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OKC Central Chat transcript, Sept. 27, 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: September 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm •  Published: September 27, 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 11:04 a.m. Good morning.
Gary T. 11:04 a.m. Good morning Steve and happy Friday to you. Are you coming to the Plaza Festival tomorrow? It will be going on from noon to 10pm, rain or shine!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:05 a.m. I might. I've got to see what is going on with home chores, family obligations first.
Guest 11:06 a.m. What is going on with the "construction" or lack thereof taking place at Emerson High School? It looked like renovations had started earlier this year, but nothing has happened in months. What's the latest?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Contractors work at their own pace. It is interesting to see how fast the new John Rex Elementary is going up at Sheridan and Walker compared to what visible work is or isn't taking place at Emerson.
Gary T 11:07 a.m. Now that the streetcar has passed the city council, what is the next step? Are there any chances for Ed to delay it more?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. Engineering must be done to ensure the route is feasible. This is also when we'll find out of the cost estimates are on target, what kind of system will be used, etc. Ed Shadid and Pete White have pledged to cooperate on making the streetcar a success.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:09 a.m. I will note that with the route chosen, I don't see how Meg Salyer can be required to recuse herself again. So that kind of solidifies the council vote as it now stands.
Gary T 11:09 a.m. The website says more than 95% of the property for the upper park has been acquired. What in that area has not been acquired and is the city going to use eminent domain to acquire it?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. There are a couple of stubborn property owners, and yes, those parcels will likely be targeted for condemnation.
Gary T 11:10 a.m. I noticed this past weekend that the parking structure for the Aloft hotel was going up. What does that mean in terms of timeline for completion? Spring of 2014?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I know that JIm Thompson, the developer, was last hoping for a November opening. But I really can't see how it opens any earlier than next spring.
Gary T 11:11 a.m. Where do we stand on the Western/Classen/Reno/Boulevard intersection decision? What are the chances they just go back to the street grid?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. The boulevard is still undergoing environmental review by the Federal Highway Administration. The street grid is one of the options being evaluated as part of this review. Despite what state and city engineers may say publicly, I promise you they hate, hate, hate the idea of just restoring the grid.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:13 a.m. The engineers are very concerned that without the boulevard, traffic gridlock will soon follow with no good egress to and from the new Interstate 40.
Gary T 11:13 a.m. Related question: why did the city choose to not demo the old on/off ramps to/from the old I-40? Specifically, there are three on the site of the future convention center.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:13 a.m. I don't know. Maybe they are historical markers?
Gary T 11:13 a.m. Are you aware of any developers actively trying to buy properties adjacent to the new park for housing/office/other?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:14 a.m. Developers are looking at the area, but it's a bit early yet to be making deals.
BethanySooner 11:14 a.m. Good morning Steve. I see that Ron Bradshaw has begun constructing additional Brownstones in Deep Deuce. Have you got any details such as site plans or renderings for these?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:15 a.m. Yes, he has started planning and design, and I've seen some early concepts, but construction hasn't started yet. Designs are just now being finalized.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:15 a.m. I'll have an update soon.
Gary T 11:15 a.m. What is the expected completion date for Mosaic?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:15 a.m. As I recall, late 2014.
Gary T 11:15 a.m. When will we know how much the Convention Center site is going to cost?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:16 a.m. It shouldn't be much longer...
BethanySooner 11:16 a.m. With construction on the latest phase of The Hill ongoing, I was curious as to just how many units they are planning to build right now, and exactly where the clubhouse will be located.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:20 a.m. More than 32 homes have sold, several more have been built, and ultimately the development will total 157 town homes. So far, the residences are selling as fast as they can be built. The clubhouse, as I recall, is toward the south edge of the neighborhood.
Gary T 11:21 a.m. Do any of the DT parking garages (besides Century Center) have the ability to add on to what they have like the one Devon bought?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. Yes, but it's an expensive proposition.
BethanySooner 11:21 a.m. Since we are back in a waiting period regarding future towers,can you provide an update? Are we still looking at three potential towers? Also, are the most likely locations still the Stage Center Site, the Preftakes block, and the site just north of the museum on Hudson?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:23 a.m. At this time, I am still tracking interest in a second tower. I won't rule out the possibility for a third tower, but we are in the midst of a lot of changes that make it difficult to say what is going to happen long-term.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:23 a.m. The Rainy Williams tower is still on target for the Stage Center site, and we will likely see some more information coming out later this year.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:27 a.m. testing
BethanySooner 11:28 a.m. Haven't heard any news recently on the Convention Center process. Is the asking price within the budget? Is there a timeline for having certain components of the overall project completed?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. We're still waiting to hear what the asking price is...
Pat 11:30 a.m. Hi Steve, Had to ask, latest info you have on the floor count on SC site ?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:31 a.m. testing
Steve Lackmeyer 11:31 a.m. I have nothing new on this
Steve Lackmeyer 11:32 a.m. Folks, be patient with me this morning. Cover it Live is cranky, likely because it's overlapping with Berry Tramel...
Hates Tire Damage 11:32 a.m. What would it take to clear out the metal scrap yards on Reno between Lincoln and MLK?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:32 a.m. The west side of Robinson Avenue is part of the MAPS 3 Core to Shore park and will be acquired and cleared by the city.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:33 a.m. The east side of Robinson in that area has some pretty cool old buildings, and I'll bet they get redeveloped once the park is completed.
Downtowner 11:33 a.m. Hi Steve, what do you think of Nebu? Most people don't realize it's open to the public and I think it's a great community gathering spot that OKC needs more of to develop a real "downtown culture".
Steve Lackmeyer 11:34 a.m. I like Nebu. And it seems to stay busy enough that it's not a total secret. I agree - it's a great asset for downtown.
Aaron 11:34 a.m. Will Devon ever get all the lights working on their building?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:35 a.m. Didn't you get the email? They're waiting on you to run by Walgreens and get the replacement light bulbs.
Terry 11:35 a.m. Steve, I just read Jeff Speck's OKC Walkability Report. Some really great ideas. One of his most important suggestions was regarding the new boulevard, to limit the width of paving and speed of traffic flow by incorporating a tree lined median park between two lanes in each direction. This would look incredible, but I'm worried the traffic planners want a wide six-lane, fast-flowing boulevard. I believe the other nearby east-west streets can help with traffic flow, if needed, and that the boulevard should be designed to be a showcase urban street as Speck suggests rather than a huge pedestrian blocking mass of pavement, good for only zooming traffic out of the area. What have you seen of the boulevard design, if anything?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:36 a.m. I'll have an update on the boulevard soon. It won't be six lanes, but it will be 45 miles per hour east and west of the Core to Shore park and convention center.
Philip 11:36 a.m. Good morning Steve... Your thoughts on Councilman Greiners comments and vote on the streetcar route?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:37 a.m. Ward 1 has gone from a pro-downtown councilman to one who is less so. Greiner also indicated that he's not tied to the idea of proceeding with MAPS 3 projects as approved by voters - something that differs with what I heard him say in an interview on KTOK during his campaign.
Terry 11:38 a.m. Any plans for the site in Bricktown immediately south of the House of Bedlam? Also do you know if the owners of 119 E. Reno (the one with the mural facing the canal) are planning anything with their building?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:38 a.m. No. That slope is owned by the Scaramuccis. As for 119 E Reno, it's owned by French Hickman. Developers have pitched plans to buy it for various projects, but so far a sale is not in the works.
Terry 11:39 a.m. Is the legislature expected to vote soon on whether or not the American Indian Center will get the funding to complete it? Why weren't they able to finish it in the first place?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:41 a.m. Blake Wade, who is now leading the fundraising effort, has indicated he believes lawmakers will vote on the funding when the next session first starts (January). A plan was ready for a vote last session but was put on hold when tornadoes swept through Moore and south Oklahoma City. Critics argue the scope of the museum was unrealistic and should have been done in phases. Promoters say they have endeavored to build a museum that would win Smithsonian status.
Chad 11:41 a.m. Any chance of connecting Oklahoma Street where it crosses the tracks between 2nd Street and Main Street? It would sure improve pedestrian access from Deep Deuce to Bricktown.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:41 a.m. I agree. But no, I don't see it happening. Best bet is to hope for at least creating a pedestrian connection.
Terry 11:42 a.m. Did the Chamber of Commerce back out of their plan to build at E.K. Gaylord and 4th Street? Is there anything planned for that site now?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:42 a.m. Yep. That happened a couple of years ago. The property was bought by "an affiliate" of SandRidge Energy last year. I do not know if that affiliate is controlled by SandRidge or by former CEO Tom Ward.
Chad 11:42 a.m. I've been thinking about moving to Deep Deuce, but I've been wondering where do the residents shop? I don't see anything around, such as a grocery store, pharmacy or Target.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:47 a.m.
You have a smaller, specialty grocery store (organics, basic needs, deli, produce,, dairy) in the Native Roots Market. You have a wine store in Deep Deuce and on Automobile Alley. Downtowners are divided about the quality of groceries, shopping experience at the Homeland at NW 18 and Classen. Other downtowners shop at the Walmart at Belle Isle. Pharmacies can be found at First National Center and a small scale Walgreens at St. Anthony Hospital in Midtown. Downtown has the best bakeries in town - Brown's Bakery and Prairie Thunder Baking Co. Some hardware needs can be met at Renovation Station on Broadway. Downtown has several clothing stores. It's not Edmond or Quail Springs, but downtown retail is emerging.
cagoklahoma 11:47 a.m. Steve, Now that the street car route has been approved by the city council, are there any future votes, other than for Mayor that could still prevent the implementation of the street car? Thanks for what you do!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:48 a.m. Oh sure, but keep in mind, the one on Tuesday is the only one I am aware of where Meg Salyer, a supporter of the streetcar, had to recuse herself. With her vote, it's hard to see how the streetcar gets derailed unless there is a major price escalation.
Guest 11:48 a.m. Top of the day Steve, I know Chesapeke is having money problems, but cant they fix thier sign at the Chesapeke boat house it is being held together by blue tap and has been sense the storms its quite embarrasing to look at steve.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:49 a.m. Actually, the sign is likely the responsibility of the Boathouse Foundation. I'll ask ....
In Shock but Not Awe 11:49 a.m. What has gotten into Ed Shadid? He seems to be focused on being the antagonist to city progress and becoming mayor. Is all this just about his desire to use his position in local government to move higher? Or is he really trying to do the right thing for the city? He has lost my vote and that of most of my neighbors whom he represents.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:50 a.m. Ed has always struck me as sincere in his concern for the city and passion to improve transit and public health. As for his approach, and as for the quality of the campaign consultants he's hired.... those are questions for other people.
Terry 11:51 a.m. Regarding the boulevard again, Michigan Boulevard in Chicago has been mentioned as one example of what could be done in OKC. It's a 6-lane street (3-lanes each way) with just enough median to accommodate raised tree planters. It has wide sidewalks with plenty of landscaping and is a major retail corridor with lots of high-end luxury stores along it's length. If OKC could attract enough retail, this would also be a great solution. What would you like to see the boulevard to look like?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:52 a.m. I don't know. I've heard a lot of different ideas from a lot of people I respect... I don't believe the area is destined to become a retail corridor, and that's based on discussions I have had with developers.
Terry 11:52 a.m. Would you like to see the Bricktown canal extended to the west beneath the railroad tracks? If so where would you cross and where should it extend?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:53 a.m. Bricktown wanted to add an extension of the canal along the new boulevard to the Myriad Gardens. Mayor Mick Cornett killed that effort. I'm not sure if another proposal like that will be feasible once the new boulevard is built.
Guest 11:53 a.m. Are the 4th St apartments in Deep Deuce back to being called Phase II of Maywood apartments? I haven't seen any movement on this project.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:54 a.m. There's movement; the developers have filed a permit to demolish the metal building now on the site, and final plans were approved last week by the Downtown Design Review Committee.
Guest 11:54 a.m. So you're telling me there's still work ongoing at Emerson and the contractors just aren't working at all? That's pretty lame if true and there's got to be something that can be done to get them to work.
Mark 11:55 a.m. We heard from Jim Couch at the Transit Subcommittee meeting that EK Gaylord will be four lanes in front of Santa Fe Station. Given that senior City Officials were previously saying six (albeit narrowed) lanes was going to be acceptable, do you know what made them change this?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:55 a.m. You guys.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:56 a.m. And that means not just the subcommittee, but the community as a whole. The days of high-speed, high volume traffic corridors running through downtown (think Reno Avenue in Bricktown) are over in terms of adding to what already exists.
Guest 11:56 a.m. I saw that Devon registered it's MLP with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. What, if anything, can OKC expect to see from this development moving forward?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:56 a.m. We don't know yet.
Mark 11:57 a.m. Did the Film Exchange Building come up at the Park Subcommittee meeting?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:57 a.m. Curiously enough... no.
Guest 11:57 a.m. What changes are you talking about that you say will make it difficult to say what's going to happen? Obviously it's got you hedging your bets on future towers...
Steve Lackmeyer 11:58 a.m. Tell me what happens with SandRidge. Tell me what happens with Chesapeake. Tell me what happens with companies now looking at downtown. It's real estate folks... it's supply and demand. It's the economy. What's true today may be different tomorrow. I do my best to track it.
Guest 11:58 a.m. Do you see Corner Bakery locating in Midtown or Downtown? Also it is taking a long time for Trader Joe's to scout for locations, what is up with that?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:59 a.m. Yes. I've been told Corner Bakery is on the hunt. Trader Joes remains a very interesting future prospect, but one on which we don't know much
Mark 11:59 a.m. Steve do you know if the Rainey Williams has chosen an architectural group for the tower or has narrowed it down to a few firms? Just by knowing who was going to do the design work we could get a better guess as to what it will look like.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:59 a.m. If I knew, revealing the answer would get me shot. I don't want to die.
Scott 12:00 p.m. What is the latest on Ruth Chris opening a location in OKC? Would it be viable in downtown or do you think more suburban?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:00 p.m. Classen Curve?
Mark 12:00 p.m. Steve, I have been trying to follow your updates on the streetcar and I am confused. Did Shadid actually bus people in to city hall to protest the the street car? where did these people come from and who is Nick Singer? thanks!
Steve Lackmeyer 12:01 p.m. Jeff Bezdek, makes that allegation. Nick Singer was an unsuccessful Democratic legislative candidate who is volunteering for the Shadid campaign. Nick says he was a point of contact, but won't say anything more than that.
Guest 12:01 p.m. Steve any news on Ge oil and gas reserch center in the okc area is this a dead issue or is it going to happen they should have said by now where they are going to build the story broke in April
Steve Lackmeyer 12:01 p.m. Stay tuned....
Mark 12:02 p.m. Is the downtown elementary school going to be open for next school year?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:02 p.m. As I recall, yes.
Mark 12:02 p.m. Steve how was your discussion with the OU students about urban renewal? what was your central message?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:03 p.m. It was great. They are now touring downtown with Blair Humphreys. The main gist was the I.M. Pei Plan, Core to Shore, and the pros and cons of cities attempting to force a change in development focus, master planning, clear cutting areas (as desired by designers of the Core to Shore park) vs. rigid preservation or strategic preservation.
Steve Lackmeyer 12:04 p.m. My central message? Don't give up all authority to consultants, never assume they are completely right, and don't fear revisiting assumptions as years pass.
Richard 12:04 p.m. just curious, do the MAPS proposals account for future costs or land, construction, ect, or what that project would cost today?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:04 p.m. Kinda sorta yes and no. Sometimes.
Mark 12:05 p.m. If Rudy construction is so deplorable, then why do they win all of the contracts?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:05 p.m. Who says they are deplorable? They get contracts when they submit the lowest bid.
Mark 12:05 p.m. If the street car does stay on schedule, what is the likely completion date for this first set of tracks? This would mean the streetcars are running, and the intermodal hub has been completed.
Steve Lackmeyer 12:05 p.m. The timetable calls for completion in 2017.
MB 12:05 p.m. The animation for the streetcar route shows it going west along Reno through Bricktown, north through downtown to midtown and over to Automobile alley and back down to Bricktown, with the tracks laid down in the right lanes. That seems to indicate that vehicle traffic along much of the route would be a tight fit. Also I would assume that there would be several streetcars running the continuous loop, so one would come by each stop every few minutes. Any earl indication how many nits, and how they plan to modify the streets along the route to accommodate cars?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:06 p.m. No. But I'm told the streets are built to handle the streetcars.
Mark 12:06 p.m. So does Tom Ward or Sandridge own the gaylord/3rd/4th triangle piece of land? You mentioned last week he is moving quickly, does he still want to office downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:07 p.m. Quickly? I don't think I said that. But he is out there ...
Terry 12:07 p.m. I know preservationists will want to fight to preserve Stage Center. 'm a believer in preserving existing buildings myself, but only if they add to the streetscape and history of the city. However, the Stage Center, or Mummers as I like to call it, should never have been built where it is. It's history is short and that history is of a failure rather than a success. It is a suburban design, which confuses the heck out of people. Those walkway ramps leading to it make me want to avoid the place rather than make me want to explore. So if Rainey wants to demo the building, that's fine with me. I believe the site is too important to be stuck with a lost cause.
Mark 12:07 p.m. Steve, as someone who I think has put much thought into this, if the film exchange building were to be saved, what do you think would be the best use for it so that it remains relevant far into the future of the park
Steve Lackmeyer 12:08 p.m. The Asset proposal intrigues me, and I wonder why the city council was never informed about this matter so they could have made a policy decision. Instead, it was handled by city staff and hired park designers.
Steve Lackmeyer 12:09 p.m. Certainly at least one council member, Pete White, is indicating he wants more of a say in this matter.
Guest 12:09 p.m. 45 mph for boulevard? That's what it is on NW Expressway and most people travel 50-60 mph. There are no sidewalks along NW Expressway so I'm guessing there won't be for the new boulevard as well??
Steve Lackmeyer 12:09 p.m. There will be sidewalks.
Philip 12:09 p.m. With a route now chosen and rails getting closer to being laid, why are we still seeing no apparent attempt for coordination with the P180 work to still be done?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:11 p.m. Because city staff have long insisted they are required to finish Project 180 by 2014. The latest report, released this week, indicates completion of Project 180 in 2016. If you figure this out, let me know ...
Mark 12:11 p.m. Now that PHF has sold to OU what do you think is the next step for the foundation? Will they build physical structures again or just provide grants?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:12 p.m. Grants and TIF assistance will replace reduced rent as the means for helping bio-tech start-ups and creating additional space in upcoming years.
Guest 12:12 p.m. Considering how successful their other projects have been, why do the Scaramuccis sit on property for so long? They could do something great with the land to the south of the House of Bedlam. Why don't they?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:12 p.m. Another owner might have torn down the Rock Island Plow Building. Give them credit for keeping it standing and finally proceeding.
Sam 12:13 p.m. Steve is there any talk of a downtown 24/7 CVS or Walgreens opening up? I just moved to midtown and unfortunately needed shaving creme at 5:00am yesterday. It was much more difficult to find than I would have expected.
Steve Lackmeyer 12:13 p.m. No, but I'm surprised we haven't had one pop up yet. I suspect it won't be much longer.
Sam 12:13 p.m. Steve is there anyway you could put a map up on okccentral that shows who owns all the various empty fields and parking lots in midtown
Steve Lackmeyer 12:14 p.m. I'll add that to my list
Sam 12:14 p.m. So Steve, did you see that Danny Bowein on twitter yesterday was looking for fireworks in okc? What do you know about this!!
Steve Lackmeyer 12:14 p.m. Is Chinese New Year soon?
Terry 12:15 p.m. What's your opinion of the approved streetcar route? Did they get it right?
Steve Lackmeyer 12:15 p.m. I think questions must still be resolved on the couplet vs. linear approaches.
OK Joe 12:16 p.m. Morning Steve! Did you ever find the maps of the old trolley lines? Didn't see them on the blog earlier this week. Thanks!
Steve Lackmeyer 12:16 p.m. Thanks for the reminder. I'll try to do it this weekend
Steve Lackmeyer 12:18 p.m. Forgive me, but I'm going to have to call it quits today. These chats are usually set for one hour and I tend to let it go up to two hours. But I can't do that today. Please feel free to resubmit any unanswered comments and questions next week. Have a great 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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