The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer and Jonathan Dodson, lender, vice president at Legacy Bank, 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.
Which area of town do you think has the brightest future development wise within the next 10 years and why?
Jonathan: That's hard. Several areas come to mind. I think east of Broadway Extension and health sciences district is going to see continued success. The SoSA (or Cottage district of Midtown) will look drastically different than it does now. The Farmers Market will continue to see growth. And this doesn't even include projects like Core to Shore, Downtown Airpark, etc.
Steve: My prediction - the next big urban success stories are set to take in the neighborhood at NW 18 and Walnut, Farmers Market and Classen-10-Penn.
Are you seeing any new, younger developers coming onto the urban core development scene or is it mainly still the more established developers we hear about all the time?
Jonathan: I'm seeing a lot of creative Gen Xers who have really worked hard at finding ways of putting complex deals together. That would include guys like David Wanzer, Ben Sellers, James Ellison, Andy Burnett and many more. They've decided they can make a difference and a lot of them have decided they will keep working until they can get things put together. There are a lot of investors with money in Oklahoma City looking to provide equity in projects if they can find the right developer with the right concepts. A lot of my job is to help bring a younger developer into contact with someone who has capital and then work with them to also finance the deal.
Can you tell us if you'd be interested in working on a deal to revive Tower Theatre? If not, why would such a project not appeal to you?
Jonathan: Absolutely, given certain parameters, when I'm looking at a deal to finance, the first component is do I have a relationship with the developer and do I trust him? If we're able to get past that benchmark, then we start looking at the financial capacity of the borrower and the investors involved and the financial viability of a project. A lot of times on urban infill projects what ends up making a deal doable are tax credits, tax increment financing and other mechanisms that will help mitigate some of the risk. I strongly believe in 23rd Street and I think the traffic count and the current momentum should really help get a property like the Tower Theater off the ground.
What is the single largest hurdle that most developments face today in Oklahoma City?
Jonathan: I really don't think we've gotten to a point where rents are high enough to allow for massive redevelopment of our current stock of buildings. I think once the market strengthens to the point in the downtown core where we can recognize higher rents, you'll see buildings that were once not developable become very attractive for redevelopment.
How is work progressing on the Mideke Building? Do you have a timeline for completion? Also, are you working with any of the other Bricktown property owners to develop upper floors in their buildings?
Jonathan: They're aggressively pursuing the start of the project. But I'll let the details to be answered by my friend Andy Burnett (the developer). In regard to other Bricktown development, I would say as Steve always says, "I'm hearing rumblings."
Would you support an effort to widen the sidewalks and slow down the traffic on 23rd street?
Jonathan: Currently we provide more space for trees than people along NW 23. My dream is to have 23rd Street altered in a way that allows it to become connected to the housing that surrounds it. This along with the problems along Classen keep 23rd from having a feel of being safe and easy to walk to. I believe the Institute for Quality Communities at OU is in discussions with the Uptown Association about this. I live in Gatewood and the most dangerous thing we do every week is cross Classen or 23rd.
What biggest piece of advice could you give to many of us aspiring young developers who want to break into the field?
Jonathan: It takes a lot of hard work and patience. I've found that the young developers who are starting to see fruit have been tilling the soil for the past six years. There will always be an easy project to chase after. But I truly believe the projects that have the greatest capacity to create change in Oklahoma City take both time and creativity. If those two concepts are in place, then usually the money becomes available.
How important do you see affordable housing as a component of future development in the urban core?
Jonathan: I think it's incredibly important. I feel like it's an issue both Cathy O'Connor and Russell Claus rightly view as gravely important to the future make up of our urban core. So many cities have done it wrong. And I hope we are able to learn how to integrate different socio-economic groups because that is what makes downtown so much fun and a cool place to be.
Steve: To see how this divide has become a problem in an otherwise great downtown, read this story about downtown Denver: http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_24347101/downtown-denver-is-booming-but-it-is-tale