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OKC Central Chat transcript, July 18, 2014

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 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: July 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm •  Published: July 18, 2014
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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 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 9:57 a.m. Good morning. Steve will be logging in at 10:30 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:31 a.m. Good morning everybody!
 
Pat 10:31 a.m. Good morning Steve, What do you expect on the bid proposals for FNC ? Thanks
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. Amy Dunn, the broker representing the California ownership, was pretty tight lipped about bids when I talked to her on Thursday. But she's clearly happy with the response. I do know there was one "dream team" partnering of developers who chose not to bid, though they had submitted a very respectable purchase offer prior to this bidding exercise. I expect it will be months before we know the final outcome, though I am hearing from pretty knowledgeable sources that those bidding this time are absolutely qualified to get the job done and will do so to bring First National back to life.
 
Pat 10:34 a.m. Steve, Any signs of life on the Preftakes block ? Any timelines of possibilities ? Thanks
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. Yes. No deal is done yet. But it's more and more likely we will see a tower built on the corner of Main and Hudson.
 
Gary T 10:36 a.m. Good morning Steve and happy Friday to you, as usual. I love the idea of the Wheeler District development and the density it will bring to OKC. From the looks of it on googlemaps and in person, it seems like there is a lot of lower income housing in the area. When speaking with the Humphreys, was there ever any mention or concern over the existing surrounding areas and how they would be affected?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. The Rotary Park neighborhood to the west of the former Downtown Airpark (where Wheeler will be developed) is one of the poorest, most crime challenged neighborhoods in the city. Neither Blair Humphreys or those participating in this effort or blind to this challenge. The people participating in this development, and those who are committed to buying the first homes and opening the first businesses are more than just folks looking to make money or pursue luxury living. I've visited with these very excited Wheeler folks, and they are committed to improving the surrounding areas and becoming a part of the south urban core. Wheeler doesn't fence off the area to the west known as Rotary Park. It creates connections, and even envisions a private Christian school (one that already exists and is interested in locating in Wheeler) being built at the boundary between Wheeler and the Rotary Park neighborhood. There is precedent for this sort of urban pioneering - just look north to where the 16th Street Plaza District is prompting improvement of the Classen-10-Penn neighborhood to the south, or to the OU Medical Center which was followed by the revitalization of the John F. Kennedy neighborhood. Re-investment in an area can and does spread to surrounding challenged areas. Community is contagious.
 
Pat 10:42 a.m. Steve, Will the Wheeler district make Dallas or KC envious, if it happens as proposed ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. I suppose. But it wasn't what I was referring to when I made this statement.
 
Gary T 10:43 a.m. It looks like Corner Bakery has applied and building permits for their first location in Oklahoma in front of the Target on Memorial and Penn. There was a time several months ago when there was a possibility of them opening a location downtown. Do you still see that as a possibility?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. I never reported the possibility of a Corner Bakery. I suspect you got this info from the same source that indicated downtown was also getting a CVS. And while such deals were being contemplated, they were not done deals and never came fruition. Could downtown get another shot at such stores? Sure.
 
Gary T 10:45 a.m. When can we expect to see construction start on the renovation of the JR building and the parking garage SE of it?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. Good question. This project is due for an update, which I'll provide soon.
 
Pat 10:46 a.m. Steve, Can you convince those with power that the Starflyer could be a good thing ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. I think it could be a good thing for Oklahoma City and downtown. I don't know of anyone who has say in this sort of thing that really against the amusement all together. But was the proposed site appropriate? What's lost in this whole discussion is the Bricktown Urban Design Committee is challenged with stopping someone from putting a cell phone tower (a steel structure) if they allow the Starflyer (a steel structure). The committee can not govern use, so an application for the Starflyer, if approved for the canal spot, could very likely prompt attorneys to argue that they must also approve a cell phone tower along the canal as well. That's a big concern among the committee members, who also loved the amusement ride but simply couldn't see why this spot, across from the ballpark, along the canal, is most appropriate. I wonder why the ride can't be built by the Land Run Monument, where it would visibly attach to the RiverSports venues, have an equally great view of the downtown skyline, be near the canal and Lower Bricktown, and yet is not in the purview of urban design ordinances.
 
Gary T 10:50 a.m. It looks like House of Blues is expanding to try to get into 20-40 buildings in the next couple of years per an article on pollstar.com. Do you think this kind of promotion and name branding could make its way to OKC?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. It's always possible. But if the chain is expanding that aggressively, is it really that big of an addition to downtown? For years people dreamed of a Hard Rock Cafe opening in Bricktown. We got the country's only Academy of Contemporary Music instead, with a string of music legends teaching masters classes - and not just posing for a quick cheesy photo. Does anyone really wish Bricktown had gotten a Hard Rock Cafe instead? I say all this to explain why I don't really see a House of Blues as a big deal for downtown, especially if it's set to open all over the country. Let's be unique, let's get excited over being something everyone else is not. Tell me we can figure out how to get a Cain's Ballroom sort of experience downtown - that's what would get me far more excited than a franchised House of Blues.
 
Gary T 10:54 a.m. Looks like the interior apartments of Carnegie Centre are completed and people are moving in with construction on the lobby and retail spaces to start soon. In theory, since they applied for historic tax credits, when could they do work on the outside of the building?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. In five years. I'll be writing about this more soon.
 
Gary T 10:55 a.m. When will we get an official word on what was decided on for the boulevard?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. I suspect we will hear more later this summer.
 
James 10:55 a.m. What is the time line for development of the wheeler district? When should movement start.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. The design and planning team are set to start tweaking and finalizing the work unveiled Wednesday night. Once that work is completed, Blair Humphreys will begin talks with the city concerning zoning and infrastructure. He has indicated he wants to start early, quick start development next year at the former Downtown Airpark's old hanger and restaurant. He has a a group of residential and business tenants ready to stake their claims as urban pioneers at Wheeler. He hopes to start work next year with early residents and businesses popping up in 2016. Implementation of the entire plan will take years.
 
Gary T 10:59 a.m. With 21c going in, the Arcade on Main, as well as all the work going on along Sheridan, do you think we can expect development on the empty lots along Main on the south side between Shartel and Dewey? Possibly place for another parking garage?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Talks are underway for development throughout the area.
 
Hurley 10:59 a.m. Whst is one thing that you loved about the most recent draft for the Wheeler district? What is one idea you would change or like to see them add?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. One thing most folks didn't notice is that the placement of the Ferris wheel along the south shore of the Oklahoma River also includes a spot for a Carrousel and that the area is designed to create a great public space surrounded by retail and housing. This could be very, very cool if it becomes a reality. The Humphreys own the Ferris wheel. It's not a stretch to add the Carrousel.
 
James 11:01 a.m. I wasn't able to go to the design meetings for Wheeler, but I didn't really like what I saw from the Ferris wheel. It looks like it's sitting in the middle of a very open parking lot. The view from boaters in the river is already not great. No trees, no grass, definitely has a man-made feeling to it. I like the idea of putting the Ferris wheel near the water, but I think it needs to be done more careful.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. You are taking the designs too literally. Those designs are more to show lay-out and planning rather than what it will exactly look like when done.
 
Pat 11:02 a.m. Steve, The center support for the Crosstown bypass into downtown has a large crack in it. This is the support between the east and west bound I-40 holding up the bridge. You can see this driving west bound. I hope someone reads this that matters. Thanks
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. Wow.
 
Hurley 11:03 a.m. With news that the streetcar might expand quicker than was originally thought do you think its possible for them to add a line along western as the wheeler district is redoing the road?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. I think expansions are definitely possible, but I am not aware of any additional funding being available to make it a reality yet. And extending a streetcar to Wheeler won't be cheap.
 
Pat 11:05 a.m. Steve, Any exciting stories this weekend ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Yes. News flash: I'm going to rest and enjoy time with my family!
 
Pat 11:07 a.m. Steve, What's your opinion of Clayco ? Do you think a better proposal will come from some other developer ? Thanks
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. Clayco has done some pretty decent projects elsewhere. I suspect the city won't be eager to go through the pain of dealing with displacement of valued non-profit arts agencies and disruption to the extremely popular arts festival for a mediocre development plan. I'll be shocked if a developer other than Clayco gets the project.
 
DG of NOKC 11:09 a.m. Has anyone see the rendering of the eastern terminus of the Oklahoma Blvd that is under construction behind Bass Pro
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. I have not seen a rendering. I do not know if one exists other than traditional engineering plans.
 
Hurley 11:09 a.m. Any update on the project that will make Dallas and KC jealous? Can you give any insight to whats holding it up, land acquisition, financing or just a combination of factors?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. The ambitious a real estate deal is, the longer it takes. It's when a developer puts out stunning renderings and acts like it's a done deal before even owning the land that I question whether it's real. The true real estate market downtown is complicated, and with some of these deals you have so many moving pieces and so many players it can take months or years before you see anything move forward. It's amazing that people even try considering the uncertainty built into such projects. I know of one team that spent months (and quite a bit of money) preparing a bid to buy and develop First National Center only to walk away from the deal when the owners decided to open it up to bids.
 
BethanySooner 11:13 a.m. Good morning Steve. I had a question for Cathy O'Connor last week regarding her opinion on the boulevard alternatives as far as which one would hinder or promote growth. For some reason it was disregarded. Why?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:15 a.m. We had little over an hour to answer questions. If she had answered every question, the chat would have exceeded two hours. I'm very grateful she agreed to staying an extra 20 minutes. Dozens of questions went unanswered due to the time constraint. Your question was one that didn't make the cut due to the time.
 
James 11:15 a.m. Is David Wanzer becoming one of the more influential developers in OKC? I like a lot of his upcoming projects. I've heard as well as hope that he is just getting started. Anyway, have you heard of anything going on in classen 10 penn? I really think they could do something around McKinley park such as a monthly event of some sort to really start gaining interest in the area.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:20 a.m. Influential? Define "influential." David is definitely tackling some great projects people want to see get done. But keep in mind David Wanzer will be the first to say he's not acting alone. He has some key partners in these various efforts and is part of an emerging group of developers in the late 20s to mid-40s who are getting things done.
 
Hurley 11:20 a.m. Ray Ackerman always had a dream of a luxury golf course along the river, with the recent momentum in every district downtown do you see that as more of a possibility then 5 years ago?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:20 a.m. Yes, absolutely.
 
James 11:20 a.m. What is the status on the rise? Are they still planning on occupying the space at the end of summer?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. Is October still considered late summer? From what I've seen, it looks like all this rain hasn't helped the schedule.
 
Hurley 11:21 a.m. What is one thing that downtown/ Bricktown is needing that other big cities have and we dont.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. A visitor/history center.
 
BethanySooner 11:23 a.m. I was notified that 3 Brownstones and 2 vacant lots in Deep Deuce will be auctioned off July 31st. Do you think that Ron Bradshaw is wanting to unload these so he can move on to the other developments that he is involved in?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. Yes, Bradshaw is auctioning off his remaining properties. Homeowner covenants, ironically, were preventing Bradshaw from moving forward with finishing out development of his lots. Hopefully new owners will be able to work with the other homeowners and the neighborhood will be fully built out.
 
BethanySooner 11:24 a.m. Any likely announcement timeline for the new non-energy company moving downtown? I really hope that this is not BOK since they already have a downtown presence.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. The deal is still in the works.
 
BethanySooner 11:24 a.m. What is the likelihood that Blair Humphreys is somehow retained by the city to head up the planning of the Core to Shore area?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:24 a.m. About zero.
 
Dusty 11:25 a.m. Anything new happening with NH plaza? The South end continues to be empty and it seems no work is being done.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:27 a.m. Three years have passed since Aubrey McClendon prompted the closing of the legacy grocery Crescent Market and a much beloved old fashioned lunch counter at the old Nichols Hills Drugstore (which eventually moved out of the shopping center after being relocated to a smaller storefront). McClendon's vision of an upscale grocery with a rebuilt lunch counter never became a reality, and the space has stood empty ever since. The shopping center has new owners. What the community once had and enjoyed is gone for good. What is next is yet to be disclosed by the new owners.
 
brian 11:28 a.m. Do you consider yourself a journalist or an activist when it comes to downtown?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. I am a columnist, reporter, history author, blogger and social media guy.
 
BethanySooner 11:29 a.m. What is the current status on the ENVY project? (The one that will make Big D and KC turn green with envy.)
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. Now you're putting words in my mouth.
 
Hurley 11:29 a.m. With Clayco taking a bigger role in the stage center site and putting in a proposal for the area south of it do you see them planning something as massive or nice as say their towers in Clayton/ St. Louis. It has a smaller office tower with a larger residential tower all connected by a large base? here is a link to what it looks like, http://www.claycorp.com/p/4...
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. I don't know.
 
BethanySooner 11:29 a.m. Is there a scheduled announcement for the Boulevard decision? How about the start of the north end of the new central park?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:32 a.m. The Salvation Army is set to move out of its Core to Shore campus and to NW 10 and Classen in September. That will free up the city to begin work on the north section of the Core to Shore park. And as I said time and time again over the years, despite what was being dictated by Mayor Mick Cornett, city engineers and planners, the park and adjoining boulevard are not opening in 2014. I'll be surprised if any significant construction begins before next year.
 
Guest 11:32 a.m. Why did they put elevators in the Brownstones? Does the city require new homes downtown to have elevators?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:32 a.m. It was a marketing and design decision, not a city code requirement to my knowledge.
 
Sooner Than Later 11:32 a.m. Regarding the Wheeler district, has there been any talk on the overall look of the build up in the next 10 years? I personally am afraid everything will look so brand new that it will actually look awkward and dated within a short period of time. Is there talk about the materials being used, the overall look so that it may look timeless. Maybe some places will look like they have been there for years and years and have been updated to fit into a trendy neighborhood (i.e. Seattle, Portland, Austin). We don't want to be another Dallas.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:34 a.m. Actually, there will be some older structures and materials in earliest phase of development. The development is using the old airpark hanger and restaurant building, and Quonset huts with old style storefronts will be used to quick-start early development.
 
Sooner Than Later 11:34 a.m. It's my understanding we don't have a formal name for the Boathouse District. Wait, let me rephrase that. There has been no formal naming of it being called the "River Sport Park" as you so desire, however in your publishing you are calling it that. How do you suggest we go about getting an agreed upon name for marketing purposes instead of one person naming it without proper approvals?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:37 a.m. As long as Berry Tramel is allowed to call the Thunder the "Boomers," I feel totally justified in calling it River Sports park because quite frankly, the official planning name, "the Boathouse District," bores me and is woefully inadequately in describing the area. It's one of the many sometimes annoying liberties employed by columnists and bloggers.
 
laura 11:37 a.m. Good Morning! Any news on the Villa Teresa property? And is it listed on the national register of historic places?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:37 a.m. Not yet.
 
Guest 11:37 a.m. Did you ever speak to ODOT after they quietly posted on the Boulevard website that federal funds could be used outside the original I-40 right of way?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:38 a.m. I will be talking to them soon via email to ensure that communications are property conveyed and received.
 
DoctorTaco 11:38 a.m. Regarding the development of the area south of Stage Center: Do you foresee any surprises, or do you think ClayCo has the thing sewn up? I.E. will any new developer emerge to bid on the property?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:39 a.m. I'm not expecting any surprises, but then again, the whole nature of surprises is that they are not expected!
 
Anh 11:39 a.m. What is OKC going to do with the money given to Oklahoma City from last year Tornado? SWOKC needs improvement, lots of the sidewalks were ruined by contractors cleaning up debris and tearing down homes. There are still lots with broken trees and debris that needs to be clen up.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:39 a.m. This is a question better addressed to The Oklahoman's City Hall beat reporter Bill Crum.
 
Sooner Than Later 11:39 a.m. Are we looking at apartment-style living in the Wheeler District or single family homes? We don't want another 122nd and Penn and while those are just drawings we're seeing they certainly show tons and tons of multi-family dwellings.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:40 a.m. We're looking at the whole mix. I know Blair Humphreys really well, and I think he'd rather work at Walmart before developing apartments like those along Memorial Road, NW 122 and Pennsylvania Avenue.
 
Mike 11:41 a.m. I also like the concept for the Wheeler District, but... And this is not a criticism, just an observation or two. First, I find it interesting that what Americans, or at least OKC residents, seem to want in a "neighborhood" is totally counter to our post-WWII cultural and economic model of "big houses, big roads, big parking lots, and big box retail" that I wonder about the real viability of it. One one-line comment yesterday caught it all... "Where will I park when I go to the Ferris Wheel?" And second, I have found from personal experience that mixing high-priced housing with low income housing doesn't fly. High income buyers won't buy. Sad, but true, right? What do you think?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:46 a.m. False. The John F. Kennedy neighborhood along NE 4 is proof that there is a market for high-end housing in areas with low-income housing if the area is in a desired location and has a unique draw for buyers. Paseo is another area that now has very expensive housing near low-end housing. This is becoming more and more common in urban areas across the country, and Oklahoma City is late to the game. Your observation that Wheeler represents a rejection of post-World War II development and planning is dead-on. Is it viable? I don't think we really will know until it's truly attempted - and this is the first development I know of anywhere in Oklahoma that goes this far in attempting such a change. I don't know how parking will be addressed - it's a question that really hasn't been answered. The basic thinking of the Wheeler team is that the entire community will be a five-minute walk from one end to another. They're banking of people walking and biking more than driving, if my understanding is correct. But they know people will be driving as well. So yeah, this is a big lingering question still. As for big box retail, well, that's a trend that is clearly dying nationwide. The move toward smaller retail is pretty firmly established.
 
Gary T 11:47 a.m. I said Corner Bakery and maybe I got that confused with Panera. Same kind of thing, I guess.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:47 a.m. Panera Bread was looking at a site that ended up being the location for The Metropolitan apartments.
 
Bob 11:47 a.m. Does the Wheeler district include the park. It was hard to tell from the presentations on-line?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:47 a.m. it is adjacent to the park
 
soonered 11:47 a.m. The starflyer seems to be a victim of the 100% for progress,but 100% against change crowd...unless u are Larry the sandridge guy, then it can happen!
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:47 a.m. Um, Ok.
 
Guest 11:48 a.m. Have you had a chance to meet with Aubrey Hammontree yet? Have you seen any differences between the way she is running things now compared to when Russell Claus was Director of Planning?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:48 a.m. I've known Aubrey for a long time and was happy to see her get the job. She's already made a great hire with Lisa Chronister, and I think she'll bring a new enthusiasm to the job.
 
Guest 11:48 a.m. Hi Steve. Do you know if the School Board offices are planning to move from their current location in the near future? I wonder if that building is on the National Historic Register. It looks like it needs a lot of work.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:49 a.m. A deal is done for Oklahoma City Public Schools administration to move to the former Claims Management Resources building at NW 5 and Classen Boulevard. Their current building is in very, very bad shape and I wouldn't be surprised if it's bought and torn down to make way for new development.
 
Guest 11:50 a.m. How many questions didn't get answered by Cathy O'Connor? I sensed certain themes didn't seem to make it through. Have you ever thought about sending guests the unanswered questions afterwards and then posting their answers on your blog?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:52 a.m. There was no conspiracy to censor the chat. I skipped posting a few questions that aren't in her purview or addressed to her to ensure that as many topics that were for her got answered. I am on track for a two hour chat today. It's supposed to be just one hour, but I try to allow for extra time when I can. It's not reasonable to expect that every guest can commit to such open ended schedules. What themes do you think were withheld?
 
Mark 11:52 a.m. What is the status of the streetcar development? Will these be CNG poered or are we going to have the unsightly and intrusive overhead wires?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:52 a.m. I don't know.
 
Richard 11:52 a.m. Thoughts on how the city represented itself in hosting the US Senior open?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:53 a.m. It was in Edmond, so ...?
 
Guest 11:53 a.m. The Regional Transit Dialog Steering Committee yesterday voted on Locally Preferred Alternatives for the northern, southern and eastern corridors. Commuter Rail between Edmond and Norman with modern streetcar (essentially "rapid streetcar" or "light rail lite") extending from Midtown up Classen to NW 63rd/Chesapeake. Also modern streetcar heading south from Core to Shore, presumably down Walker to Capitol Hill, exact alignment TBD. After debate streetcar east on Reno to Del City then the old rail ROW to Tinker. These projects are not, repeat, NOT yet funded - there is a long, long way to go yet but these are important planning goals achieved. The enthusiasm and support from elected officials from municipalities throughout the region was impressive. What are your thoughts about the implications of a these streetcar extensions within the greater downtown area?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:54 a.m. I think it's encouraging that the elected officials from the suburbs and city are engaged. But that's a long way from getting voters to approve funding.
 
Bob 11:54 a.m. Continuing the discussion from last week, do you think the possibility of a hotel across the street from the convention center, the streetcar, and all the rooms being built in Bricktown will reduce the need for a large convention center hotel?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:54 a.m. I don't know.
 
Sooner Than Later 11:54 a.m. Any updates on the Devon Tower lighting? I notice they still haven't fixed all the panels. Some are the wrong color compared to others, and some don't light up at all.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:54 a.m. It looked lit up to me this week.
 
Mark 11:54 a.m. Steve who would be on your 'dream team' to buy and renovate first national? Also I know you can fix the bathroom between the floors problem since it was done in the Colcord, but does it require a full gutting of every floor? Is there anyway this project is going to cost less than $100M?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:55 a.m. I think it's impossible to REALLY renovate First National for anything less than $100 million, and that does not include the purchase price.
 
Mark 11:55 a.m. Steve now that a legitimate First National renovation is looking more and more likely what do you think would do well in the old petroleum club spot? Do you have any old pictures from up there that you could post to okccentral? Also on okccentral could you post a map of the whole FNC block and show what is likely to be renovated and what will be converted to structured parking. thanks!
 
Mark 11:56 a.m. Steve could you see FNC being converted to a more open office building, similar to the ones many tech start ups use or have all the proposals you've gotten wind of say hotel/housing?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:56 a.m. I'll try to do a blog post on OKC Central soon answering these questions. I don't see offices being in the future for First National, but I could be wrong.
 
Guest 11:56 a.m. p.s. The RTD Steering Committee was pretty keen to know that the streetcar would also reach the HSC. Others have grumbled that the suburban built environment of the HSC is not appropriate for the streetcar. Areas such as OCU and Plaza District (all day/evening trip generators) are more appropriate. Your thoughts?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:57 a.m. I appreciate their hard work and wouldn't want to be under the pressure to make choices they face. This is one of those "good problems" for a growing city.
 
Guest 11:57 a.m. The banks on either side of the Oklahoma River are really blah. If they were naturalized with native grasses and trees the whole area would be very pretty. Also, if they would then put a dirt path through there, lots of bicyclists and/or walkers would use it. I would. I appreciate the asphalt trails but it looks like there's plenty of room for both. So much potential there!
 
Mark 11:57 a.m. Steve if FNC is converted to housing would you consider moving down there once you yourself are an empty nester?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:58 a.m. I'm going to play the lottery in hopes of winning $10 million so I can buy and live in the Clark Building in Deep Deuce!
 
Mark 11:58 a.m. Steve I was very pleased when you tweeted that Wenger made an appearance at the Wheeler district presentation. Did you get a chance to talk to him and what he thought about the project and more importantly did you see or hear if Jim Couch ever made it down there?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:59 a.m. City Manager Jim Couch visited the Charrette team Wednesday morning, reviewed and discussed the proposed plans at the design studio. Wenger attended the presentation. Both men indicated they were listening to the proposals and ready to get to work on deciding what is and isn't possible.
 
Mark 11:59 a.m. Steve when it comes to the wheeler district I am all for it, and am considering being an urban pioneer myself if the pieces of this puzzle really start coming together. My question is who is going to pay for the streets that were laid out in the map? the city? the Humphries? Also who will be the authoritative body that governs what can and can't be built on each of these new blocks? Thanks!
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:01 p.m. I don't think that question has been really answered yet, but I suspect we will see a request for a tax increment financing district and maybe some funding for roads in the next bond issue, similar what the city has done in the past for developments like the Belle Isle shopping center and what it is preparing to do for Chisholm Creek being built at Western and Memorial. As for development governance, I suspect the area will be zoned as a planned unit development.
 
LG 12:01 p.m. Steve - is anything going in the big blue boxes on the Santa Fe Parking Garage? Looks like maybe some lights?? A lot of the construction material is gone, so wondering if they are almost finished with the cosmetic updates to the garage.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:02 p.m. I think they will be lit up at night. I'll do an update soon.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:02 p.m. I must stop for two minutes. Will be back shortly.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:05 p.m. I am back.
 
DG of NOKC 12:05 p.m. It would be nice to see the engineering plans, but due whatever reason I cannot find them. Can u post them if you have them.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:05 p.m. Engineering plans for the east boulevard connection? Yes, I'll do that.
 
George 12:05 p.m. Steve, I am pretty stoked about the Bleu Garten opening up pretty soon. Do you think if it is successful enough Midtownr will let it stay there more permanently? I am fairly certain they only have a 3 year lease on the plot. Do you know if Micky and crew already have something else planned for that block?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:06 p.m. The land is too valuable for a permanent food truck plaza. But it is designed and built for relocation. I think everyone will be very happy with what I believe is the long term plan for the site.
 
George 12:07 p.m. When is St. Anthony going to start construction on the new wing of the hospital? They were originally going to start in the spring, then it was the first week of july. Fences are up, but have been for quite some time.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:07 p.m. New construction site fencing went up this week. I believe it's finally, really about to start.
 
George 12:07 p.m. Steve really enjoyed your coverage of wheeler park both in the paper and on twitter. Really think that was a great example of you using to social media to supplement and promote a great article in the paper. Unlike other overly ambitious projects in the past, you say you think the wheeler district has the best chance of taking off. What about this development makes you say that?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:09 p.m. Blair Humphreys and his team have figured out to quick-start the project with existing buildings and what they already have at the site. That's key - you have to have something already in place to get people to buy into the long-term vision. He also has quite a few people ready to start out as early urban pioneers in terms of living and working at Wheeler.
 
George 12:09 p.m. Steve just looked at the new Rand Elliot block on google maps and there are 4 triangular blocks right there in a row down Harrison ave. I think this could be a chance for Rand to really show off and build and interesting 3 sided building on each of those blocks, but as we all know it won't be cheap. Is Rand planning on self financing and hoping to lease/sell this project(s)? What do you think he has up his sleeve
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:09 p.m. Rand only owns his block and he is only saying that he is starting a master plan for development.
 
George 12:10 p.m. Steve I recently walked down the ally behind the buildings on the west side of auto ally and really thought that could be a cool space that is currently under utilized. Have you been back there and do you think it will forever remain a place just for dumpsters?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:10 p.m. Yes, I am familiar with the stretch. I agree with you. Once Midtown and Automobile Alley is fully developed, ask me this question again.
 
George 12:10 p.m. Have you had any feedback from Bricktown proprietors about your food truck story? If so has the feed back been positive or negative? Personally I completely agree with you, the more people we can get down there the better it will be for the district long term
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:11 p.m. Quite a few people were positive. And Downtown OKC Inc. actually managed to find a way to get a couple of food trucks out in Bricktown earlier this week.
 
Sooner Than Later 12:11 p.m. Is their talk behind the scenes of starting a small list of what could possibly be included in Maps 4 (if that were to happen)? When do you think actual marketing/ open-talks will start on the possibility of a MAPS 4?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:12 p.m. Talk? Sure. Serious planning? Not really. I don't expect any such thing to happen until major projects like the park and convention center are done or close to being done.
 
George 12:12 p.m. Is there anything you would like to talk about that we aren't asking about
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:13 p.m. I'd love to see people use this chat to promote upcoming downtown events, festivals, arts exhibits and concerts.
 
George 12:13 p.m. Steve what have you heard whispers about for the south block of the OGE development? Is someone actually interested besides CLAYCO? Or are they wanting to build spec.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:14 p.m. Yes, other interests have inquired about the site. But I'm not sure we'll see anything pitched by anyone other than Clayco.
 
George 12:14 p.m. Do you think we will see updated renderings of the stage center tower before SC is demolished? Do you think it will be down before the school year starts? (btw what is the first day of john rex?)
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:15 p.m. No, I don't think we will see final renderings and that's unfortunate. I do believe it will be history by September.
 
Guest 12:15 p.m. Although I appreciated the enthusiasm of the Wheeler charrette(s). I felt that it would be hard for Wheeler to not bring Edmond to the inner core. By that I mean gentrified and faux urban environment housing. I rather work live revitalize our existing urban core. Maybe a better use is a golf course with an entertainment core. ( carousel, ferris wheel
 
BethanySooner 12:16 p.m. Regarding the ENVY project - I just wanted to shorten the reference. No dig at you. I was a bit concerned when Cathy O'Connor mentioned the possibility of single family homes being built in the C2S area. As popular as Downtown living is becoming, I would hope that we wouldn't hold down potential density with any suburban type developments. I'd like to see mid-rise towers and developments like Wheeler Park dominate the landscape, especially closer to the new park. Comments?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:16 p.m. In the vast area that is Core to Shore, I think there is an appropriate way to build urban single family homes. I am not a proponent of building everything 20 stories or higher.
 
Walker 12:17 p.m. Can I just say it's embarrassing to have a guest from out town who notices we have a severe lack of sidewalks in OKC? I explain that we're actively putting them in, but here we are in 2014 and JUST NOW getting a sidewalk. Has the American with Disabilities Act (or governing agency) gotten involved behind the scenes with this? I've often wondered how a wheelchair using-person can easily get around with the lack of sidewalks. Wheeling yourself up Classen is just as dangerous as taking a selfie at the annual running of the bulls race.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:17 p.m. Preach it brother Walker!
 
George 12:17 p.m. Do you think like the farmers market, the wheeler district will live or die by the design of the blvd? Did anyone from ODOT that you know of stop by the charrette?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:18 p.m. I did not see anyone from ODOT at the Wheeler Charrette. And yes, the future of Farmers Market can be greatly improved or hurt by the boulevard's design.
 
BethanySooner 12:18 p.m. What developers were in attendance at the Wheeler District planning meetings. Didn't you report that one developer was already interested in building multi-family units there?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:18 p.m. Yes.
 
Guest 12:18 p.m. Steve how long have you been working out? What inspired you to do it? Your tweets about checking to the gym are really helping me to get up and head outside to go for a walk or head there myself
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:23 p.m. Moment of personal disclosure: 2013 was a really bad year for me. It started with the unexpected death of my father, the death of a close friend, and the murder of another friend, combined with some stress on the job. My health, something I was not consistently addressing, worsened. By December, I had to either make a choice or accept that soon I wouldn't have that choice. I chose to change. So yeah, I'm working out with downtown trainer Ryan Vivar, I'm on Weight Watchers, and I'm hitting cardio a lot at the YMCA. Since January I've lost 76 pounds. This is a difficult journey I am, but I am committed to it. The good news is I am already enjoying the rewards of such choices. I can walk quite a bit again. I participated in a history walk along Automobile Alley a few weeks ago, and I hope to be able to do more soon. My longest walk to date now was just under two miles, when last January I couldn't walk more than a block without needing to stop to catch my breath.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:23 p.m. How is that for honesty?
 
guest 12:23 p.m. Did Devon buy the IRS Building downtown?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:23 p.m. An out-of-state investment group was listed as the buyer. Interpret that liberally.
 
George 12:24 p.m. Steve, I have this grand vision in my head of the midtown roundabout being surrounded by building of similar height if not taller than the current midtown plaza building. With 10th street about to become one of the most bustling streets in the city do you think the next step would be someone buying the gogo sushi strip and bakery and building on those sites? Do you think midtownr would have any interest in these properties? thanks!
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:27 p.m. I think there is a real possibility we will see the current triangle-shaped block where EMSA is located being bought and redeveloped. That's where the biggest potential is for something great happening along the roundabout.
 
Guest 12:27 p.m. Regarding themes withheld from the chat with Cathy O'Connor, here's a comment from another person earlier today:
 
Guest 12:27 p.m. Comment From BethanySooner Good morning Steve. I had a question for Cathy O'Connor last week regarding her opinion on the boulevard alternatives as far as which one would hinder or promote growth. For some reason it was disregarded. Why?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:28 p.m. Yes, I answered this earlier in the chat. Having visited with Cathy over the years, I suspect her answer might be both alternatives have their pros and cons when it comes to development friendliness.
 
Guest 12:28 p.m. Given that the Core-to-Shore Urban Renewal plan was recently extended to cover areas to the west and northwest of the park - specifically bisected by the Boulevard - surely questions to Cathy O'Connor about the boulevard's design and impact on growth in that area would have been in her purview?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:29 p.m. That question, as I recall, was late in the chat and didn't pop up on my screen until O'Connor was already gone.
 
Guest 12:29 p.m. Do you know when the owners will get started on the new and improved Homeland on Classen?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:29 p.m. I question whether it will ever happen.
 
George 12:29 p.m. Any word on potential rock island plow tenants? This will be a great spot for whoever grabs it
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:29 p.m. Nope, not yet.
 
Guest 12:30 p.m. Steve I am a bit confused about the Monterrey building. Was it built for a single tenant or are they leasing out the pods? Can the public go in and look at the space?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:30 p.m. I think it's for one tenant. I'll ask and find out.
 
George 12:30 p.m. Steve there is a really, really cool old building that looks like an old mason temple on robinson and 12th I believe. What was that building built for originally and what do you think it could be best reused as?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:31 p.m. That was a First Scientist Church, and yeah, it's really cool and begging for an ambitious redevelopment plan and buyer. Sadly, it was purchased as an investment out out-of-state folks who are just sitting on it.
 
George 12:31 p.m. Steve do you think we will know more about Main/Hudson block before Jan 1 2015?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:31 p.m. I think so.
 
George 12:31 p.m. When is ground going to start moving on the central park? Is the design finalized?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:31 p.m. Later this year.
 
Guest 12:31 p.m. Do you think the Wheeler District will prompt more development in the Capital Hill area and eventually integrate the southern bank of the river into downtown?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:32 p.m. If it is developed right, yes.
 
guest 12:32 p.m. dumpsters and homeless people
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:32 p.m. Is this a title of a new song by Justin Beiber?
 
George 12:32 p.m. Any news on the tower theater? the more I drive down 23rd the more I realize just how important this property and how much it could improve the whole area.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:33 p.m. Marty Dillon has owned it for a long time. He has indicated he's working on a plan to bring it back. I don't know what else I can tell you.
 
George 12:33 p.m. Steve what is the time table for the street car?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:33 p.m. The city's schedule calls for the first phase to be completed in 2017.
 
George 12:33 p.m. Steve what has been the hold up at The Rise? I may just be passing by at the wrong time, but I feel like every time I drive or ride my bike near there no one is working.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:34 p.m. Weather, design, changes in the development team. It's going slow. But if it's developed as anticipated, it should be worth the wait. Real estate deals, especially redevelopment of old properties, take time. I often advise developers not to be be too aggressive in pinpointing a completion date for my coverage.
 
Guest 12:34 p.m. Are there any prospects for the vacant land across from Villa Teresa along Classen Drive?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:34 p.m. Yes.
 
George 12:35 p.m. Steve for 23d to become a truly pedestrian friendly street will the (very nice) treed median have to be removed?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 12:35 p.m. I think if city planners had a time machine, they'd go back and do the streetscape differently.
 
NewsOK 12:43 p.m. Hey everyone. Steve has lost his wireless connection, so we'll have to end the chat here. Thanks for all your questions.
 
NewsOK 12:44 p.m. We had a max of 391 readers today and 126 comments.
 
NewsOK 12:44 p.m. Have a good weekend!
 
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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