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OKC Central Chat

by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: August 1, 2014 at 5:01 pm •  Published: August 1, 2014
Jeff 10:38 a.m. Good morning Steve. Thanks again for doing the chat!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Thanks!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. Chat delayed 5 minutes
South OKC Guest 10:45 a.m. Have you taken the bus lately? I tried it out earlier this week. First morning bus ran late so I missed my transfer thus requiring a cab fare from the transfer center to my office so I could be on time for work. When will OKC provide more reliable and economical public transportation for the working stiffs like me?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I have not traveled on a city bus since I was a teenager. I've never found the system to be set up in a way that makes sense for my needs. I realize the relaunching of the service as EMBARK includes more streamlined, more frequent routes. But public transit funding in Oklahoma City is widely considered to be terribly inadequate for our community's needs. The good news is that leaders are far more interested in addressing this need than I've seen in 20 years. Will MAPS 4 address transit? We will see.
Tim 10:48 a.m. What are the plans for the old Leo's building on 4th Street just east of the downtown YMCA?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Architect Rand Elliott bought that property last year and a month ago he announced he was set to do a master development plan for the property - but provided no further details. The old Leo's BBQ building has since been demolished.
Guest 10:49 a.m. How has the initial reaction been to the Civic Center Flats, considering this is the first new for-sale product to hit the core in some time?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. I'm hearing some good enthusiasm out there. I suspect this product will sell nicely.
Klint 10:54 a.m. Sycamore Square Update. I just received this message from Sycamore Square: "We have changed our business plan which is good news for you because this allows you to stay at Sycamore Square."
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. Interesting...
Guest 10:54 a.m. What is your favorite thing about Downtown OKC right now?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. The Myriad Gardens is my favorite spot downtown by far. I love how it has evolved into the community focal spot that it was always intended to be, with outdoor movies, concerts, festivities, talks, gardening and art shows. It's where families with kids can be found daily now, where visitors and locals enjoy a respite from their chaotic schedules, and where people from all over the city from all backgrounds can be found. So explain to me again - why is the mayor and city council spending $125 million building another park, surrounded by blight - just two blocks to the south with no private interests stepping forward to support it, patronize it or provide funding?
Anthony 10:58 a.m. With the expo center coming in under budget? Does it make the whitewater facility more viable with less future tinkering?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. The bid results on the expo center cause me to wonder even more about the designers and engineers and whether the bids that came millions over budget resulted from bad design.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Folks, I'm dealing with a story as this chat goes along, so forgive me a couple of interruptions....
Forrest Bennett 11:05 a.m. What's happening on the SW corner of NW 10th and Hudson? I've noticed construction fencing go up. Maybe you've answered this before, so sorry if this is a redundant question.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. Yes, this fencing is for a staging site for construction of the $53 million ICU expansion at St. Anthony Hospital (just next to Kaiser's).
Reader 11:06 a.m. Steve, you are awesome! OKC is lucky to have you. It was great to see you get some recognition this week. Thanks for your excellent reporting and interaction with the community!
Steve Lackmeyer 11:07 a.m. Thanks. I'm liking the way this week's chat is starting up a whole lot more than last week (which was dominated by some pretty negative folks)!
Trey 11:07 a.m. Do you happen to know the status of the boulevard? When is ODOT supposed to time travel back from the 1960's with their final design?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:08 a.m. Come on now Trey ... everyone knows that time machine was set to 1973, not the 1960s. On a serious note, I suspect we will see something new in the next month or two.
Handsome Sam 11:08 a.m. I heard a rumor that a concerns a certain downtown business owner. The rumor is that the business owner, who is a novice to the world of property development, paid far above market value for a certain property. The rumor is that certain other downtown movers are frustrated with this transaction, as it could dramatically raise the price of certain immanent domain actions the city is in the midst of. Is there any substance to these rumors?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:12 a.m. There is a downtown business owner who bought a property at what some believe was an inflated price. This person, however, did so to preserve what is a pretty special collection of tenants, including the business in question. And this person isn't stupid - I've seen what this person is planning and the movers and shakers may end up having to shut up when everything is said and done. As for upcoming eminent domain actions, I'd argue the city created its own "comp" problem with its purchase a couple of years ago of the Vitagraph property at Hudson and Reno across from the Myriad Gardens. If the transaction you refer to was inflated, then the Vitagraph was as well.

Hopefully this question and answer won't drive everyone crazy.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:17 a.m. It is PARAMOUNT that people understand I don't mean to tease with this answer. And if that previous question and answer still frustrates you, I suggest you sit down with a nice cup of coffee.
Guest 11:18 a.m. Have you heard anything about family housing being built south or west of John Rex Elementary?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:18 a.m. Not yet, but I believe it's an inevitability.
Coy 11:18 a.m. You mentioned them having some problems with a couple tenants over at The Rise due to some unexpected issues. What are these issues, and who are the tenants?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:19 a.m. I'm working on this story... it's taking time because I want to make sure I am as fair as possible to all sides of this matter.
Coy 11:19 a.m. I notice the area south of the future Dustbowl Bowling and Fassler Hall is fenced off by something that says "Turner." What kind of development is going on there?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:19 a.m. I think you're talking about the staging area for construction of the St. Anthony's hospital ICU expansion.
CeCe 11:20 a.m. Has the Bradshaw group (I believe that's the probable buyers of the blighted portion the JFK neighborhood; if not, excuse my lack of knowledge)released any additional renderings of their vision for the site they our poised to bid on? Many residents of the area are afraid whoever purchases the are will build up the area to be an extension of downtown and not as a portion of the historic Eastside community.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:25 a.m. CeCe, your concerns are very valid based on the history of the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority during the 1960s and 1970s in the JFK area. I can also tell you that the current Urban Renewal staff led by Cathy O'Connor seem to completely "get it." I also "get it." She has staff, including some with deep ties to the east side, meeting with residents and business owners not just in connection with this potential development, but also all along NE 23 to ensure their other effort is in unison with the area, and not in conflict. I sense a real dedication by city leaders, most notably Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis, to change the status quo for northeast Oklahoma CIty in terms of what isn't working, and yet preserving and showcasing what makes the east side special.
Peter 11:25 a.m. Do you have any information on what is going on at the Rise? Last week it looked like tenants were getting fed up with the delays.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:25 a.m. Yep.
Uptowner 11:25 a.m. Does the emergence of the Wheeler District further encourage your prediction of the possible new Energy Stadium to be built in that area?
Guest 11:28 a.m. Were you able to get anything in writing out of ODOT about whether federal funding for the Boulevard could be used for street and traffic improvements outside the original I-40 Right of Way and thus not setting Alternative D (the grid option) up to fail?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. Yeah, I did. But not without a big hassle. And I'm still not sure the answer makes complete sense. I'll post what I got (several weeks ago) on my OKC Central blog.
Rob 11:29 a.m. Steve, any word on what is going on with the OK County jail? Is there talk about rebuilding it, or the Federal Government coming in or something else?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:35 a.m. The jail is continuing to fall apart and it now has to have food brought in because of collapsed sewer lines. I don't believe the threat of a federal take over is as dire as suggested by county officials. A new jail is needed. But that's the problem. A new jail is needed because the Oklahoma County officials that oversaw the project were either corrupt (several indictments resulted from an investigation of the problems) or inept. And I'm not sure Oklahoma County officials have really proven to the public that they've changed their ways or can be trusted with the hundreds of millions of tax dollars needed to build a new jail (one that is designed properly and won't fall apart right after it opens). When I covered county government a dozen years ago, it was still rife with patronage jobs, nepotism and political infighting. I'm guessing the only real solution here - one I doubt the county will accept - is for them to relinquish control of a coalition of officials representing Oklahoma City, Edmond and Midwest City - the county's three largest cities with far better track records at competently and honestly completing large public works projects.
Guest 11:36 a.m. What are the chances of a new tower being built at Main and Hudson? How many floors do you think it might be and do you think it will include retail on the ground floor?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:37 a.m. The odds are pretty good. I learned a lesson with the last "mystery tower" discussion, however, and I"m not going to get into details I am hearing about its likely height. I will only say what I'm hearing indicates it will be legitimate high-rise, and not a mid-rise.
Uptowner 11:40 a.m. I find the whole concept and momentum of the Wheeler District to be a great catalyst for that area of the city. How far can you see development spreading from this area and creating density to that area of the river?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:41 a.m. The planning I see, if it becomes a reality, could be a great catalyst for improvements in nearby Capitol Hill and the Rotary Park neighborhoods to the west.
Ed 11:41 a.m. Steve do you genuinely believe that future generations will look back onto the stage center with the same admiration that we look back to the criterion? I am sure some will look back and miss it but I don't think it will be widely regarded as a city catastrophe like the loss of the criterion/ baum etc.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:45 a.m. I don't know Ed. I'm sure at least half of those who are older than 30 in our city will forever say "good riddance." I can't say there was any other option than demolition at this point considering it was designed to conflict and not embrace the community and Oklahoma City was never in a place to understand, appreciate or support what it had. But am I pained by the demolition I am witnessing? Do I wish there had been another option? Will I regret this loss?
The architect, the late John Johansen was a genius. He was also arrogant. I blame Johansen as much as I blame Oklahoma City for what has transpired.
Jay Paul 11:45 a.m. Any new updates on the Rise? I read the tweets from the Retro Pub and it seems as though they are definitely leaving the space. Have you heard anything more on what is causing the delay and if any other tenants have pulled out?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:45 a.m. It's getting ugly. I'm working on a story.
Mark 11:45 a.m. Drove by the citizens bank last night and wow that place has real potential for an awesome rooftop bar. How do you think this building could be best repurposed to bring 23rd back to critical mass?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:46 a.m. The former Citizens Bank building at Walker and NW 23 is one of several properties that must be redeveloped for there to be a truly successful revival of Uptown.
South OKC Guest 11:46 a.m. Seems like there was an initial push to jumpstart the area around the Farmer's Public Market then it stalled. Any news to share? I've heard they are working on a small bistro in the small stand-alone building next to the former Sterling's and south of Urban Agrarian. It would be a great place for a weekend farmer's veggie market and flea market.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:47 a.m. Nothing has stalled. A lot of activity is going on behind the scenes.
Mark 11:47 a.m. So why is Oklahoma especially weird today?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:47 a.

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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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