The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&As on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Read the complete chat transcript here.
What will downtown and the surrounding Oklahoma City area be like in three years?
The Bricktown skyline will be dramatically different in three years. A new skyscraper will likely be coming out of the ground. The boathouse district will be a 21st Century Delmar Gardens. Work will be underway on the new boulevard and park. MidTown will be as densely built up as Deep Deuce is now. And Deep Deuce will be fully developed as the first fully mature mixed use downtown neighborhood in the entire state. Yes, I see all this being quite possible in three years. Copy and paste this prediction. I'm sticking with it.
What will happen with the current police station?
The current police headquarters and court will be razed once the new buildings are completed. The big question is what will happen with the original 1937 police headquarters and jail, which has been mothballed for several years. The building was originally slated for demolition back in the late 1990s when the jail was shut down and operations were merged with the county jail. But a funding shortfall put that plan on hold. An internal debate is underway at City Hall. I don't sense the Oklahoma City Police Department is eager to keep the structure standing, and it's my understanding police administration wants to see it come down. It is in pretty bad shape, with fencing surrounding the structure due to falling debris.
But others question how the city can encourage private property owners to save historic buildings if it proceeds with doing so itself (the police building is part of the original WPA Civic Center project). Developer Marva Ellard submitted a proposal to redevelop the property, but it seems to be caught up in the debate and confusion over how to proceed.
As an aside, during a recent online webinar, Planning Director Russell Claus showed how a parking garage on the site, if done in conjunction with the owners of the many surface parking lots in the area, could trigger a huge redevelopment of the entire west fringe of downtown.
Are there plans to put in shopping storefronts in the new development where the Stewart Metal buildings currently are?
Yes. Mixed use retail is part of the plan for the east Bricktown development.
How many more homes are being built on The Hill? Are more expected to start once those are completed and sold?
Another wave of construction was recently approved by the Urban Renewal Authority, so we'll be seeing, if I recall correctly, at least another dozen with more to come. The Hill is finally going on some good momentum.
How has the Thunder impacted local business?
Downtown hotels, in my observation, have been the biggest beneficiaries. Restaurants have done well too. The overall impact to the city, meanwhile, is beyond measurement. It's a game changer.
What if the Marion building is too far gone for rehab to be economically feasible?
The Marion Hotel is in bad shape, but the owners have a plan to save and restore it. Just pray that no earthquakes hit in the interim.
Is there a way to encourage new downtown businesses to have some kind of weekend hours?
Customers must patronize businesses already open weekends downtown. That's the simple truth. Kitchen No. 324 is a great example of this. I did learn this week that the new Old School Bagel Cafe opening up next month at Leadership Square will not be open weekends.
Is the drought that Oklahoma is going through going to affect the boating districts water supply at all this season?
I'm told the answer is no.
What new retailers might we see in the Midtown/Downtown area within the next 3-5 years?
We've seen Urban Outfitters sniff around from time to time. I suspect they'll ultimately jump in.
Do you think OKC could benefit from a better start up culture, similar to the scene in Austin?
Yes. Look at Better Block OKC. That's a 20-something creation. I'm amazed at the brilliance, creativity and determination of downtown's young professionals. They are making an impact; they are getting things done. They are changing our city, and I applaud them for that.
Do you hear anything about Downtown having more comedy clubs, small uptown business?
Comedy clubs just don't do as well now as they did in the 1990's. Bricktown once had three of them. Now I only know of one in the entire city.