The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer fielded questions Friday during his weekly online chat. This is an edited transcript of that event. To read the entire chat, or to participate in next week's chat, go to NewsOK.com.
Q: I love the design and the layout of the new tower on the site of the old Stage Center. Were you surprised that it was not taller?
A: Yes and no. I had sources telling me we were going to see about 18 stories of office space for OG&E and about a dozen stories for either a hotel or housing. I didn't realize that this was going to be broken out among two buildings instead of one, so I was assuming we were talking about a building of about 25 to 35 stories high. But when the conceptual building site plan was released, it all made sense.
Q: What will the $560,000 of TIF (tax increment financing) money for Bricktown improvements be used for? Do we have details yet?
A: Bricktown has long been a net contributor to the Tax Increment Financing District, and the city is looking at using the money to build sidewalks, upgrade street lighting and replace dead street trees. We've already seen some work done as dead and dying Bradford pear trees were replaced with crape myrtles.
Q: When will others see this as a recognizable, impact-making city? I am tired of this great place being shunned.
A: The transformation goes in stages. The first change is complete. That involved the local population taking pride in their community and no longer being ashamed to say they are from Oklahoma City. The second phase is well underway — and that involves the ability of the city to make a good impression on those from out of town via visiting the city. I constantly run into people who had no good impression of Oklahoma City, but then moved here and are investing in the community after being recruited by area employers, etc. The third phase, which I will call “buzz,” is also underway. That involves the city's transformation being discussed among planners, economic development experts and academics across the country. We saw this in previous years as Austin, Seattle, Portland, Charlotte and Indianapolis all rose to national prominence.