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OKC Central Chat transcript, May 17, 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: May 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm •  Published: May 17, 2013

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

Steve Lackmeyer 9:59 a.m. Good morning everybody.
Nick 10:00 a.m. Hi Steve! Heard rumors of OG&E (NOT their new MLP with CenterPoint) had been sniffing around for a new tower in the area just north of the Art Museum. Had you heard that? Are they looking to build new digs?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:03 a.m. Interestingly enough, did you know that OG&E once planned to build a tower at Robert S. Kerr and Harvey Avenue back in the early 1980s? That said, this rumor is one of many out on the streets. What I can tell you is that it's not going to be much longer (sometime this summer) before we see a development announced for the Stage Center site and that the potential remains for more than one tower to be added to the downtown skyline over the next few years.
Gary T 10:03 a.m. Good morning Steve! Let's assume a MAPS 4 comes up early 2017. By that time, the convention center will have started construction, most of the Oklahoma River improvements will have been done, the north park will have been opened and the south part will start to be developed, the streetcar should be up, and running, the fairgrounds improvements should be done and a few of the wellness centers will hopefully have been built. What would you like to see on the MAPS 4 ballot? Mostly mass transit? A 20,000-25,000 soccer/football stadium?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. Let's back up a bit.
I'm not going to assume the convention center is under construction at that point, though it is possible. We will likely have a boulevard in place by then (I can't imagine it being done in 2014). Will the park be done by then? I'm not so certain. The Oklahoma River improvements will be done. The streetcar system MIGHT be open by then. The fairgrounds additions will be done. The wellness centers? Oh gosh, well, maybe we'll figure out how to do them by then.
I don't want to sound overly cynical, but I don't want to leave folks with inflated expectations. MAPS, by nature, does not follow initial timelines regardless of the best intentions. It's a complicated process, plans change, realities change, expectation change.
So we have that to consider.
Will MAPS 4 be attempted? Probably.
Will it involve a football stadium? I think the odds are overwhelmingly against such an effort. Oklahoma is college football territory and Oklahoma City is not seen as a market that can support more than one major league team.
But will MAPS 4 be a transit initiative? There are already folks talking about that, and I'm hearing that someone is operating a poll surveying residents about their interest in funding future rail based transit in Oklahoma City.
Gary T 10:10 a.m. Several MAPS 3 questions coming up.
Gary T 10:10 a.m. Has there been any movement on the wellness centers?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. My understanding is the city is weighing a couple of offers by agencies that might operate the wellness centers.
Gary T 10:10 a.m. How many more plots of land need to be acquired for the park?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. I think the city is in eminent domain action against the last couple of hold-outs.
Gary T 10:11 a.m. When will we hear more about the boulevard decision?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Not sure. The proposed changes are being reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration.
Gary T 10:12 a.m. Seems like the Aloft hotel is moving rather slowly. Do you know why?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:14 a.m. Yes. The concrete subcontractor went broke shortly after the project started. The developer had to scramble to get the work done, this caused some project delays, and then he had to change some of the exterior design to get the timetable back on track. If you visit the job site today you will see it's once again a very active work site.
Gary T 10:14 a.m. What are your thoughts on the new police station & courthouse plans?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. Most people I talk to are very complimentary of the designs and note they incorporate a good balance between modern appearance and a nod to the area's Art Deco past. Yet concerns also continue about the police headquarters' lack of any interaction with Main Street and how that might hurt redevelopment of the corridor.
Gary T 10:16 a.m. A story was done a couple of weeks ago about troubled apartments in OKC. Do you know if there has been any talk by the owners since the story of either fixing them up or tearing them down and reusing the space?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. Nope.
Nick 10:17 a.m. There was a NewsOK article about GrpFly clothing looking for space in Midtown. Do you know where they're looking?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. No deal is done yet.
Animal Mother 10:18 a.m. Steve, I've now heard from two separate, credible sources that we can expect an announcement within the next two weeks on the so-called mystery tower that has been plaguing the minds of internet forum luminaries for more than a year. What do you think?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. I am not worried.
Craig -OKC 10:18 a.m. Good Morning Steve! What have you heard recently on the timeline for the next phase of Project 180? It seems a few areas have been completed (central core around Devon, Gardens, Civic Center) while other areas may have one side of the street completed, but not the other. Park avenue/Robinson areas appear to be left behind. Also, will the rejoining/straightening of 3rd/McGee be included with 180 or the proposed bond issue for Gaylord?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. The next phase of Project 180 is set to begin later this year. Get ready for some pain - the reconstruction of Park Avenue is coming soon, and it won't be fun.
Project 180 is not set to include a reconnection NE 3 and Dean A. McGee.
OKC Midtowner 10:20 a.m. St. Anthony's is building out east towards Kaiser's, which is great. What will they do with their empty lots to the West though? I hope those Midtown cow pastures don't stay that way for too long.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:22 a.m. St. Anthony Hospital is staying on track with a master plan, and they are in talks with developers on what to do with surplus land. If current momentum continues, I doubt there will be much room for cows grazing in MidTown five years from now.
Guest 10:22 a.m. The senate approved $40 million in funding for the Indian Cultural Center. What do you think will ultimately be passed and signed into law? Part II: When it's all said and done, do you think it will be used as originally intended?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:24 a.m. A senate committee approved the funding scenario for the American Indian Cultural Center. It still must be approved by a majority of the state senate, then clear the state house, and then be signed by a very supportive Gov. Mary Fallin. The road the bill must travel to Fallin is not an easy one. As for operations, I'm not aware of any effort to change the mission.
Aaron 10:26 a.m. Hasn't there been some discussion of Bank of America ceasing to operate the drive-thru north of OKCMOA? Wouldn't this lend some validity to OG&E rumors?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. No. Bank of America closed 200 branches last year, and is set to close more this year. The large free-standing multi-lane bank drive-throughs built in the 1970s and early 1980s were built when Oklahoma was far more restrictive with branch banking, and are seen as the most obsolete of the various bank properties - especially those located downtown.
OKC Midtowner 10:28 a.m. Mode Development from the Pacific Northwest moving dirt on Lisbon Lofts late this summer or early fall. ( Any word on other developers coming to Midtown that aren't Midtown Renaissance?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. This project has been talked about for the past few years.
Badger 10:28 a.m. "Proposed changes" to the Boulevard? Are you referring to the Blvd plan approved by City Council or other changes?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. I'm talking about the changes that were blessed last year by the city council.
Dr Mikey Mike 10:29 a.m. Steve, the coverage of the Bricktown parking garage was fascinating! It is disappointing that it would interfere with plans for future rail expansion. Could the garage's location be moved so that it isn't a total bust?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. I think there are still quite a few discussions yet to take place, and I'm not convinced the matter is settled.
Nick 10:29 a.m. Are you encouraged by the Senate's funding proposal for finishing the American Indian Cultural Center? Does it pass?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. The committee proposal is an important first step. But my Magic 8-Ball hates predicting what legislators might do (other than enjoy free steak meals provided by lobbyists).
Gary T 10:31 a.m. You talked in weeks past about taking time off from these chats. When will that happen so we can get all the annoying questions we want into you?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:31 a.m. There might be a week or two this summer when I take a break. We'll see.
Nick 10:31 a.m. Do you have any idea what Maywood Phase II is going to look at? Might we see something a little different from Bradshaw?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. We should be seeing something soon on this.
Nick 10:32 a.m. What's the latest on the Mosaic apartments for Deep Deuce?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. We should see construction starting this summer.
guy 10:32 a.m. Steve--is there any future for the Walcourt building? A restoration?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. The Walcourt is the dream project for many of this city's most respected historic building developers. But the owner.... she's not been willing to sell. Someone needs to seriously wine and dine this lady.
Dr Mikey Mike 10:34 a.m. Some of those Midtown Cow Pastures would make *Great* spots for parks, urban gardens, etc, in my opinion.
Chris: OKC 10:34 a.m. Good morning Steve! Can you provide some insightful the timing for each of the new hotels planned for the downtown and Bricktown areas? for the
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. The site for the Holiday Inn Express is cleared and we should be seeing construction start up very, very soon. I expect we will see construction start on the Staybridge at Lincoln and Sheridan later this year. I'm fairly certain we will see construction start on a hotel in conjunction with the east Bricktown development by Gary Brooks and Andy Burnett, but it still may be another year or so for that to begin. The other hotels? I just don't know.
Guest 10:37 a.m. Since Chesapeake is dumping real estate at incredible speeds, are there concerns with a flooding of the commercial market and subsequent rent and price drops?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. The market was, and remains, very tight. And don't forget, Aubrey McClendon is already building up what appears to be another big company. I think the market, overall will be fine but may experience a couple of hiccups along the way.
erich 10:38 a.m. The new "arena" that is being built on the Fairgrounds with Maps money. What are the plans for its use? In the video put out my the fairboard it looks as as if it would be a multi use facility.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. I believe you are talking about an exposition center, not an arena, and it is being designed to replace the aging exhibit buildings built in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
KB 10:39 a.m. Good Morning. Did you know that OKC has a new pair of soccer teams? It's the Oklahoma City Football Club and they play at OCU Stars field. The men's team had their first game last Saturday night (lost 1-2 to the Austin Aztecs). I didn't see any media at the game besides the radio station La Z, and didn't see anything on the sports page here. Let's hope people get out and support these teams and semi-professional soccer is a long-time thing here in OKC.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. KB, do you know if the teams have any social media presence?
OKC guest 10:39 a.m. Any more word on a new downtown Waffle House?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. Yes. Its going to be built in a closed off tunnel in The Underground next to Tyler's home.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. (The Waffle House joke is getting old Tyler)
Marcus 10:40 a.m. Will there be any development oriented towards students or newly graduated young folk? I really want to live in this area...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. Yes. I'd say all of the Level development is geared toward your interests. The Mideke apartments in Bricktown may also be of interest to you as well.
KB 10:42 a.m. Did you ride your bike to work this morning? It's Bike to Work Day.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Nope. But I hope others will.
OKC guest 10:42 a.m. Are there any new businesses interested in locating main roads from new I 40 to downtown (Western and Sheilds exits)? There could be beautification on both those streets.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Wouldn't that be nice?
Nick 10:42 a.m. I was under the impression that the East Bricktown site was on a much slower timetable. Do you really think the hotel at that site might start in a year? How confident are you in that project being built out as currently envisioned? When does the public get a glimpse at what's to come?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. I can see construction starting in east Bricktown by late 2014 or early 2015. And yes, I see them moving forward with their plans. Design work is underway.
Guest 10:43 a.m. Steve, has there been any big challenge on the efficacy of a streetcar system as is planned in MAPS 3? It does not seem like an appropriate way to address the movement of people downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. A debate on that very question is ongoing. I don't know how to answer beyond that.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. Thanks KB!
Guest 10:44 a.m. On a serious Waffle note, is there any chance of OKC ever getting an old-fashioned diner like the 5 and dine in Tulsa? Something like that would be great for 23rd St.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. Yeah, I agree, that would be great. Right now, as I understand it, the only 24-hour restaurant is the iHop in Bricktown. And yeah, one would be great along NW 23rd.
Nick 10:45 a.m. Are Andy Burnett and Marva Ellard working on any other Bricktown projects to turn upper floors into housing?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. They would like to!
Nick 10:46 a.m. I know you've said it would be a very difficult project in more than one way, but what do you think is going to happen with the Rock Island Plow Building? Isn't it just deteriorating further while it waits for a plan?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. RIchard McKown is working on potential redevelopment plans. It will be a tough job, with very little if any profit for the owners. But I think it's going to happen.
Nick 10:47 a.m. Also, how likely is it that we could see some sort of P180 for Bricktown? The district is still kicking, but it could really be something if the city could put a little TLC into the streets and sidewalks, added some benches and trees.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. The city is currently pursuing plans to use some TIF funding to fill in some gaps with sidewalks, upgrade some landscaping and pay for other such improvements. But it won't a Project 180 sized effort.
Nick 10:48 a.m. Why do you think Tulsa is able to secure some very cool bar and dining options, but OKC comes up short in this regard? What is Tulsa doing differently?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. I've asked myself this many times. I don't know. We keep getting the same outdated early 90s style nightclub schlock and miss out on the new cool stuff.
Guest 10:50 a.m. What's the latest on OPUBCO moving downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. Preparations are still underway.
Nick 10:50 a.m. Richard McKown seems to be doing a lot of development around town. He's really got a hand in a lot of things going on, but I don't know anything about him. Can we get a blog post about the man?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. Excellent idea. How about a Sunday executive q&a?
Guest 10:51 a.m. I saw a worker in the Bricktown POPS location the other day when I strolled up. Was it a sign of things to come or has this dream sailed?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I think the dream has sailed. But I'll check in again and see if it still has any life left.
not tyler 10:51 a.m. ok, i'm late to the party - what is the waffle house joke? Why is it always brought up?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. A poster who has sometimes gone over the line and ended up being bounced into the moderation que seems to have an unhealthy obsession with a Waffle House opening up downtown.
Guest 10:52 a.m. I'll take a Q&A. Thanks Steve.
Nick 10:52 a.m. What's your next book going to be about?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. The history of the Oklahoma City YMCA organization. It's quite a compelling story.
Gary T 10:53 a.m. When can we expect work to start on the temporary amphitheatre at the airpark?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. I'm not sure.
Guest 10:54 a.m. I have friends that commute from Norman to AmerFidel. The move further north is less than good news for them. Would have been nice to see them build downtown rather than move further away. what do you guess was the thinking on that decision? thx.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. It's a company that always gave the vibe that they are more comfortable in a campus setting.
Nick 10:54 a.m. Speaking of the amphitheatre, have you visited the Humphrey's development at Lake Eufaula?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. Yes, it's quite incredible.
Gary T 10:54 a.m. With the new Central Park going in, do you think Wheeler Park will be redeveloped or maybe sized down a little?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. I suspect that Wheeler Park may enjoy a second life when it's all said and done.
Nick 10:55 a.m. Do you think MidFirst Bank ever moves downtown? And by ever, let's say in 10 years.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. Maybe?
Gary T 10:56 a.m. Where would you like to see the next Better Block take place?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Either Capitol Hill or NE 23.
Nick 10:57 a.m. When is your YMCA book scheduled to print? 2014?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Yep
Gary T 10:57 a.m. Any word on who will move into the old Coach's spot at the Ballpark?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Nope.
erich 10:57 a.m. What is the cities plan to combat the gang influence that is on the other side of the park. I have a feeling that they might try to make the new park part of their turf so to speak.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. Police have indicated they are beefing up their fight against gangs.
Nick 10:58 a.m. As Bricktown starts to move east, do you think development occurs on the lot in front of the Coca Cola Events Center?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. That's a tricky lot to develop because of the long-term lease with the RedHawks and their need for parking.
Gary T 10:59 a.m. If you had your choice, what would be the one business you would want to see downtown that is already not there and why?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. That's a challenging question.... let me think on it.
Ed 11:00 a.m. Hi Steve, great work. So fun to follow. Does anyone tally private investment attributable to the MAPS programs?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. From time to time. My last calculation topped $2 billion.
Nick 11:00 a.m. I noticed that the city's proposed parking garage for Bricktown was west of the U-Haul building right up against the train track structures. Why would Don propose a garage just north of there? Is there an ulterior motive on his part, maybe to interfere with the development of rail?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. No. There's a lot more to be told on the garage.... Karchmer thought he had a plan that accommodated both interests. Don't automatically believe what some say are anonymous extremist voices on certain online message boards.
Karchmer believes the garage can be built without interfering with rail. Why the fear of letting him pitch his ideas?
Gary T 11:03 a.m. I heard a small library is going in in the Plaza District across from the Mule. Do you know anything about that?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. No. I'll ask about it.
Guest 11:04 a.m. The next Better Block needs to incorporate a leased bus (or maybe re-tasked/additional downtown discovery route), BUT acting more like a streetcar line (e.g. BRT in this case) to move people to and fro, not just relying on spokies for transit. I think this would get people really dreaming about future GOOD transit, if there was a bus hitting the site every 15 to 30 mins.
Nick 11:04 a.m. Has Old School Bagel opened downtown yet?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. I know they've been working on it.
Nick 11:04 a.m. Do you know what's planned just west of the Clark building?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. West? Nothing to my knowledge.
Gary T 11:04 a.m. In regards to the Redhawks parking, what if they built a parking garage on the site immediately east of the ballpark and redeveloped the lot? Would that fix part of the problem?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Yes. But that's a big what if.
Bob 11:05 a.m. Main or Sheridan between Hudson and Walker would be good canidates for Beter Block
Gary T 11:05 a.m. Heard anything on the Flatiron building redevelopment? I am going to guess your answer is the humphreys are focusing on Lake Eufaula...
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. You're right.
Nick 11:05 a.m. Do you know if the pharmaceutical company has moved into PHF research park yet?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Which one?
Nick 11:05 a.m. Where would a garage go just east of the redhawks park? Wouldn't that take up the lot?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. Possibly
Nick 11:06 a.m. When will the Humphrey's focus return to downtown OKC? Will it ever?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Yes. Grant Humphreys is making great progress with Carlton Landing. Kirk and Blair Humphreys are looking at the downtown airpark site. They are doing what responsible developers do - finishing what they've got and not taking on more than they can handle.
Gary T 11:07 a.m. How are the condos homes in Deep Deuce selling? I know The Hill is selling well, what about the others ie Block 42, Central Avenue Villas, Maywood Park brownstones and apartments.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. They're selling much better than they were two years ago!
Guest 11:07 a.m. Does Humphrey's own the old Santa Monica pier ferris wheel?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Yes.
Guest 11:07 a.m. Will you ever run for mayor after you retire from OPUBCO in the distant future?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. No. Journalists make poor politicians.
Nick 11:08 a.m. Can you refresh my memory on why Grant severed ties with Midtown Renaissance?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. Grant Humphreys was never connected to the MidTown development.
Gary T 11:08 a.m. What would you like to see on a redeveloped Cox Center site?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. I don't know.
Gary T 11:09 a.m. Is the mayor still adamant about moving the substation next to the park? When can we expect a decision on that?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. I don't think so.
Nick 11:09 a.m. Really? Who was connected that then left?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. I think you are referring to Greg Banta. He was hit hard by the 2008 crash.
erich 11:10 a.m. Would the city ever consider doing something like the Chili Bowl midget Nationals in Tulsa at the first of the year. It brings in huge revenue to the City of Tulsa at a normally slow time of the year?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I think Oklahoma City is pursuing its own path.
Gary T 11:10 a.m. Work has started on the building on the NE corner of Main and Lee. What is going in there and how long will construction take?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. Retail.
Nick 11:11 a.m. OptumRX was the company I was thinking of. Here's a link:
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. We'll check into it.
Nick 11:11 a.m. That's it! My apologies.
Guest 11:11 a.m. What do you think of TimeCar now that they are in Deep Deuce?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. It's got great potential.
Nick 11:11 a.m. Greg Banta, what is he up to now?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:11 a.m. Greg Banta is working with one of the local real estate firms. I wish him well.
Gary T 11:12 a.m. Do you know who owns all the lots facing Main street south of the Civic Center and do they have any plans to do anything with them?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. Some of them are owned by attorney Dennis Box.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. Folks, I've got to log out now. Have a great weekend!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:13 a.m. Oh, and one more thing: the business I'd most like to see located downtown would be a Home Depot or Lowes.
Guest 11:13 a.m. You should do a story on TimeCar to raise awareness. (no I don't work for them, just a believer)
Steve Lackmeyer 11:13 a.m. Did it! In today's paper.
Nick 11:14 a.m. Thanks Steve!
Gary T 11:14 a.m. Thanks Steve, 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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