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OKC Central Chat transcript, Oct. 18, 2013

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: October 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm •  Published: October 18, 2013

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

Steve Lackmeyer 9:59 a.m. Good morning. I really wish I had some hot chocolate at this moment - it's cold today!
Steve Lackmeyer 9:59 a.m. Let's get started.
Gary T 9:59 a.m. Do you think with the OCU Law School going in downtown there will be more affordable (dare I say, student?) housing built in the area soon?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:00 a.m. Consider the surface parking lots that OCU owns to both sides of the school. With a motivated owner like OCU, yes, it's not too difficult to get affordable student housing built as part of a longer master plan.
Gary T 10:00 a.m. You said last week that what you were tracking in the way of rapid and impressive development between 235 and Midtown was "mind boggling". Can you give us any more hints without giving anything away? Are we talking retail? Housing? Office? All of the above?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. Wait a bit. The next 60 days will be a very exciting time for downtown.
Chris 10:01 a.m. Steve, Good morning. Two part question. In your opinion, do you believe that media organizations, particularly television, report on speculation and rumor because the benefit from being "first" or "right" outweighs any negative ramifications of being wrong? Secondly, do you think such wide speculation about potential real estate transactions and retail opportunities can cause deals to fall through? Thanks
Steve Lackmeyer 10:08 a.m. Yes, premature speculation, right or wrong, can hurt deals. I've seen it happen. So that makes my job all the more challenging. Likewise, some developers will use media to hype projects that are far more show than substance. At this point, quite honestly, Pete Brzycki, operator of OKC Talk, is one of the leading sources of solid real estate news that I take very seriously. There was a TV report last night I considered to be pretty flimsy, and I made some tweets last night that unfortunately (and partially due to my own clumsy wording) indicated I was critical of the information being put out by Pete. So for that, I sincerely apologize. This question you ask, I realize, is based on that discussion.
Gary T 10:08 a.m. It looks like all the developments I asked about last week were set for completion (if all goes well) by 2015. What else can we expect to be done by then that would impact Downtown/Midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. More housing, more retail.
Gary T 10:09 a.m. Do you think the addition to the City Center parking garage is just the fastest temporary fix until more parking garages can be built?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. Yes.
Gary T 10:09 a.m. Is there anything planned for the SE/C of NW 4th and Shartel south of the Neighborhood Lounge? I would think that would be a prime spot for western DT development.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. Expect Urban Renewal to issue a request for development proposals for the site in the near future.
Ronaldo 10:10 a.m. When will Hargraeves & team present next? They haven't made any changes to their design since their January presentation, and have sat on it for months while we keep paying them and asking for changes.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. I believe they are in final design stages. I'm not sure they're sitting on anything.
Gary T 10:10 a.m. Any idea where Tom Ward's new company will be located?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. Currently, as I understand it, he's setting up shop at Oklahoma Tower.
Pat 10:11 a.m. Good morning Steve, How do you feel about the SC site if it was only 20 stories tall ? Do you feel Rainey is lowballing the height of his building ? Thanks
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Twenty stories would still be an impressive addition to the skyline. I say let's wait and see what is ultimately proposed.
Pat 10:13 a.m. Hello Steve, Do you believe Tom Ward will be more conservative this go around ? I think it's great he's making another run, but do you think he's as ambitious as AM ? Thanks
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. Ward and McClendon have always been two very different men. It's a mistake to assume they will follow the same paths. But neither man is ready to retire, both are passionate about Oklahoma City, and I will not be surprised if they build up two more companies, and we end up keeping Chesapeake and SandRidge, so that we end up ahead in the long run. I am also not delusional enough to think that SandRidge and Chesapeake are totally safe from buy-outs, etc. But again, will Ward and McClendon build up two great new companies? I wouldn't bet against either one.
Ronaldo 10:16 a.m. Have you heard anything about the triangle at 4th and Broadway? Is Sandridge selling it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. At this point, I'm still not clear if it is Ward or SandRidge that controls that land.
Ronaldo 10:16 a.m. Do you have any new timelines on the new tower at Stage Center? The 90-day window for an announcement is about to end.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. I think some exciting news is set to take place over the next 60 days.
Ronaldo 10:17 a.m. Have you heard anything about Oklahoma City or Moore opening a tornado museum? I think it would be a huge attraction and would add to the city.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. No. What are you hearing?
Ronaldo 10:17 a.m. When will we hear more about the Convention Center site? Is it going to take up all the MAPS money and leave the rest of the projects scrapping for loose change to finish or start their projects?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. We should hear an update soon. No, I don't expect the convention center project is going to eat up the MAPS budget.
Ronaldo 10:18 a.m. If the new interstate/boulevard is placed on the grid instead of the current route of the old interstate, will the land that used to be interstate be auctioned off by the federal government or will it be given to the state? This land is prime real estate and could really inhance the urban fabric if developed properly.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. We don't know the answers to this yet. I'm doubtful the grid will happen.
Ronaldo 10:19 a.m. Have you seen any designs for the interior of the Century Center? Will you have a window office overlooking the Myriad Gardens?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. Wouldn't that be great? No, we reporters don't get offices - just cubicles. As for the inside, well, wouldn't it be great if it mirrored, in some way, the newsroom of the New York Times?
Guest 10:21 a.m. How much does the City owe the federal government for the Union Station? I think the City should pay back the feds, which they probably will, to obtain the freedom to use the station as best befits the park plans. However,the City would be wise to refrain from allowing development or alterations to the station, adjacent tracks or adjacent areas that would prevent its
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. I hear ya.
Ronaldo 10:21 a.m. Do you know if the Oklahoma School of Science and Math is growing or is it staying the same size? That school is in some prime real estate!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:22 a.m. It's growing a little bit, but not as much as it was several years ago. That could change, however, with what's yet to occur in the immediate area.
Ronaldo 10:22 a.m. Is First Fidelity still in their buildings on Classen or have the moved entirely to the OPUBCO building? Have they sold their buildings on Classen? Do you know if they have anyone interested in them?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. They are still on Classen. American Fidelity sold the buildings several years ago and are now just tenants.
Ronaldo 10:23 a.m. If you could live downtown where would you live? Heritage Hills, Brownstones, Bricktown, etc? I am sure there is a place that you have been eyeing for when your kids are in college and you want to live a lawn free life!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:26 a.m. What he said.
Ronaldo 10:26 a.m. Do you know of any developers looking at the parking lot in bricktown on the southside of the canal on the west side of Oklahoma? That is the perfect spot for a cool hotel or condos! So much potential on that site.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. Hotel folks have looked at it several times over the years, even recently. We may see something happen - but the dirty is very pricey.
Nick 10:29 a.m. Which of the Memorial Road retail projects can you confirm are happening? TopGolf? Cabelas? Costco? Main Event? H&M? Crate & Barrel? Whole Foods?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. St. Anthony Healthplex, likely Main Event.
Terry 10:30 a.m. Someone should really build a grocery/ drug store near all the new residents in Bricktown, Deep Deuce, Automobile Alley, Midtown and the JFK neighborhood. Other than the small Native Roots store, there's nothing there. This is a huge area with a fast growing population that is totally being underserved right now. I would think a retail center near I-235 in either Deep Deuce or the nearby JFK neighbrhood would be the best location. Have you heard any rumblings of plans to develop any nearby grocery or drug store retail development?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:31 a.m. The number of rooftops downtown is growing rapidly. A drug store and potentially a bigger grocery store are increasingly possible and yeah, I'm tracking rumblings.
Ronaldo 10:31 a.m. Do you see any development in the next five years on the Mill site? That site really needs to be developed to provide a better connection between Bricktown and the River Developments. What do you think would be the best development for that site?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. Mixed use would be best, but again, we're talking about very pricey dirt, a potential Brownfields site, and it will require a very skilled developer to tackle this property.
Terry 10:32 a.m. Could the Brewer's negotiations with the City to sell the Santa Fe station be for more than a higher price? Could it be they want to partner up with the City to develop the Intermodal hub? If so what kind of problems would that create?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. Sometimes it's just attorneys trying to rack up one more bill....
Ronaldo 10:33 a.m. Do you feel that all the hotels going in on Meridian helps development of downtown or pulls away from it? They do add hotel space for the city and when attracting big events it helps, but how much does it help when there is not an easy public transit way to get from Meridian to downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. They are two different markets. Meridian is tied to airport and fairgrounds, equine travelers. Downtown is for downtown travelers, business executives, leisure, convention and tourist visitors.
Ronaldo 10:34 a.m. I really enjoyed the chat hosting Richard McKown and Chip Fudge. Do you have any other developers or city planners on the schedule for later chats?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. At some point I'll do live chats with the folks at Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. and Gary Brooks. I have other folks I'd like to do chats with, but I've yet to broach it with them.
Interested 10:35 a.m. Any word yet on the fate of Nichols Hills Plaza and Classen Curve?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. I am hearing a sale is in the works, but that's all I can say at this time. Could the master builder make a return? We'll see.
Braden 10:36 a.m. Good morning Steve! Do you see Skybox and TopGolf (if both are to build) having a healthy competition or do you think only one of them will go through as proposed?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. That's a part of the confusion surrounding the development at Western and Memorial. It's difficult to see both getting built, and Skybox is ahead in this game when it comes to zoning, etc.
Terry 10:38 a.m. The water taxis are a nice feature at the Bricktown canal, but they should more actually reflect their name, taxis. Although they're nice, I have heard quite a few complaints (besides the rather steep price of $9.50 for adults). Besides the shortness of the ride, there are complaints they won't let passengers get on or off except at the departure point at the Mickey Mantle landing. When they do let them off somewhere else, they don't stick to their 15-20 minute intervals. I've heard of people waiting 45 minutes to an hour just to catch one back to the departure point and when they get back there are 3 or 4 water taxis just sitting there. In my opinion the canal needs to be extended. Have you heard of any plans to extend it in any way?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. This is a change in the operation as I understand it. Let me see if I can get a response from Chad Huntington, the operator.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. I have just contacted Huntington and hope to post his response before the end of the chat.
Terry 10:42 a.m. What's happening with Matt Brown's property at NE 4th and Harrison and his plans for OKSEA?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. It's still in the works. I am aware of some leases being wrapped up, soon to be announced.
Terry 10:42 a.m. You mentioned that OG&E might move their substation at NW 10th and Oklahoma. I wonder if OG&E would consider moving the substation at Robinson and SW 4th allowing new development adjacent to the park? Just by moving east of Broadway would help.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Sure. If the city pays them $30 million or more...
Ronaldo 10:43 a.m. What industries do you see the city trying to attract that will add to the diversity and economic base... and do you see them locating downtown? I feel that the city needs more Financial Institutions and Tech companies.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Financial institutions are a tough niche to recruit. But tech ... yeah, we're going to some pretty impressive tech.
Willy D. 10:43 a.m. Which areas/streets/intersections do you foresee becoming new areas for entertainment or commercial districts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. Farmer's Market for sure.
Uptown 23rd is already on its way.
And Capitol Hill will eventually become the most interesting and diverse districts in the entire Urban Core.
Terry 10:45 a.m. I'm excited they've completed the Bricktown Landing connecting Bricktown to the Boathouse District, but have they worked out an agreement with the RR to allow permanent access beneath the bridge yet?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. Nope, the Union Pacific Railway has put this connection in limbo and railroads in these matters pretty much have all the power.
Carrie 10:45 a.m. What has been decided about the cotton mill? Will it stay or go?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. I am hopeful that someone will eventually figure out how to make this area work.
Marie 10:46 a.m. Im sure it has been asked in the past, but are there any plans for the old Villa Teresa School?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Nothing official yet.
Elliot R. 10:46 a.m. What's the status of Spokies' expansion? I thought the Boathouse District kiosk was going in soon-ish but winter's creep-creep-creepin'.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. If not this winter, then certainly it should occur by spring, right?
Braden 10:47 a.m. Do you cover transportation projects, ie ODOT, and if so, do you think when they widen 235 under the BNSF railroad bridge and they have to replace it, will it be planned to be wide enough for double tracking to allow future commuter traffic or will it still be another single track steel girder bridge?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I cover some of the ODOT projects as they relate to downtown development. I believe I did read that the bridge you speak of has been moved up and is set to be rebuilt in the next couple of years. The city council discussed the need for future double tracking, but I'm not sure if ODOT has responded.
Gary T 10:48 a.m. How many times when logging in this chat have you just sighed and said a curse word or two?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Never. I get a lot from these chats. I appreciate everyone's participation. I will admit to sometimes dealing with burn-out, especially when it goes two hours. It's a lot more work than one might realize. But I do enjoy it.
Elliot R. 10:49 a.m. What's the possibility of regional transit looking like these days?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. It's better than one might think, and I'm frustrated with myself that I've been unable to tell this story yet.
walkable-neighborhoods 10:50 a.m. Why are so many people down on Native Roots because it's a small, neighborhood grocery? Big box groceries don't make neighborhoods better. They require a larger market radius, which contributes to food deserts (the only food within walking distance is at 7-Eleven).
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. Amen.
Elliot R. 10:50 a.m. Is the City of OKC intending on putting any economic development or planning resources along MLK? That is an incredibly blighted area in need of investment but the city seems to be focused on propping up district streetscape plans for 2017 funding and sprucing up the CBD. What gives?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. The Alliance for Economic Development is working quietly behind the scenes to help make some significant improvements to burned out retail corridors on the east side of town. I'm hopeful.
NWOKCer 10:52 a.m. Why are you grumpy when it comes to development outside of downtown? We all know rumors exist. We all know conceptual drawings NEVER turn out to be exactly what happens on the finished product? But to not say one positive thing and instantly talk negative about the Quail Springs project makes me question you
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. I'm not grumpy at all. I was critical of the flimsy reporting done by a local TV reporter. I've not said anything negative about the project proposed for Western and Memorial.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. Here's a positive comment: I WANT Costco. I want them on Memorial Road ASAP! It would be great!
Braden 10:54 a.m. Do you see any signs of either commercial or residential developments being lined up anywhere along the Oklahoma River at this time? I always thought that an urban designed residential unit would look nice on the south shore of the river between Byers/Central Avenue and SE 15th St. in that area that is currently industrial use.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. Eventually.
Happy Day Meredith 10:55 a.m. Let's be honest, sharrows are the weakest form of bike infrastructure possible. Is the city looking at the addition of bike lanes that are separate or protected, or in any way MORE than just a painted on sign?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. I don't know.
BethanySooner 10:55 a.m. Steve, with the expansion of the City Center garage and the new Main Street garage, will the increased capacity meet the current needs for parking at least on the west side of the CBD?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. No. We are still way behind in parking supply.
Ken Oakley 10:55 a.m. Is the Uptown 23RD group looking at doing any development or infill? They have got some great new businesses along that stretch but it still looks pretty blighted. Are they taking the lead or is that something local govt, either the city or the Alliance, handles?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. Private developers are moving forward with quite a bit of improvements. At this point, the city is listening to concerns about the area's lack of walkability, and that may be where public involvement starts.
BethanySooner 10:56 a.m. Is it likely that the new GE research center will be located either just north or south of 10th street and east of I235?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. That does look like a good spot....
BethanySooner 10:57 a.m. Several months back you mentioned a couple of 'rides' coming to Bricktown. Is this still in the works, and if so can you elaborate on your definition of a ride?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. One of those new "rides" was the House of Bedlam, which by most accounts has turned out far better than first proposed. We're also looking at new hotel development being increasingly likely along the canal.
Ronaldo 10:58 a.m. Have you heard or seen anything on the Preftakes block? I heard they are wanting to keep the Bus Station... Do you see them incorporating that into a future tower or just building around it? Do you see them keeping any other buildings or tearing them down for parking garages?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. I've been assured by all involved that the Union Bus Station will be redeveloped and not torn down. As for the future.... that story is still being written.
BethanySooner 10:59 a.m. Have you heard about the possibility of the ferris wheel ending up on the north bank of the river just west of Western Ave? This location would place it across the 'pond' from the airpark site.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. You're fairly well connected, aren't you?
Braden 10:59 a.m. It seems the club scene it phasing out of Bricktown. If a new club scene was to form, what district or part of town would you see that as a best fit at?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. Classen Circle.
Braden 11:01 a.m. Hmmmm...Classen Circle... Old Classen Circle that is currently NW Expressway & Classen? Ouch!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. No. Think about it. You already have Edna's, Hi-Lo, the Drunken Fry, a scattering of hotels and an Ihop. The empty buildings that were once home to the lawn and garden store could be adapted into more nightlife venues. There are no neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity to that.
BethanySooner 11:03 a.m. Regarding the announcement that Dell was committed to OKC despite a few recent layoffs, one OKC leader commented that their location on the Oklahoma River has helped boost development. Are you aware of any additional development that has been a result of the Dell campus location?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. Nope.
Braden 11:04 a.m. Speaking of parking downtown, is it not feasible for the city to build parking underneath the new Central Park? People probably wouldn't walk that far, lol, but that seems pretty economical and I'm certain Chesapeake can point the city in the right direction with regard to constructing such a thing!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:04 a.m. This concept was considering during early planning for the MAPS 3 ballot and was later ruled out due to cost.
Braden 11:04 a.m. I like your style of thinking ;-)
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. Thanks!
OK folks, I'm wrapping up 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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