After covering the renaissance of downtown Oklahoma City for the past 16 years, I've come to realize an urban reinvention requires vision, creativity, hard work, thinking outside the box, nostalgia and a bit of revisionist history.
Yes, that's right — revisionist history.
Consider that before residents began to truly enjoy the fruits of the first Metropolitan Area Projects passed in 1993, they talked about a downtown they thought had been lost forever.
They talked about a Main Street populated with great shops, department stores, restaurants and theaters.
They talked about an old-fashioned urban neighborhood where one worked, lived and played — all with the benefit of a streetcar system that allowed folks to get around without a car.
Within the next few years, a streetcar system will be back downtown thanks to MAPS 3. And in Deep Deuce, one can already live in a variety of rental and for-sale homes, dine in a growing number of restaurants, and do grocery shopping at the new Native Roots Market or buy wine soon at Deep Deuce Wines. And when the Aloft Hotel opens next year, don't be surprised if it includes more dining and shopping opportunities.
Deep Deuce represents the realization of a memory that did — and did not — really exist.
Memories vs. reality
In researching downtown over the past decade, it becomes apparent that housing in downtown was quite limited in its prior glory days.
Deep Deuce through the 1960s was a segregated neighborhood — but certainly excluded from what was going on in the rest of downtown. Other neighborhoods like Heritage Hills and what is now MidTown were close to downtown — but not in the heart of it all.
Oklahoma City developed at the dawn of what was to become suburban sprawl and, because of that, housing never established itself downtown as it did in older cities.
Deep Deuce, however, came closest and is still a block away from the skyscrapers of the central business district. It has little resemblance to the Deep Deuce of old. Only a few structures survived the era of Urban Renewal and the clearing of land in the 1970s for construction of Interstate 235.
By the 1990s, the neighborhood was a virtual no man's land where what few buildings were left either burned or sheltered the less fortunate who didn't mind living behind boarded-up windows and doors.
A dozen years ago, a single property owner — Craig Brown — joined with a Texas developer to bring in the first housing with the Deep Deuce Apartments.
In those dozen years, five for-sale condominium projects were launched, hundreds more apartments were built, and restaurants opened in the remaining old buildings that were boarded up even as the first apartments were opened a decade ago.
Only a few vacant patches of land remain in Deep Deuce. Almost all of them, even the smallest lots, are being eyed for redevelopment. Deep Deuce is quickly becoming the downtown neighborhood people dreamed about, inspired by memories and visions of the Oklahoma City they thought was once real, and could be real again.