OKC Central Chat transcript, Feb. 1, 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: February 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013
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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.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. Let's get started, shall we?
guy 10:01 a.m. Steve--i'm guessing you might have already been asked this a few dozen times, but does Aubrey McClendon's departure from Chesapeake cast any dark shadow on the strength of CBD resurgence and development?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:05 a.m. Good question. While Chesapeake Energy’s expansion has taken place north of downtown, the company has indirectly played a significant role in the inflow of companies moving into the central business district. I can count at least a dozen companies that moved downtown from the suburbs after their previous locations were bought out by Chesapeake. One of those companies was Cardinal Engineering, led by Steve Mason. And it was Steve Mason who then revitalized a blighted Ninth Street and 1000 block of N Broadway into very vibrant urban retail and restaurant corridors.
The pattern of Chesapeake’s growth, development of the surrounding neighborhood, was very much Aubrey McClendon’s vision.
Downtown office space, however, is the most vibrant it’s been in 40 years and it’s difficult to see any immediate impact from McClendon’s departure at Chesapeake.
Gary T 10:05 a.m. When are we likely to see renderings for some of the hotels/apartments proposed for the east end of Bricktown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:08 a.m. Developers Gary Brooks and Andy Burnett are working with site layouts for their east Bricktown housing and hotel, but at this point their attention is on clearing the old Stewart Metal Fabricators site, removing contamination from the soil and relocating underground utilities. This is not an easy site to work with, and the developers have cautioned repeatedly this won't be a fast turn-around. Construction won't begin for at least another year.
Bob 10:08 a.m. It looks like they have started taking down the awnings on the Arcade Building. Any idea what is planned for it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. I noticed that too. The building is owned by R.D. and Scott Smith, who have pretty much shied away from doing interviews with reporters. They submitted renovation plans last year to the Downtown Design Review Committee.
10:12 a.m.
Rendering for renovation of Main Street Arcade
Gary T 10:12 a.m. It seems like the Tower theatre completion is the last large piece of the puzzle to really bring Uptown back to greatness. What are some of the smaller projects going happening on 23rd that could transform it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:14 a.m. Development is taking place on all sides of the Tower Theater. Don't be surprised if a deal emerges soon for the former KFC building. Development of The Rise, which will completely transform the old hotel/motel furniture liquidators building, also is set to begin soon.
Gary T 10:14 a.m. Since the condos/townhomes on the NE corner of NW 7th and Classen are individually owned, is there any chance we will ever see the outside of them updated?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. I'm hearing that renovations are about to take place at Classen Glenn, but I don't have any specific details.
Guest 10:15 a.m. any word on what is happening over by bass pro shops where the highway once was?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. I'm not aware of any activity by Bass Pro other than work starting up on the new downtown boulevard which will replace the old I-40 alignment.
Gary T 10:16 a.m. The mayor seemed very focused on relocating the power grid in the core to shore area, but the ones on 10th and 235 and Robert S Kerr and Classen are more of eyesores to me than the other. Are there any plans to relocate/mask those?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. Yes, there are some discussions going on that could result in the relocation of the NW 10 and I-235 substation. I am not aware of any changes planned for the substation by the Oklahoma County Jail.
Gary T 10:17 a.m. When will we see renderings for the new convention center?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. Another good question. I suspect the city will want to complete acquisition of the site before such advanced designs are commenced. They'll also want to get a lot more detailed information about possible site plans.
Guest 10:18 a.m. do you know what they are going to do with the area in front of the new grand entrance the the peake arena? parking lot? valet parking?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. The new entrance to the Chesapeake Arena was planned and built assuming Core to Shore would be implemented as planned about eight years ago. But plans have changed. The convention center is no longer set to be immediately south of the arena, the boulevard will open in 2016 instead of 2014, and planning for the park to the southwest is still ongoing. So what does the city do with this new entrance?
Will 10:20 a.m. What are your thoughts on the proposed consolidated rental car facility for Will Rogers World Airport and how it changes the experience for customers?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. I'm aware of the proposal, but beyond that, I've not had time to think about it.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. Thanks for the link Will!
Gary T 10:21 a.m. How long until we know who is moving to replace Pachinko Parlor?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:22 a.m. I'm aware of restaurant operators vying for the space. So I don't think it will be empty for long.
Mazer Rackham 10:22 a.m. As cryptically as possible, can you tell us what your next major story is going to be about?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:22 a.m. Chesapeake?
Brent 10:23 a.m. You had previously given your best estimate that a downtown tower project would be likely to be announced in the 1Q of 2013. Is that still your best estimate or is any announcement likely to be later now?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:24 a.m. It's possible. I wish I could explain how complex these deals are to help folks better understand how difficult it is to report on them before they are done.
shawnw 10:26 a.m. What is the status of the mural painting the south side of Rocktown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. The artist who planned the mural, Rick Sinnett, was tied to Tulsa civic leader Mary Beth Babcock and Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne. Note that Babcock and Coyne do projects together and are friends. Sinnett was running The Womb on NW 9th on behalf of the Flaming Lips. Then a falling occurred. Coyne was very vocal in his criticism of Sinnett on Twitter. I tried to talk to both men, and they declined interviews. Babcock also indicated that the public mural projects she was doing with Sinnett were to take a different direction.
Something messy happened here. I don't know all the details and those involved weren't willing to clear up the confusion. The end result is I suspect the mural project is dead, but I could be wrong.
Guest 10:33 a.m. do you see the arena football coming back here or is that dead and gone?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. Everyone sing along....
"Once, twice, three times a failure...."
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. (Dead and gone)
Guest 10:34 a.m. What's happened to the business coverage at the Oklahoman lately? I've yet to see articles from the woman you hired away from the Journal Record and your updates have decreased.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. I've been taking some leave time to deal with some personal matters the past couple weeks. Brianna Bailey just started with the paper a couple of weeks ago. We're working on a special project that you should see in the next week or two. In the meantime, the energy team has been filling up the section with incredible coverage on the departure of Aubrey McClendon as CEO of Chesapeake Energy.
Guest 10:36 a.m. i heard they would put a skating rink downtown by the myraid gardens, what happened to that?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. The Devon Ice Rink at the Myriad Gardens just ended its second season last week. The ice rink is open every November through January.
Guest 10:37 a.m. does the city still believe that the convention center is vital? seems like studies are saying that type of venue is dying and it could be a waste of money.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. There is some debate among the city council as to how big an upgrade is needed and whether a conference hotel, but even critics like Ed Shadid say the city does need to make some improvement in its existing set-up.
Mazer Rackham 10:38 a.m. Is everything still on track to open the downtown elementary the Fall of '14?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. The last I heard, I think it's on schedule and a building permit either has been filed or is about to be filed.
OklahomaNick 10:38 a.m. In your opinion when do you think we will see the Boulevard start construction and be complete?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reports construction will start in 2014 and be completed in 2016. That opinion is far more important than anything I might have to say.
Dustin 10:40 a.m. Is the City do anything to encourage the redevelopment along the Uptown NW 23rd Street corridor? Or, is this largely an organic effort led by local developers? This area might be a good location for a business improvement district (BID). Just a thought...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. Anything is possible.
Slush Puppie 10:40 a.m. I watched "American Idol" for the first time this season to see the Oklahoma City auditions. Who is this Nicki Minaj person? And what was up with the old dude in the dress at the end?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. Slush Puppie, you're an old man with a college-age son. You're not supposed to be hip on Minaj or dudes in dresses. I suggest you accept that it's time to limit your musical television viewing to the Lawrence Welk Show.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. (And if this is Mrs. Slush Puppie, God bless you for agreeing to submit a question on behalf of your husband)
Nick 10:42 a.m. How are things progressing at the Edge? Anything new in the pipeline for Midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Site work is continuing at The Edge, and it won't be long before we see a building coming out of the ground. And yeah, some big projects are in the pipeline for MidTown.
Guest 10:43 a.m. What is going on with the Humphrey's Waterfront? Are we going to see their ambitious plan come to fruition? Honestly, this was one of the more exciting ideas for OKC that I'd seen in a long, long time.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. As with all plans announced prior to 2008, timelines changed, ambitions had to be re-evaluated, and priorities had to be reconsidered. They're still working on it, but it's going a lot slower than first anticipated.
OklahomaNick 10:44 a.m. Have you heard anything more on the proposal to develop the I-44 frontage land west of the airport for retail development?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. Nope.
Chris 10:45 a.m. A few weeks ago you posted on Twitter about the possibility of the city closing Hudson between Reno and the new Blvd. for the new convention center. What are your thoughts about this?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. I'm not sure this idea will be embraced by advocates of making downtown more pedestrian friendly. It's a possible scenario that was thrown out, not something that is actually being pursued. Such a move likely won't take place without a lot of discussion first.
Guest 10:46 a.m. Are you worried about Chesapeake and downtown OKC now?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Of course.
Guest 10:46 a.m. any word on the mill by the rocktown downtown building? tear it down or renovate?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I assume that you're talking about the Southwestern Producers Co-op. It's difficult to see it being being renovated for another use. And it will cost tens of millions for anyone to buy out the cotton farmers to allow them to move their operations.
Mazer Rackham 10:48 a.m. That wasn't especially cryptic
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. Sorry.
OklahomaNick 10:48 a.m. How much of the mystery tower is speculation vs. actual inquiry work being done to find a site?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Proposals, land purchase bids, etc. are taking place.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Yep. I just gave you something new. Congrats OklahomaNick - you figured out the right question to ask.
cwaters 10:49 a.m. Do you know what the plans are for the old Penn theater?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. I've noticed this renovation, it's on my list to check up on.
Dan 10:49 a.m. Steve, do you have any info on when retail/restaruant space will begin to fill up at the recently renovated 1212 building in Midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. The owner of the Waffle Champion has indicated he has begun construction work on his planned restaurant at 1212.
Guest 10:52 a.m. Any movement on the Native American Indian Cultural Center?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. We're still awaiting for an indication there are still adults left at the State Capitol who might realize it's not a great idea to abandon a state project where more than $60 million in taxpayer dollars has already been spent.
Guest 10:53 a.m. What's the latest on the St. Anthony's expansion?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. It's still moving forward.
Guest 10:53 a.m. How's Continental Resources liking OKC?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. When I talk to them, they seem very, very happy.
Guest 10:54 a.m. Does the city own the land between I-35 and Eastern Ave, that is south of I-40 along the northside of the river? Any chance we could see development of hotels and restaurants on that river front?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. This question hurts my head. I'm going to take the coward's way out and answer "I don't know, let me get back to you."
Pat 10:56 a.m. When will we see the physical conversion and upgrade to the Century Center start. Thanks
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. OPUBCO has indicated it wants to move in next year, so I imagine work will likely start this year.
Guest 10:57 a.m. Okay, well I hope you're feeling better. Missed your coverage of downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Thanks Guest. I really appreciate your kind words.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. Thanks OklahomaNick.
Guest 10:58 a.m. Any chance that the OKC Zoo would expand outside of their current location and build an aquarium in the downtown area? Something similar to the Dallas Aquarium?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Aquariums are pretty expensive propositions. I think it's more likely that a rail line will be established someday between the zoo and downtown.
Guest 10:59 a.m. What are the chances of their ever being new mid-rise or high-rise residential towers built downtown like in Austin or Charlotte? Even smaller cities were building them in the mid-2000s
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. I think the chances for a mid-rise are pretty decent if the current development pattern stays consistent.
John Pagonis 11:00 a.m. What is the official route of the street car,, It seems to change on a daily basis
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. There isn't an official route yet - just a recommended route by the MAPS 3 citizens advisory board.
OklahomaNick 11:00 a.m. Steve, do you have any idea of what is going on with the renovation of the I-44 & I-235 interchange? Why did they only do the NW corner then stop?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Because we would all go crazy if ODOT did the entire junction at once! The last I read, ODOT will proceed on the next phase of this project in about two years.
Guest 11:01 a.m. Anything cool in the works for Bricktown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Yes! But I can't report on it yet!
guy 11:01 a.m. Do you see McClendon's departure having any impact on, say, the boathouse or support for the Thunder? (Since Dunham's arrival, employee perks have been lessened, which includes previously free Thunder tickets no longer being free, only discounted; and i guess i don't know how much McClendon was personally vested in the Thunder franchise.)
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Berry Tramel has a great write-up on his NewsOK blog. I suggest everyone read it: http://blog.newsok.com/berrytramel/2013/01/31/oklahoma-city-thunder-will-aubrey-mcclendons-departure-hurt/
charles 11:02 a.m. Do you see in the near future improvements as far as retail developement for NW 10th between reno and council road?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. The new factory outlet mall is out there - isn't that enough?
Pat 11:03 a.m. Any timeline when the new zip line will be open for business ?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. It's under construction, but I'm not up to speed on the opening.
John 11:04 a.m. What's the story with Skinny Slim's bar in bricktown? I drive by everyday and not much progress seems to have been made.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. It kind of reminds you of the old Larado's at Belle Isle, doesn't it?
Chris 11:04 a.m. Thanks Steve- for having these chats and for all the hard work you put into your coverage.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Thanks Chris!
guy 11:04 a.m. i'm not familiar with the Humphrey's Waterfront mentioned above. Do you have an informative link you could share?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Guy, let me do an update on this either with a column or blog post. I promise I'll write it up this next week.
Guest 11:05 a.m. Any hints on these big Midtown projects?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Housing.
Will 11:05 a.m. One day Steve, there won't be Mystery Tower inquiries. I promise.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Promises, promises.
Guest 11:05 a.m. Where does the Rise actually extend to/from? Along 23rd, does it start at Harvey Ave and go to Lee Ave? Or what are the actual properties that will be redeveloped?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. It starts at Walker Avenue and goes west. Here's a NewsOK video we did on the project that includes animation: http://newsok.com/multimedia/video/1865158188001
Guest 11:07 a.m. Great work, OklahomaNick! We needed something new.
Guest 11:07 a.m. Is a Good Egg Group taking over the old KFC on 23rd?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Or is it the Lower group? Or someone totally different?
Guest 11:07 a.m. When does work start on the Osler?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. I believe I saw work underway just the other day.
Guest 11:08 a.m. Now that OCU Law School has selected their downtown location, what's next for the old Fred Jones Building on Main? Great Building, would make an incredible aquarium...
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. You're awesome. Keep dreaming these great dreams.
Rob 11:08 a.m. What happened to the mixed-use development north of Quail Springs mall?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. 2008 happened. The site is now home to some apartments.
Guest 11:09 a.m. Why is American Fidelity now buying up land surrounding their new headquarters? They've purchased quite a bit recently.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. They're going to have a very nice campus.
Guest 11:09 a.m. Are we going to see a new garage across from the Memorial?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I'm not so sure about that. This idea is part of the Journal Record proposal submitted by Bond Payne.
Guest 11:10 a.m. Didn't someone propose one for that site?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. Yep.
Guest 11:10 a.m. When will we hear the announcement on Crossroads mall?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I don't know.
david ball 11:10 a.m. at what point are the blueprints for the boulevard considered "final"?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. With the boulevard? And the politics? Maybe when it goes out for constructions bids. Maybe.
Guest 11:11 a.m. Now that Midtown Renaissance owns the large plot of land between Harvey and Hudson, can you give us some hints as to what we might see there and when? They've got their hands full with other projects, but they do wonderful work and I'm excited to see what they're up to when they're starting from scratch as opposed to a conversion.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. Seems like a pretty good site for housing...
Guest 11:11 a.m. Oh Steve, just give us something! We're desperate for newer and better!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. Bricktown is going to get some cool, much needed new entertainment venues. There. Quit being so needy.
Guest 11:12 a.m. http://www.humphreysco.com/
Guest 11:12 a.m. That's because we'll finally know what tower it is!
Roger 11:12 a.m. Any ideas on the effect of the new downtown school on the area from a zoning perspective? Gun free zones? Drug free zones? Will it "up" the police presence with respect to the homeless population down in the area?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:13 a.m. Good questions. I'm pretty sure the entire city is a drug free zone.... there's still a lot of planning to be done.
Guest 11:13 a.m. Are you skeptical of what is proposed for the Journal Record building or just doubting we see a garage as part of it?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:14 a.m. I'm not hearing the sort of enthusiasm one might expect from the decision makers. But I can't explain why.
Guest 11:14 a.m. the Journal Record proposal was quite nice.
lambeau 11:14 a.m. what is the projected finish of the Aloft Hotel in BRICKTOWN?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:14 a.m. Later this year.
Guest 11:14 a.m. btw, the OKC courthouse building is a nightmare. the state of some of this city's facilities is embarrassing.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:15 a.m. The Municipal Courthouse is about to be rebuilt just north of its current location. Ditto for the police headquarters, which will be rebuilt just south of its current location. Design work is underway.
Heidi 11:15 a.m. Will we ever see a Costco come to town in the next few years?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:15 a.m. Richard Mize indicates they're snooping around.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:16 a.m. Folks, I've got to say goodbye now. Thanks for the great chat.
by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist 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 Metropolitan...
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