The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer and Louisville 21C Museum Hotel President Craig Greenberg took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat about a new museum hotel opening in the old Fred Jones Assembly plant.
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 is one thing in Louisville that you wish you could put in Oklahoma City?
STEVE: Without a doubt, it's their extensive intact cast iron facade buildings.
Do you think we will see more streetscaping on Main or Sheridan before or quickly after the hotel opens? Maybe a continuation of the Film Row streetscape down Sheridan?
CRAIG: We hope the city's Project 180 streetscape efforts continue westward to Classen and the new boulevard.
Are there any plans to renovate buildings NW of the Hart building? Seems they would be a good bridge between Film Row and 21c.
STEVE: I think the new 21c Museum Hotel will spur a redevelopment of many of these buildings.
Why did 21C choose Oklahoma City?
CRAIG: We loved this building for many reasons. Not only is it architecturally and historically significant, but we welcome the opportunity to be a catalyst for revitalization on the western edge of Film Row and downtown. Also, we think putting a contemporary art museum, great hotel and restaurant in a former Model T Ford assembly plant is going to be awesome.
What sort of involvement will 21C have with the surrounding neighborhood and city?
CRAIG: We seek to be active in all of our communities. In particular, we work closely with local non-profit arts organizations to provide them with a unique venue for activities such as film screenings, performances and poetry readings. We are excited about the potential collaborations with many local organizations and artists.
Which other planned project in the area are you most excited about as your hotel gets ready to start renovation?
CRAIG: We are very excited about the development of the new park in Core to Shore (south of the Myriad Gardens). In Louisville, we've been fortunate to have a Hargreaves designed riverfront park for over a decade (and it keeps growing). And it has been a tremendous gathering place for downtown activity and public events.
How (un)developed were the areas surrounding the 21C hotels in Louisville and Bentonville when they were first opened, compared to the Fred Jones building and the west edge of downtown OKC?
CRAIG: Louisville was fairly similar to the immediate vicinity of the Fred Jones building today in that there were many buildings with high degrees of vacancy and under-utilized. Our building, for example, was approximately 90 percent vacant before we started construction. In Bentonville, we are part of a continuing revitalization of that city's town square and its connection to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art which I highly recommend everyone go see if they haven't already.
STEVE: I will have a lot more on this in my upcoming story.
What do you think downtown OKC can learn from Louisville and what will it take to get us to that level? How long do you think it will take us to get there? Likewise, what can Louisville learn from OKC?
CRAIG: We are currently under construction on a project in Durham, N.C. and are starting construction very soon on a project in Lexington, Kentucky. Oklahoma City will be our sixth hotel because we are so excited about the building itself, the prospects for continued downtown revitalization and the partnership with Hall Capital.
First, in terms of what Louisville can learn from OKC, our chamber of commerce took a large group there several years ago to see the magnificent impact of the MAPS program. Right now, the Kentucky state legislature is considering a constitutional amendment and legislation to permit Kentucky cities like Louisville to have a local option sales tax.
Currently, Kentucky cities cannot choose to enact local sales taxes. Don't sell yourselves short in downtown OKC, as I think there are a lot of wonderful things already there. Bricktown's retail and commercial activity is very impressive and the Chesapeake Arena is a wonderful attraction. The downtown convention center in Louisville is very helpful to attract thousands of visitors throughout the entire year and I think Oklahoma City will be very pleased when its convention center is built in the near future.
STEVE: I've been thinking a lot about this question. At first glance, I saw the downtown Walgreens (something downtown OKC would kill for), and the much busier streets and thought, oh wow, this downtown is just far more impressive. Keep in mind, Louisville is an older city (founded 1778). It has a lot more its historic architecture intact. It's more spread out, but in a way that retains density.
But it's a lower rise skyline. So in that sense, we do have taller buildings. But I've not seen any really bad examples of 1970s architecture (which we do have in OKC). But it's a city that has way too many one way streets that are intimidating for pedestrians. Traffic was moving way too fast last night on Main Street.
I think Louisville and OKC share a passion for using festivals and special events to activate their downtowns. The biggest difference is Louisville has some very impressive mid-rise and soon high-rise housing. They're ahead of us in this game - we need to figure out how it's getting done when they have a much smaller downtown residential population. I love downtown Louisville.