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OKC Central Chat transcript, March 14, 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 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: March 14, 2014 at 11:12 am •  Published: March 14, 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 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 8:52 a.m. Good morning. Steve will be logging in at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:00 a.m. Good morning. Let's get started.
Nick Emenhiser 10:00 a.m. Hey Steve, is the Lumber Yard project newly rendered by a Dallas architecture firm on the site newly acquired by OKC Mid Rise LLC, in any way connected to the development you've been attracted that would purportedly make Dallas and Kansas City "jealous." Apologies if this question gets asked 60 times before and after I have gotten this in.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:05 a.m. No. Be careful about reading too much into renderings discovered on architects' websites. Based on what I know, and folks I've talked to, I will be very, very surprised if this rendering represents anything real. I have not seen any transactions involving the sale of the lumberyard or anything transactions involving an entity named OKC Mid Rise LLC. There are some really great rumors that get batted around on a local website. Some are real, some are not real. This one, I suspect, is not real. And folks in the know say it is not real.
Guest 10:05 a.m. I have heard criticisms about the development in OKC, favoring input and preferences of engineers over city planners.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. Yep.
JoeOklahoma 10:06 a.m. Steve, first - you're awesome and you should feel awesome. Great stories and objective, thorough stuff. Not to mention entertaining. I'm all about food. Asian food. Really random, but anything expected to enter the Asian District scene? Great selection so far, but now wanting even more.. (Stealing a second question - your favorite place in the Asian District?)
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. I'm not aware of anything "big" about to hit the Asian District, though it is already home to a lot of great places. I like Grand House, Lido and Lee's Sandwiches.
CJ 10:07 a.m. Has Sandridge submitted changes for their new Parkside building being built to the city? Have you seen the new floor plans for their new Parkside buidling?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. I have not seen the new floor plates yet.
CJ 10:07 a.m. Are there any new developments on the status of First National Tower?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:08 a.m. Nope. The owners are still asking for a seemingly prohibitive sales price while their occupancy plummets.
CJ 10:08 a.m. Who owns the land on the northside of the road on NW 5th Street between Dewey and Walker? There is a huge pile of dirt there between two Dowell developments? Is this a potential site for a new residential tower?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. Not sure I can picture the spot you're talking about. I'll check into it today.
Guest 10:09 a.m. what were you doing at Villa Teresa the other night?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. The non-profit local history group, Retro Metro OKC, was being hosted by the Carmelite Sisters and Bradley Wynn, who has authored the book "Oklahoma City's Midtown." The group spent some great time getting to know these wonderful people, and toured what I consider to be one of the most special, happiest places in Midtown - and also an extremely attractive historic property. Villa Teresa had the city's oldest kindergarten schools before it closed operations a year or so ago.
CJ 10:11 a.m. If you were to move downtown would you live in an older house in Heritage Hills, a new modern house in SOSA, or a high rise tower? (once your kids are off to college of course)
Steve Lackmeyer 10:13 a.m. Oh gosh, I can't think that far ahead right now. I'm not a modern house kind of guy. A historic house in Heritage Hills would probably be wonderful, but also too big for just two people. High rise? It would be nice to visit, but I'm not sure I could afford it or really whether it would fit my lifestyle. I'd say if I ever went house hunting downtown, it would be more likely for one of the options available in Deep Deuce.
Damon 10:13 a.m. What do you see in the in the future rearguard our downtown tourism? Any big plans in the works that have not been talked about?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:14 a.m. I know the Convention and Visitors Bureau conducts ambassador training with the Water Taxi operators and various venue folks downtown. I know that promotional materials are created annually. Beyond that, I'm not sure if there's anything else right now.
CJ 10:14 a.m. Does the Deep Deuce district have to go to the OKC downtown design review board? If so how did the one story addition on the side of the brownstones get approval?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. Yes. But the Brownstones are part of a previously approved PUD zoning application that pretty much exempts that work from design review.
CJ 10:15 a.m. When is GE set to break ground?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. This spring.
CJ 10:15 a.m. When is the Catholic Ministries set to start building on Classen?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. They are still in fundraising mode.
CJ 10:16 a.m. Are there any new developments at OUHSC? Any new buildings going up or are they on hold since they purchase PHC?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. I suspect they're stepping back and reviewing future growth after this significant acquisition.
CJ 10:16 a.m. Do you have any updates on the Humphreys development on the Oklahoma River? I know Blair is focusing his attention to this now. Do you think this will be a huge game changer for west downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. They're making plans, but nothing is ready to report.
Pat 10:17 a.m. Good Morning Steve, Probably been asked, but is there any credence to the conceptual drawings for lumber yard site over by the co-op. Thanks
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. I seriously doubt they are any more real than the renderings posted at the same website for a tower designed by a local firm for I-44 and Broadway Extension. Sometimes these renderings are done and posted to attract investor, developer interest. Sometimes they reflect a job that went south.
Pat 10:18 a.m. Hi Steve, Any great stories on your part for the weekend ? Look forward to them. Thanks
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. Nope. Not this weekend.
Terry 10:19 a.m. I'm hoping this is a busy year at the Boathouse District. Can you give us a status update on what's to be built this year? Also are you aware of any Olympic rowing qualifying events scheduled at the River?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. I'm not up to date on rowing events. But I can tell you work begins this year on the MAPS 3 white water venue and on the UCO boathouse. And yeah, they're both pretty big deals for the river.
Jon S 10:20 a.m. Just curious - any specific reason why the northern façade of the AT&T building has no windows? It's one of the quirkier buildings downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:22 a.m. Quirky is a kind word to use when it comes to the AT&T buildings. The design, as I understand it, dates back to the 1960s and 1970s when AT&T was a very different company with very different operations. When I look at the Pioneer Building in particular, I see a great historic building with a junk pile on the roof begging to be liberated from its owner.
Terry 10:22 a.m. What have you heard from the City in regards to the Central Park design? Have they been hearing enough criticism to cause them to demand a better design from Hargreaves?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. Hargreaves is going to do what Hargreaves is going to do unless enough people contact their city council members and those council members tell Hargreaves these designs don't meet their expectations.
Tim 10:23 a.m. Where should I go for lunch today, midtown, bricktown, deep duece, automobile alley. Doesnt matter where, I will trust your judgement.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. Old school lunch: Coney Island or Peacock. Hip: Waffle Champion or Kitchen No. 324. Fun: Iguana Mexican Grill or S&B Burgers. Home-style comfort: Beatnix. Something entirely new: Knuck's Wheelhouse. Classy: Art Museum Cafe, Park House at the Myriad Gardens. Wonderfully greasy: the Ice House at the Myriad Gardens.
Terry 10:27 a.m. What's the status of the new Salvation Army Headquarters and when do they plan to move out of their old spot? Is that the last holdup to starting construction on the Core-to-Shore (Central Park)?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. Yeah, pretty much. As I recall, the Salvation Army headquarters at NW 10 and Penn should be completed late this year.
Randall 10:28 a.m. Our chief OKC City Planner has left. Why?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. Straight and forward response: He was frustrated with the lack of value given to planning in this city.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. City Hall also has lost in the same time period its transit director (a guy who critics complain has no transit experience was recently hired as the new transit director) and the city's parks director. All is well, I hear, over at Public Works.
Coy 10:30 a.m. There appears to be some development starting in the Paseo at N Walker Ave and Paseo Dr. There was drilling going on a month ago and now there is a sign out front that says for lease. Have you heard anything about that and if so do you know what it is?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. Nope.
Tom 10:30 a.m. Steve, with regard to your recent column about Stage Center, what obligation do architects & artists have to create structures & sculptures that are functional and affordable to their clients? Stage Center failed in both respects and is headed to the dustbin of history.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:31 a.m. I think my column speaks for itself. John Johansen's arrogance and the inability of Oklahoma City to think outside the back some 40 years ago pretty much doomed Stage Center from the very start.
Anthony 10:32 a.m. Have you been to urban johnnies inside the level yet? I have not but it looks really cool. I expect that area of DT will be the most walk heavy. Most new developments have street level restaurant/retail going in. Do you agree?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. Absolutely.
Terry 10:32 a.m. How likely is it that additional openings (for pedestrian, automobile, transit and canal expansion) would be considered beneath the Santa Fe Railroad viaduct that separates Bricktown from downtown such as the proposed new opening at the Santa Fe Station and the Devon Fountain? Do you think these would receive the same kind of resistance from Santa Fe that Union Pacific is putting up at the opening between the canal and the river at I-40? By the way what's the status on access beneath I-40?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. The railroad is very hesitant to agree to any more openings.
Ryan Bent 10:32 a.m. Steve, Now that Mick Cornnet won will we see him start to address the airport and start to lure more fights to the city of Oklahoma City?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. A $70 million expansion to Will Rogers World Airport was recently announced.
Terry 10:33 a.m. Any word as to when the public will get a look at the redesigned Crosstown Boulevard?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. Soon. Very soon.
Will 10:34 a.m. Pile of dirt on NW 5th.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. I really need to see it in context, which I will do today.
RowerBrandon 10:34 a.m. Have the sidewalks underneath I-40 been opened up yet that will connect the riverwalk with the boathouse district? I know you mentioned that there were some zoning or clearance issues with the railroad companies
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. Nope, not yet.
RowerBrandon 10:35 a.m. Will the southern side of Aloft get any of the black facade that the north side has? Personally I think it would look great with accents like the north side facing towards bricktown. Especially some of those lights they have installed among the hotel
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. I believe the exterior work at Aloft is complete.
Ladd 10:35 a.m. Do you happen to know what the new construction south of OUHSC on 8th next to the Toby Keith Foundation is going to be?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. If my directions are correct, I believe you are talking about the new Embassy Suites.
Anthony 10:36 a.m. What is the thing you are most excited for? My top 2 are: hearing what would make Dallas jealous and the GE center. I think the GE center will be huGE for Okc.
CJ 10:36 a.m. Are there any new projects coming out in the next month that you are excited about?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. Yes.
Terry 10:36 a.m. Once Chris Johnson finishes with his House of Bedlam do you think he'll try to do anything with the large vacant property across the canal? You've mentioned before that he's trying for a hotel there?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. He's continuing to try.
Anthony 10:36 a.m. I'm also excited about the boathouse district too. This will be one thing that will be unique to okc. I hope there are good turnouts for the events going on down there. Hoping mid rise condos go down there. Do you know when they will attempt to get a great wolf lodge facility down there?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. I suspect an effort to get a Great Wolf style resort is still at least a couple of years off. I'm not sure we'll see mid-rise condos in that immediate area.
RowerBrandon 10:37 a.m. Also if you or any of your readers are interested: This saturday (tomorrow) is the OCU Men's and Women's Opening Day Regatta where they will be 2k scrimmages against Wichita St. at 11:30am and will be doing night sprints with them around 7pm.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Thanks!
Terry 10:38 a.m. Have you seen anyone hanging out at the Bicentennial Park besides the guy last week?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Nope.
Tom 10:38 a.m. I was told growing up that AT&T buildings (formerly Southwestern Bell) were designed that way in the 1950s to better withstand nuclear attacks & Soviet missile strikes.
Will 10:38 a.m. The telephone building was built with those windows but were bricked in at some point for some reason.
Ray 10:38 a.m. Has the Ice House reopened yet?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Yep.
RowerBrandon 10:38 a.m. What's with all the work just behind bass pro next to the train tracks off Lincoln?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Boulevard.
Klint 10:39 a.m. With the opening of Rex Elementary this fall, will developers finally start building some affordable family housing (ie more than 2 bedrooms) downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. Efforts are underway. But it's tough due to land costs and parking.
Guest 10:39 a.m. Thank you for coming to villa teresa monday night steve! Question: any clues for the new energy stadium location yet?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. I see a riverfront location in our future
Terry 10:40 a.m. Talking about places to live downtown. I'm envious of Meg Salyer. Doesn't she live in a penthouse on top of the City Place Building? Now that's the way you do it, on Park Avenue no less.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m.
Chase 10:42 a.m. Regarding the "lack of value given to planners in OKC", is the recent election evidence that this will continue? If not, where is this influence (potential political pull) coming from? What are some significant steps that must be taken in order to see change in this in this mindset?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. I think at the end of the day it's all about what residents tell their council members.... if you want to tip the balance to planning, you've got to say something.
Ryan Bent 10:43 a.m. Steve, is Oklahoma City going to continue to focus on downtown or are they going to start looking at redeveloping the neighborhoods outside downtown or maybe even both.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. I disagree with the premise of your question. The focus has been citywide all along.
RowerBrandon 10:44 a.m. Last question I promise: A lot of people really want to see development along the river near the boathouse district but there is a little issue that is noticeable whenever you are on or near the river and that is that the dog food plant there makes quite a nasty smell in the morning. If you enjoy the smell of doggy biscuits, then living next to the river is home sweet home.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. Not sure there is a question here.
Randall 10:44 a.m. Has a decision been made on whether the new Blvd where I-40 was be elevated?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. Nope.
Michael 10:44 a.m. Are there any projects that you know of to increase Class A office space in OKC?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. Yes. OGE Energy Corp. tower. Parkside Building at SandRidge Commons.
Gary T 10:45 a.m. Good morning! Sorry to be tardy to the party. You said last week that there were many more factors besides TIF funds not being available as one of the reasons business people didn't want to see ES elected. Can you give us some more examples of things you heard the business community was afraid would happen had he been elected?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. They saw him as a divisive voice whose overall message is more critical than positive. I'm not saying this is right or wrong. But you asked.
Gary T 10:46 a.m. Back in July of 2013, a plan came out to renovate the less used areas of the Civic Center like the Freede Little Theatre, Joel Levine Rehearsal Hall, the main lobby, the City Space Theatre and the Upper Balcony Event Space. Where does this project stand?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. I'm not sure. This is a project being covered by Bill Crum.
Albert 10:47 a.m. Steve- Ever tried Banana Island? They switched owners, but the food is still pretty good.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. Yep. I went there before it sold.
Gary T 10:47 a.m. Do you think the ramping up of work on The Rise will help spur Dillon to get the Tower Theatre going or is one of those things where he is going to do what he wants, when he wants.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. Dillon is going to do what he wants when he wants to.
Randall 10:47 a.m. Why doesn't the City of Oklahoma City leadership value their own Planning Dept? Who is really planning the future of OKC then?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. They say they value planning. The continued criticism is that engineering is valued and given far more say in projects than planning.
Gary T 10:48 a.m. Where is Ed Shadid getting the $800 million cost for the convention center and hotel figure from? What is your understanding of the total cost of the convention center with a hotel?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. The $800 million is a made-up figure. I've yet to understand where it comes from, other than from some highly imaginative political consultants. There are some serious questions to ask and things to consider with the convention center and the possibility of a hotel. I'm not sure it's helpful to throw garbage into the discussion.
Gary T 10:49 a.m. Any word on the Wormy Dog renovation/relocation?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. It seems to be going no where so far.
Randall 10:50 a.m. The Stage Center helped major cities image that a building didn't have to be boring. Love it or hate it, it MADE A STATEMENT. We should be proud that the Oklahoma City leadership of the 1960's had the guts to build such a shocking, futuristic building.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. Ah, but that's the problem. Oklahoma City leadership DID NOT have the "guts" to build such a shocking, futuristic building. They hated it. But the Ford Foundation, based in New York City, was providing major funding and insisted on John Johansen's designs being used or the money would be yanked.
Guest 10:52 a.m. When do you think a Regional Transit Authority might form in the metro area, if at all? Any interesting transit updates?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. It's a possibility. I'm going to try to write something up soon.
Anthony 10:52 a.m. What do you envision for Capitol Hill district in 3 years?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Extend the MAPS 3 streetcar a short distance into Capitol Hill and I'm convinced the area will finally realize its full potential as a great cultural asset for the city.
Guest 10:53 a.m. What are your thoughts on the vacancy rate in downtown? Too low, too high, or just right? Lot's being built so this seems to be constantly changing.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Vacancy is tight.
Albert 10:54 a.m. You mentioned you were at Villa Teresa the other night- what's going to happen to that property? it was a sad dark day when Villa Teresa Closed down.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. It will eventually be sold. The redevelopment prospects for the property are fantastic.
Tom 10:54 a.m. Steve, the City Council passed an ordinance creating a registry of vacant & abandoned buildings, but the State Legislature is moving towards passing a bill that would prohibit such registries. Is this simply lobbying or is there a valid problem with the registry?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. It's lobbying by the real estate industry. They've not even given the registry a chance to get started to see if their fears have any merit. The State Legislature hates Washington, D.C. meddling in state affairs, but they seem to have no reluctance meddling in municipal politics.
midtown eric 10:56 a.m. whats going in at the old café nova spot? Is John Paul Merritt still involved?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. Not sure. But Merritt hasn't been involved with that restaurant in years.
Randall 10:56 a.m. 252 Million for the convention center and 600 million for the hotel.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. Yes. It will be a $252 million convention center. The hotel, if it happens, will absolutely NOT be $600 million. Anyone telling you this is outright lying or simply stupid. We're talking about a 15- to 20-story hotel, not a 50-story Devon Energy Center.
Randall 10:58 a.m. Then the Ford Foundation should have built the Stage Center in New York City or San Francisco and not Oklahoma City. It's the only building (other than the Gold Dome) that I really cared about. If the rest were tore down I wouldn't care.
Terry 10:58 a.m. Is the owner of the Spaghetti Warehouse content to leave the upper floors of the building unused, or do you know if they have any plans to use that space?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. They seem to be quite content.
Randall 10:59 a.m. Detroit City is spending 10's of millions of dollars each year (from federal grants) tearing down old buildngs. Can OKC get some of those Federal Grants? We could sure use them.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Nope.
Chase 10:59 a.m. Steve Lackmeyer: I think at the end of the day it's all about what residents tell their council members.... if you want to tip the balance to planning, you've got to say something. - Challenge Accepted. Likely will be a lifelong resident of the area. (& I've recently applied to the RCPL program at OU)
Gary T 10:59 a.m. It seems work has amped up on Carnegie Centre. Can we expect it to be done by the end of the year?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Yep.
Tom 10:59 a.m. Cafe Nova is in the process of becoming The Barrell, offering "pub-fusion cuisine," and mentioning a spring 2014 opening.
Gary T 11:00 a.m. What are the chances we could see some of the surface parking lots in BT developed? The one in front of the Chevy BT Event Center and across from Abuelo's are the one I would most like to see go away.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. We might see some developed. It depends on whether structured parking is added to the district.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. Folks, I've got to go now. Have a great 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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