Steve Lackmeyer: Announcement of new downtown OKC tower may come in the next 30 days

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackemeyer took questions on Oklahoma City businesses and developments in his OKC Central chat today. Here's a recap of his Q&A.
Oklahoman Modified: March 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: March 1, 2013
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Good question. I know we have firms and companies moving in from other cities in Oklahoma. As for out-of-state re locations, I just don't know.

With Devon considering splitting off the Midstream assets as a new MLP, do you see this creating the need for a new tower as the new MLP will need its own office space and corporate administrative support?

Good question ... the answer to this is uncertain at this time.

A friend told me that Applebee's was looking to expand somewhere downtown. Have you heard anything about this? I think the 2 for $20 special would be a big hit!

It doesn't surprise me. The national chains that abandoned downtown 30 years ago are all wanting back in. But developers are often more interested in attracting local venues instead, and with available good locations fairly scarce right now, downtown Oklahoma City is suddenly the very cute girl at the dance that every boy wants to dance with.

When you say there were national chains that didn't want in to downtown 30 years ago, but now they want in ... specifics?

I've tracked efforts by Denny's, Dunkin' Donuts, Panera Bread, Applebee's and others.

Any news of the proposals for the Main Street parking garage?

I had a story last week — no one submitted any proposals for housing or offices atop the garage.

Are there actually any plans for a parking garage at that site mentioned? Or is that a long-term hope for bridging DD and BT?

I believe we will see a parking garage on the Main Street lot within the next several years.

How will the new school downtown add new grades every year? Will it have room to grow or will add floors until it is to 8th or 12th grade?

My understanding is the John W. Rex Elementary is planned to be a K-5 elementary, no more and no less.

Someone tagged the old Oklahoman building with spray paint today. Terrible.

I saw the tagging last weekend. Most folks in the tagging community respect historic architecture and only go for what they consider to be fairly neglected blank brick walls, etc. This tagging was disgusting.

There is a lot of concern lately about Sandridge getting bought out and leaving OKC. If the Sandridge tower is vacated, how easy will it be to find another tenant to take over the site and will the existing construction that has been started be completed? In other cities projects have just been abandoned and sit half completed for years and I would hate to see that happen here.

That's a big concern here as well. Let's wait and see what happens over the next two weeks. It's possible the plane could land safely in this story.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the streetcar system progress. I haven't heard much about it lately and I'd love to know how things are going with it.

I don't know how to answer this question. Planning is ongoing. Debate about the nature of the proposed streetcar system, as compared to other rail-based transit, and other questions about routes, is building among council members and city officials. A very vocal advocacy group is pushing to stick with the plan moved forward by the MAPS 3 citizens transit committee.

I can tell you this: there is no plan for funding of operation and maintenance of the streetcar system, and assumed federal matching funding has proved to be very elusive for Oklahoma City.

What’s the timetable of The Oklahoman moving downtown? Does this means some Oklahoman editors will actually move to OKC instead of living in Edmond?

My understanding is that The Oklahoman tentatively plans to move in 2014. Many editors already live in Oklahoma City.

Why won't the city just restore the street grid in lieu of this boulevard fiasco? Isn't that the easiest solution?

Because they don't want to.

I heard Play Street Hourly Child Care is looking for a downtown location that will have high evening traffic. Would you suggest Bricktown, near St. Anthony's or another location that can capture people needing short term child care in the evening?

I can promise that any new good day care center will open with a waiting list. Write that down. I promise. I would suggest Deep Deuce, MidTown or anywhere near the CBD.

 

ON THE BOATHOUSE DISTRICT:

With the white water rafting going on east of the boathouses, how long until we see movement on grandstands and other things on the south part of the river?

I can't recall the timeline off the cuff, but as I recall, it's all supposed to take place over the next few years.

I'm sorry for the repeat question, but can you expound a little on what the Humphrey's are considering for their waterfront development? I'm curious why they can't return to their original plans. With lending thawing out and housing doing well here, can't they build what they had hoped to with their original proposal and add the Ferris wheel?

It's a difficult site. But they're working on it.

When will we see groundbreaking of any kind of the next two scheduled boathouses?

I believe the University of Central Oklahoma recently announced they completed fundraising for their boathouse and a groundbreaking shouldn't be too far off.

 

ON OUHSC AND SURROUNDING AREAS:

A good friend of mine bought an Edmond style home on NE 5th, just west of MLK. Do you see this style home helping people who want to have a yard, but don't want to pay an arm and a leg, live near the city core? Do you think OUHSC is helping this?

Isn't that great? I've tracked the resurgence of the John F. Kennedy Neighborhood for the past dozen years, and it all started with a state trooper, who grew up in the area, wanting to buy an Urban Renewal lot and build a home for his family. Others followed.

The Northeast Church of Christ supported a group of elders forming a nonprofit that began building spec homes in the area. As they were purchased, regular homebuilders like Ron Walters joined the effort to rebuild the JFK. Keep in mind, this neighborhood was considered a failed 1970s era Urban Renewal effort that ended up with wide swathes of land where suburban street grids and new utilities were added, but no homes had been built in over 20 years.

The Urban Renewal Authority in the late 1990s hired an OU professor, Bob Goines, to draw up a plan on how to revive the area ... and that is what led to the single lot redevelopment approach, that allowed the state trooper to buy a lot and build a home ... and now a dozen years later, we have a great "Edmond-style" neighborhood, as you call it, rising up within five minutes of downtown.

Do you have any renderings to share of the Embassy Suites that was approved for the medical center area?

Yes, I'll post something soon.

With OU buying the PHF, where will the new biotech start ups possibly be housed? Will not having the PHF slow the growth of new biotech companies in OKC? Do you know of OU building two new buildings at the OUHSC?

My understanding is that OU will continue to support using the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park as an incubator for bio-tech start ups. OU is in constant expansion mode at the Health Center.

Steve, do you cover reporting of the OUHSC area and associated projects? If so, there's a lot of talk of some OUHSC expansion. Do you know anything?

Yeah, let me get caught up on that soon.

 

ON UPTOWN AND 23RD STREET DEVELOPMENTS:

Just curious about the Gold Dome, the upcoming Rise development and any developments in Uptown. Got any news?

Things don't look good with the Gold Dome. I'll leave it at that right now. Planning is still under way for Rise. And more restaurants are set to be announced along NW 23, including a Mediterranean eatery in the old KFC and a barbecue restaurant to be opened by Chris Lower and Kathryn Matthis of Big Truck Taco fame.

Basil Mediterranean, the new restaurant going in at the Uptown 23rd area will be a great plus for that area. It is taking over the KFC. Do you know if Basil Mediterranean is a chain or local?

I don't — yet.

 

ON MIDTOWN DEVELOPMENTS:

Who is the chef or owner behind the new Packard's New American Kitchen, and when will it open?

I believe it's the owner of the old Interurban City Express at City Place tower. I'll have an update soon.

In the past you've mentioned some Midtown housing projects that you are tracking. Are any of these being built on the empty lots on 10th Street or heading south on Hudson? Also, how many are you aware of, and how large will they be?

I believe we will see significant housing development along NW 10 in MidTown over the next few years.

There seems to be some confusion regarding the Marion Hotel building that the Midtown Renaissance group now owns. Someone asked what was going to happen to it, and someone else (Betts?) replied that it's going to be renovated per their agreement for a parking garage across the street. Isn't that the plan?

The TIF allocation given to the MidTown Renaissance Group for the 10th Street garage requires renovation and reopening of the Marion Hotel as apartments.

Steve, are the sisters still entertaining offers for the Villa Theresa project in Midtown? What do you see happening there?

Talks are ongoing, but nothing new to report yet.

You mentioned that there were some new housing developments being planned for Midtown. From what you have seen or heard will these be on the vacant lots on 10th Street or perhaps south on Hudson? How large are these potential developments?

Let's wait a bit to find out more information. But they'll be fairly significant if everything moves forward.

 

ALL THE EXTRAS:

Any answer yet on Old School Bagel and weekend hours?

I talked with Mark Beffort about this yesterday, and we still don't have an answer yet.

Is there any substantiation to the rumors that Trader Joe's is going to open a new location in the old Crescent Market space in the Nichols Hills Plaza?

My sources have told me that a deal was looked at, but it fell through. But I've been unable this week to find out if it has gained new traction.

Do you know what will replace Pachinko Parlor? Could it be retail instead of a restaurant?

Restaurant operators are bidding for the space. It won't go empty for long.

Have there been any new developments in the Farmers Market area? Do you see the Farmers Market needing a master plan, so it can hopefully focus its development and attract interest from developers or small businesses?

Farmers Market has a master plan completed by the city planning department a few years ago. I suspect once the boulevard project is completely settled, development of Farmers Market will follow fairly quickly.

Has it been confirmed that the Lincoln Plaza building currently being gutted is to be the home of a state agency? If so, are there any architectural renderings of what this renovation might look like when finished?

Yes, I believe it was announced Lincoln Plaza will be home to the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority.

I'm not pointing fingers at any one department, but when do you think Capitol Hill will finally get some MAPS play or major quality of life improvements?

Quite a bit of money has already been spent via Streetscaping and Community Development Block Grants. But I get your comment ... I'm rooting for Capitol Hill to make a comeback. I love the area.

Please don't be offended by this question, but it seems like your blogging at OKCCentral has kind of tapered off. Is there just too much going on?

You're correct. Truth: I've been dealing with some pretty overwhelming challenges the past couple of months in connection with my father's death and other personal matters. Please be patient. I'm doing my best to get back on track. I can't begin to thank my friends, co-workers, bosses and family for their compassion and support.

Steve, trying to figure out your process. It seems like you know things all the time and it's up to your timetable on when you tell the public. What's up with that? Isn't it your job to report what you know?

It's my job to report what I can relatively feel certain is accurate and true. And I'm not going to report something, whether it's in this chat or elsewhere, that I believe could turn out to be untrue at a later time. It's not an arbitrary process. I've learned new details over the last couple days that allow me to say I believe an announcement on a tower will take place in the next 30 days.

Steve, this question pertains to the journalistic process. This is not meant to antagonize, I just honestly don't know the answer, so your input will be appreciated. You have said that you are not ready to report on the developments that are brewing. What does this mean? Does this mean that you can't corroborate what certain sources are saying? Is it that sources are giving you the scoop "off the record?" What is impeding you from breaking the story? Thanks.

Think of it this way: I'm in a room. I'm watching a painter create an eagerly anticipated masterpiece. I am not, however, able to be in the room at all times. So I'm forced to rely on others who drop in this room from time to time, or who have spoken to the painter.

The painting is not done. So what I can share is what I gather from my own observations, what I hear from the painter and others who have been in the room. You're asking me to tell you what the painting will look like when it's done. But it's not done. I'd love to be able to tell you what it will look like, and I'm just as eager as you to see the completed masterpiece. But it is NOT done.

I can speculate … and then, if it comes out entirely different, everyone will say, "Lackmeyer doesn't know what he's talking about, he got this all wrong." I greatly appreciate the credibility readers place in me. I want to get this story, and others, right the first time.

When are you going to share the story of your night out on the town at the Neighborhood Lounge?

Soon, and it's a really great column in the making!

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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