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OKC Central Chat transcript, Jan. 18, 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: January 18, 2013 at 11:15 am •  Published: January 18, 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.

NewsOK 9:27 a.m. Good morning everyone! Steve will be logging in at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. Hi everybody.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. So.... let's guess what the first question will be....
Squidworth 10:01 a.m. What is the history behind the building The Oklahoman will be moving into? Also, I can't wait to see NewsOK/The Oklahoman brought in middle of downtown. What a change that will be.
10:02 a.m.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:02 a.m. The Sheraton Century Center Hotel (now just known as the Sheraton Hotel) and Century Center Mall were developed concurrently and really represented the only hotel and retail ever built during the heyday of downtown Oklahoma City’s original Urban Renewal era of the 1960s and 1970s
The hotel opened with great fanfare in 1977, but the mall lingered for a couple of years even though the shell itself was done at the same time as the hotel. But in a city that seemed to spend 25 years chasing an elusive downtown Galleria, Century Center didn’t fare as badly might believe – at least not at first.
By the early 1980s, the mall was home to an F.A.O. Schwartz toy store, a newsstand, gift shop, clothing stores, jewelry store, restaurants, a fitness center and offices.
The Century Center Mall was pretty much doomed from the start and most would say its an example of failed urban planning in the 1970s that dictated old retail had to go and be replaced by the same cookie-cutter style retail centers taking root in the suburbs.

The mall also suffered from what many would say was a bad design that pretty much ignored the street. If you were driving past the mall, you couldn’t really tell what was going on inside. Add in a devastating oil bust starting in the mid-1980s, and the mall’s days were numbered. Starting in the early 1990s, it was pretty much empty and remains so today.
Bdub 10:02 a.m. Steve- Do you know if the plaza area ajacent to Stage Center used for the Festival of the Arts is still in Project 180? At one time this was a listed project but has not shown up in recent news.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:04 a.m. The arts festival plaza is not a listed Project 180 item at this time. Don’t be surprised it ends up being incorporated into a proposed redevelopment of the adjoining State Center property (and no, I have nothing new to report on Stage Center or the possibility of a new tower).

Rob 10:06 a.m. The Wormy Dog relocation to the east side of Bricktown seems like a significant development, particularly with the retail component and the number of hotels planned. How important is this move to Bricktown entertainment?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. A lot is yet to be seen with the Wormy Dog redevelopment. Certainly the price, $2.4 million, would indicate they are looking at a project that is far more ambitious than the Wormy Dog currently operating a block to the west. Dream up your ideal vision of how such a venue might be developed; it could be very cool for Bricktown. But let's wait and see what happens.

Dan 10:07 a.m. Good morning, Steve! With the success of Kitchen 324, will we see more dining options downtown open during the weekend?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. Good Egg Dining has a hit on its hands Kitchen No. 324. As I wrote in last week’s OKC Central column, owners Keith and Heather Paul have broken all the rules: they dared to open a restaurant in the central business district with no parking, no big visitor draws nearby, and expected to have customers on the weekends. And they are drawing a full house every Saturday and Sunday, open to close. I can’t imagine restaurant operators aren’t watching this development. But will they match the Pauls in terms of taking such a big risk?
RBM 10:09 a.m. What's being built st that huge construction site at NW 13th and Dewey/Walker?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. That huge construction site is The Edge, a $36 million, 250-unit apartment complex with retail on the ground floor that is being built on the former home of Mercy Hospital. The block was a mess for more than a quarter century before the dilapidated hospital was razed about a decade ago. You can see an animation video of the project posted about the project last fall at NewsOK by visiting here:
RockTom 10:10 a.m. Any updates on the Tower Theater? There was a touch of buzz a few weeks ago...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:13 a.m. Marty Dillon, and his family, which owns Party Galaxy, bought the Tower Theater several years ago without any experience in redevelopment of older properties or obtaining historic tax credits. Interest is out there, but so far, deals haven't been made and Dillon has been unable to pull off the redevelopment himself. Meanwhile, as evidenced by the Wormy Dog's move in Bricktown, the window may be closing for the Tower Theater to capture the pent up demand for a mid-size, urban core performance venue. Will Dillon find himself with fewer options for redevelopment the longer he waits?
Mike 10:13 a.m. Why does Tulsa get new stores before OKC, examples include Whole Foods, Dick's and now Costco ?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. Some folks say that Tulsa has an advantage in having more concentrated pockets of affluence where as Oklahoma City is more spread out and diversified. Others tell me that behind the scenes, Tulsa's leadership (business, political?) is whispering in the ears of retailers that Tulsa is far better for them than Oklahoma City, while Oklahoma City is simply out promoting itself and not dragging down other cities. I can't explain why this phenomenon continues.
Jake 10:16 a.m. Any chance that we will see grocery store options downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. Jake, have you visited Native Roots?
John 10:16 a.m. Did Bond Payne purchase the parking lot to the southeast of the Journal Record Building when he purchased the Journal Record Building? Does he have plans for that lot?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. Bond Payne has submitted a proposal to the Oklahoma Cultural and Industrial Facilities Trust to redevelop the Journal Record building into offices and to work with the city on developing a garage on the parking lot, which was once home to the YMCA. No deals have been done, however.
RBM 10:18 a.m. Just my comment, but I don't think there's any hope for Tower Theater or anything in that area; NW 23rd from Classen to Lincoln can't handle the traffic it has now, and certainly can't handle any more. There's no parking opportunities, and the afternoon/evening near-standstill traffic can't handle left-turners or pedestrians trying to cross. 23rd in that area is just too skinny, with almost no parking lots.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. The Tower Theater has a significant empty piece of land across the street that can be turned into parking. Ample opportunities for parking also exist behind the street storefronts. Here's something else to consider: NW 23 between Classen and Lincoln was far more dense with far more retail a half century ago - and the street was actually narrower then. And during those days, the Tower Theater was a very popular move cinema.
10:21 a.m.
10:23 a.m.
Paul 10:23 a.m. Something will eventually have to be done with the county jail, and that means a lot of taxpayer money will be required. What do you think will happen, and how will it be paid (sales tax, property tax, hybrid or other)?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:26 a.m. Elected county officials say something will eventually have to be done. They have a case to make to voters as to why they should be trusted to oversee the construction of another jail just 20 years after the last one was built when the last one was riddled with charges of corruption, graft and poor design. Folks I've talked to say this won't be an easy task, and some wonder if instead of building a new jail, the county should instead focus on an initiative to address mental health when a large amount of space is taken up by inmates with mental health issues.
Chad 10:27 a.m. Morning Steve, Are you optimistic that the switch from trolleys to actual buses downtown will improve ridership?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. Let me ride one and get back to you.
Mike 10:27 a.m. I noticed some work on the building at 24th and Walker - what is going on ? (Tull Overhead Door)
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. The Good Egg Dining Group, which owns Cheever's, Tuckers, Kitchen No. 324 and Iron Star BBQ is renovating the building into their offices. It should be a nice improvement for the area.
Brian 10:28 a.m. The Downtown Discovery buses look too much like regular Metro Transit buses. Why not paint them much more different (maybe with a trolley look) so people (especially visitors) don't assume they're normal public transit buses?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. I don't know. This is a good question.
RockTom 10:28 a.m. Biggest predictions for the coming year for Western Business District? For Paseo? For Plaza?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. Western Business District: buckle up, play it safe. Tough times are ahead with ongoing challenges, belt tightening taking place at the area's biggest employer, Chesapeake Energy. Paseo: slow, steady ongoing improvement with increased pedestrian connections taking place with redevelopment of nearby NW 23. The 16th Street Plaza District: stay funky, but pay close attention to the parking situation. It's starting to get painful.
urbanized 10:30 a.m. Has there been any planning for neighborhood parks in Deep Deuce, Mid-town, Automobile Alley or Bricktown East end? If not, why is the City reactive in providing green-space instead of recognizing the economic development potential of creating parks as a catalyst to development?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. Deep Deuce actually has two pocket parks now at NE 3 and Oklahoma and NE 2 and Oklahoma. I'm not sure any opportunities for a pocket park exist along Automobile Alley. MidTown has the city-owned Red Andrews Park at NW 8 and Shartel, though I've never seen the neighborhood embrace the venue. Maybe it needs to be updated to better reflect the changing area?
Brian 10:35 a.m. Do you think any city officials privately apologized to business owners were forced to close because of Project 180 construction?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. I don't know.
Mb 10:35 a.m. Yes we need more surface parking everywhere. I cant dare walk 2 blocks. /sarcasm
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. So Mb, I'm going to mark you down as saying NW 23 is just fine.
RBM 10:36 a.m. You make some good points, and I don't mean to belabor my point, but the area suffers from, in my opinion, the same conflict going on with the downtown boulevard; is it through-traffic or is it retail. NW 23rd is a major through-traffic artery for folks going east from Classen to the Broadway extension or anywhere eastward. Putting a retail area that requires significant left turns, pedestrians-parking-on-one-side-and-crossing-to-the-other, and accommodating the modern habit that if five people meet for dinner, they arrive in five separate cars.... Through east-west traffic works, and retail slow-moving-turning traffic works... but combine the two and waste six feet in the middle with view-obstructing trees, and I believe the result will be only small venues that handle only a dozen or so tables/customers at a time....
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. And the debate continues.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. I can see both of your points.
Bob 10:37 a.m. Any word on the Panera coming to downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. There may be some other developments at play on this deal. We're in a wait and see pattern.
Guest 10:37 a.m. Steve-
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. Yes?
Erich 10:37 a.m. With the sucess of the Chili Bowl Midget car races in Tulsa on a yearly basis during the winter. Last figure I saw for the week of races it pumped in something near 2 to 3 million dollors for the city of Tulsa.The mayor of Tulsa is very happy with this amount during a slow time in the year as far as attractions go. Do you see the City of Okc trying something like this in the future as Bricktown grows.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Anything is possible. Interest in some sort of racing continues. But will it happen? I don't know.
Squidworth 10:38 a.m. What are they building on the river near 235?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. That's the SandRidge pavilion. Cool, huh? Zip line venue, wave pool, kids' area....
John 10:39 a.m. A lot of big things have been announced these last couple of weeks. Opubco moving, funding for UCO bout house, Holiday Inn in Bricktown is moving forward. Can you give us a hint of the next big announcement and when you believe it will be announced.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. I don't think I even have hints to offer. I'm like you guys, racing to keep up with it all.
Richard Mize 10:40 a.m. Note on Costco in Tulsa: That is not a done deal. I suspect maybe they have an option to buy, or something like that in the works. BUT, I'm told that intersection in Tulsa is *the* spot for such as Costco in Oklahoma.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. Thanks Richard! Folks, this story about retailers in Tulsa vs. Oklahoma City has been well covered by Richard Mize and Jennifer Palmer. Richard, can you provide me with a link to your last story on this subject?
RockTom 10:41 a.m. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that (one thing) we want more businesses to relocate to OKC. The dismal state of OKC public schools acts directly agains this happening. know that education isn't your beat, but what do you think it will take to truly turn around public schools here? MAPS 4Kids resulted in some nice facilities, but my sense is it didn't address the fundamental deficiencies.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. I volunteer my time at the one Oklahoma City public school that got an "F" on the statewide public schools report card. If you want to turn around public schools, you have to be a part of the solution. Have you voted in school board races? Have you discussed your concerns with your elected school board member? Have you inquired into how you can assist your neighborhood schools? When MAPS for Kids was passed, those campaigning for the initiative were quite clear in saying money wasn't the only solution. MAPS for Kids has rebuilt the schools, replaced school buses, provided new technology and resources. But has the community rallied as it needs to?
John 10:44 a.m. What's the timeline on the Dowell Center?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. Rick Dowell follows his own timelines, and only a fool tries to second guess him. Dowell goes slow and steady and is done when he is done.
Mike 10:45 a.m. Steve with the lack of parking in the downtown OKC area do you see the growth of downtown being hindered due to no place for people to park?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Hard to say. More garages are being built. And a lot of hope is riding on the MAPS 3 streetcar system restructuring how downtown flows. But right now? Yeah, it's an issue.
Phil B 10:46 a.m. With the lack of downtown parking, do you see this as something that will hinder the growth of downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Phil, you and Mike might want to start carpooling!
Matt W. 10:47 a.m. Any talk about The Marion and the proposed parking garage at 10th and Robinson?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. They're working on it.
RBM 10:47 a.m. :-) I certainly understand the pretty much deserved joshing for folks that don't/won't walk two blocks when, for a dozen reasons, they should be walking more... but success generally builds on what is, rather than what should be... if Okc folks don't like to walk much, then your business pretty much needs a big, open parking lot out in front of your business... 80% of Okc's 23rd street had the first block bulldozed for parking, and the stores sat one block back on 24th or 22nd (think most anything west of Meridian, OCU itself, etc.) Anywhere that that didn't happen (Classen to Broadway, Kelley to King) then like a too-big plant in a too-small pot, the business stay stunted. Big Truck Tacos is incredible, but in their small pot/lot they're doomed to stay small.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. RBM, I hear you. And I hope my answers weren't taken as being disrespectful. There is a tension that is taking place as Oklahoma City's urban core is being rebuilt and re-imagined for the 21st century. I will advise that small doesn't always translate into bad business. I doubt the owners of Big Truck Tacos, who enjoy a fully house daily, say they are "doomed" when business is so good.
Greg 10:49 a.m. What happened to LeCep coming to deep deuce? Looks like their window signage has been removed
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. The deal went south and that's all I know.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. Thanks Richard. Folks, every Saturday you can get some of the state's best in-depth real estate coverage with Richard's column, page and real estate section.
RockTom 10:50 a.m. Last thing from me: last fall you posted a link to the blog of a former city planner who left his job with the city. I can't seem to find either the link or the blog. Can you give us that blog again?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I think you're referring to Paul Ryckbost. His blog is at:
guy 10:52 a.m. The sandridge pavilion is what's being build on the southeast corner of the river and the 235 overpass?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. Yep.
Bryce 10:52 a.m. I was just reading up on the downtown airpark. Any idea about when something could begin happening down there?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. The Humphreys family is again looking at development options, but otherwise, nothing is announced yet.
Kevin 10:52 a.m. All inner city schools are the same. Tulsa has the same stigma with TPS as OKC does with OKCPS.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Oh stop. Forgive me. But seriously. With all due respect, they're kids. If you've ever been around kids, you've got to know they're not all the same. They're wonderful, they're crazy, they're challenging, they're inspiring, and they're all brilliant and stupid all at once. I say this as a father. Inner city schools do share a common challenge: the kids are often from working poor families without the time or resources to be properly involved in their education and sometimes their upbringing. This is why I and others at OPUBCO volunteer our time at public schools. Try it - I go to what is considered the worst, most dangerous school by those who don't know any better, and I never felt in danger, I was never scared, and I was amazed by the creativity and thoughtful nature of the kids I work with. They're great - they just need help.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Sorry if that comes off the wrong way. I just believe in our kids.
Bob 10:57 a.m. What are your thoughts on you guys moving to the Century Center?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. I'll be spending less on parking meters.
Elise 10:58 a.m. So now what do you think about the future of the farmers' market with the raised boulevard seemingly in place from Western on. Or is it? I think I just felt an earthquake here in Tulsa, by the way.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. I'm not sure. I need to spend more time figuring this one out, talking to people.
Guest 10:59 a.m. Steve, there are a couple of different buildings in the deep deuce neighborhood that look like great locations, do you have any info on 205 N Walnut (the old Walnut Ave Poultry and Egg store) and 373 NE 5th (Flat Iron) and 300 NE 3rd St. (wooden building behind Deep Deuce Grill)
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. The old wooden grocery would be a great gift shop or specialty store if the owners would sell it to the right people. I'm not sure about prospects for the Poultry building with the Aloft being built next door. The flat iron will eventually be redeveloped.
RBM 11:01 a.m. You're absolutely right-- I should have said, 'a business without a big front parking lot is =challenged= to develop past more than a few dozen seats... OR changing to a drive-though model'. It is awful how we (and I in particular) don't like to walk a block or two, unless it's an evening Bricktown stroll... but the sad truth is that we, I and my overweight belly, don't like to walk too far to get to our 4,000 calorie fast-food lunch.... :-)
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Yeah, I hear ya. I absolutely need more walking...
guy 11:02 a.m. Is anything else set to be built along the south side of the river?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. I know the MAPS 3 grandstand is being built on the south shore.
Matt W. 11:02 a.m. I'm disappointed in that answer.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Matt, that's what I know. The garage on NW 10 and Broadway is, to my knowledge, financed, the property has been secured, and last I heard, design work is underway. Was there something else you want to know?
RBM 11:04 a.m. I agree with Kevin. School systems are far more a function of, a reflection of, whichever communities they draw from (low-income urban, high-income suburban, language-challenged learners etc) than their methods or structures...
Sara 11:05 a.m. Have the boundaries for the new downtown elementary already been drawn? Will they be taking transfer applications, since they will be a magnet school?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Here's what I reported in an August story about the project:
Kirk Humphreys, a board member with Oklahoma City Quality Schools (which will run John Rex Elementary), assured Urban Renewal commissioners that the school will represent the diverse population of the city, with attendance boundaries set at NW 10, the Oklahoma River, Lottie Avenue and Western Avenue.

Humphreys told commissioners the school also will accept students from what are deemed failing schools, and students whose parents work downtown.

"It's a statement school," Humphreys said. "We want someone to drive into downtown, see the school kids, and say, 'Wow, these people care about education.' ... We'd love it if a Devon employee who lives in Edmond sends their kid to this school and loves it so much they want to live downtown."
Guest 11:08 a.m. Steve, who owns the railroad tracks just north of Bricktown, which also borders Deep Deuce? That would make a great walking trail/green space along the lines of The High Line... thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. The Union Pacific owns the tracks and they're not interested in abandoning the line.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. Thanks for joining me today. I'm going to log off now. Have a good weekend.
Elise 11:15 a.m. Thank you!!
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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