot invested downtown continues to baffle me. Grant Humphreys developed an urban renewal patch of land on NW 4 into Block 42. And they have control over, but don't own, the flatiron building at 6th and Harrison. So certainly the Humphreys aren't going to fit your description. Preftakes has done well, but I'm not sure he's really seen much of the latest wave of development. Steve Mason created his own momentum.
The Smith brothers (Cosair Cattle Co.) are the only ones I can think of that match your description.
Nick 11:16 a.m. So Steve, for quite some time now, you've said you weren't worried about the possibility of a new tower. Is your answer above to BethanySooner you saying that you're now worried?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:16 a.m. No, I'm not worried.
Rand 11:16 a.m. One thing that ticks me off in the Tulsa v. OKC debate is that it seems like our architecture isn't very bold. Arena vs. BOK arena, etc. Do you see us building less boring buildings at some point. The convention center looks pretty ho-hum too.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:16 a.m. There is no design yet for the convention center - what you've seen is site building modeling only.
Nick 11:17 a.m. Or were you saying that you're more worried about the possibility of MULTIPLE new office towers, but that one at least is still coming?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:17 a.m. Could we still see two towers? Maybe. Three? Less likely now.
Guest 11:17 a.m. Do you think there will be a significant fight preventing development of the Stage Center site? I overheard somebody at the Arts Festival saying they would do everything they can to support and effort to fight the demolition of the Stage Center
Steve Lackmeyer 11:18 a.m. It's privately owned and I struggle to see how it can be stopped.
shawnw 11:18 a.m. What's with the huge base in the new convention hotel design? Clearly it's not for rooms, right? Is it more convention/meeting space for the hotel? Or just a place holder?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:19 a.m. One more time; what we've seen is simply a site modeling - not the actual architecture which has yet to start.
Fig Newton 11:19 a.m. Good luck with your office downtown. should be very good for you.
Guest 11:19 a.m. Just a head's up Steve, I was the Gary T at the beginning, not the one at the end. That one is an imposter!
Buddy 11:20 a.m. Any new retail announcements for the city this week?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:20 a.m. Nope.
Rocker 11:20 a.m. I'll say this again, but the housing authority apartments at 9th and robinson are more and more an out-of-place problem, given the young professional business and retail core that is growing up around them. Ambulances and police come and go and the residents consistently harass young women. Steve, this should at least be a story and may need to be addressed ultimately by the city.
Guest 11:20 a.m. I'd be curious to know the economic impact the OKC Thunder are having on the city. Especially in the playoffs.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:20 a.m. I've done this story in prior years. It's huge.
Ray 11:21 a.m. What block or street do you see being the next Plaza , Film Row, or Paseo district?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. Farmer's Public Market.
Mike 11:21 a.m. Hi Steve,I attended the Urban Renewal Midtown plan overview at the Seiber. You were there as well. Honestly I didn't get anything meaningful out of it. what did I miss?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:22 a.m. Yep. There was a lot to it actually - I'll write more this next week.
Ken 11:22 a.m. Anywhere online where one can find a map of the new bike lanes throughout downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:22 a.m. Not that I'm aware of.
Matt Landry 11:23 a.m. Are these half-way houses near Elemental Coffee? I really am nervous about these types of Social Services establishments in Midtown dragging the area down.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:23 a.m. That area is, I believe, housing for Drug Recovery Inc. I'm not sure it will remain that for much longer. In the meantime, I can tell you I'm not aware of it being a big issue for the area either.
Brian 11:23 a.m. Is there a concrete plan in place for a quiet zone downtown if and when the city decides to commit resources? For example, do we know which, if any, streets will be closed and which ones will placed above or below the tracks?
Mike 11:24 a.m. Steve,have the Corsair Cattle Company sold their large holdings in Midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. Folks are working on it. I'll update you when I can.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. Cosair has sold some of their holdings, but not all.
Guest 11:24 a.m. Any idea what the plans are for the land behind Harkins Theatre? - christian
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. A new boulevard.
Darryl 11:25 a.m. How is the "Borrow-a-bike" program in downtown going?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:25 a.m. It's going very well.
Russell 11:26 a.m. What are the Humphreys' plan for the Airpark downtown? Was excited to see that they were going to host a concert there but was eventually cacnelled. Anything new?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. nope.
Hurley 11:28 a.m. Steve, do you think downtown will grow back towards the Capitol Hill area or will the area undergo a revival of its own? If so how long ?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. Yes, but it will take a good dozen years.
Rocker 11:28 a.m. I agree with Matt about the halfway houses (and kudos on photo shop skills.) Like I said in my previous comment. If you are a well-dressed 20something female working in auto alley or midtown, there are some crude characters who you can run into. Ask around.
Elise 11:29 a.m. That's my neighborhood near Elemental, and there are two more HUD apartments near 11th and Harvey. I feel they are just part of the fabric. I never had a problem with anybody.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. Alright folks, this went 90 minutes. I'm logging off now. Have a good weekend.
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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