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Steve Lackmeyer: OKC Central Chat transcript, Jan. 4, 2013

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: January 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm •  Published: January 4, 2013

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&A's on Fridays at 10 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 9:31 a.m. Good morning everyone! Steve will be logging in at 10 a.m., but you can go ahead and start submitting your questions now.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:04 a.m. Good morning! Today I'm at Kitchen No. 324 in the Braniff Building.
A bit of history about this place: Kitchen No. 324 is the anchor ground floor tenant in the newly renovated 10-story, 75,584-square-foot Braniff Building. The building was built in 1923 by Thomas Braniff for his insurance agency and was later home to the airline he founded, Braniff Airways, until he moved operations to Dallas in the early 1940s.
A 1970 application to the National Register of Historic Places by historian Bob Blackburn cited that legacy, noting Braniff was one of the city's most "successful and influential businessmen," and also noted the building was designed by the city's foremost architect of the early 20th century, Andrew Solomon Layton.
The previous owner, Kerr-McGee Corp., painted the building all gray as it was absorbed into the company's corporate campus in the 1960s. The Braniff Building was restored to its historic street façade, with a modern glass façade replacing the alley side of the building, as part of the $100 million SandRidge Commons development.
Kitchen No. 324 is run by the Good Egg Group.
10:04 a.m.
Okie Bigfoot 10:04 a.m. What are the three biggest surprises you predict for Oklahoma City development in 2013?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:05 a.m. You guys are getting more and more clever. So how do I answer this without giving away the surprises that are not yet quite ready for prime time?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. OK, here goes.... there will likely be a downtown announcement that for me, personally, will be very profound, a very joyful moment...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:07 a.m. Cool businesses are coming downtown... and development interest is far more heated than people realize.
Bob 10:07 a.m. When will we know something about new towers downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:08 a.m. I know it seems as if the wait is going forever... but I've heard nothing to change what I've said in the past ... deals are in motion...
Nick 10:08 a.m. Good morning, Steve!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:08 a.m. Good morning Nick. Always good to hear from you.
Guest 10:09 a.m. In regards to the convention center, why was the Cox Business Center not renovated to near the degree that they are saying they need now. Was that just a band aid? Anything they are saying they need for the future will probably turn out just like what we have now. Especially for a dying industry. Any thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. Structurally, the Cox Center was, and is still, a mess. You are correct - the original MAPS project envisioned a lot more of a renovation and expansion. But the price of that plan skyrocketed due to the complexities posed by the underground parking, structural loading, etc. Quite frankly, the site doesn't work. As for the convention business being a dying industry, I don't think even its harshest critics allege that's the case.
Nick 10:10 a.m. Are you excited about Midtown Renaissance Group's purchase of the property in Midtown you wrote about? Do you think we see something mixed use on this site, or an entire block development similar to the Edge?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Chris Fleming have had great success with MidTown housing to date. It's not unthinkable that they might endeavor a bigger housing development on NW 10 and Hudson.
Andy 10:12 a.m. What will be the next change to the OKC skyline? I hear OG&E would like to build a tower?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:12 a.m. Who have you heard that from, Andy? And can you have that person call me to confirm the project so I can report it on front page? ;)
Lance 10:12 a.m. Steve, wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading "Operation Scissortail" after getting it from my wife for Christmas. I've recommended it to many of my OKC friends.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:12 a.m. Thanks Lance!
BethanySooner 10:13 a.m. Good morning Steve. I really appreciated your overview on some of the things to expect in 2013. You mentioned two new developments in Deep Deuce. Were you referring to the McKown project and 4th Street Apartments phase 2?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:13 a.m. Yes. But there also are at least two other projects being eyed as well that have yet to be announced.
Okie Bigfoot 10:13 a.m. How about long-term surprises? Things you don't have an inside-track on, but that you anticipate in the short term (possibly 5 year) future?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:14 a.m. You're asking me to detail surprises that I don't expect and would catch me by surprise? That's a bit tricky,
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. What would surprise me? A major full-size grocery downtown? A Super Target opening in Core to Shore? Those would be total surprises because I don't expect them, I guess.
Mukkuu 10:15 a.m. Any new grocery stores in the future? Trader Joe's perhaps??
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. We know that Trader Joe's is looking at expanding into Oklahoma City. It's not impossible for them to consider a location in the urban core, though I'd be surprised if they came into the heart of downtown.
Nick 10:16 a.m. What quarter of 2013 can we possibly expect some downtown redevelopment to really start rolling? Midyear maybe?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. Mid-year for sure. Maybe earlier.
Okie Bigfoot 10:16 a.m. What are the chances of seeing Ikea in OKC?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. The last report I heard was the odds are pretty low.
Dan 10:17 a.m. Steve, will the rise of violent crime in the city make a big impact on businesses looking to make their move to OKC? Do you know what steps are being taken to mitigate this?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. It could. Historically, City Hall has faced the challenge of trying to somehow treat fire and police equally (at least what I saw). So if you were looking at adding 100 police, you also had to add 100 firefighters. So it's doubly expensive. But most folks I talk to say that the need for more police far outweighs the need for more firefighters and every bit of focus should be on beefing up our police force. Politics are changing.... let's see what happens.
Frank 10:19 a.m. Regarding your comment on a downtown announcement that will be "profound" for you "personally," can you say when specifically The Oklahoman is moving its offices back downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. I really hope that happens Frank. But this decision is being made at a pay-grade higher than me and I can't say whether we might end up downtown or in suburban Oklahoma City.
Garrett 10:20 a.m. Good morning Steve. Native Roots is currently the only grocer in the downtown area. Are any other grocers planning on opening that area? Possibly a Trader Joe's? I had seen in the paper last week that there might be interest from them in an Oklahoma City location.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. I think it's possible we could see Trader Joe's locate in the urban core, but not so certain it would be in the heart of downtown.
Lance 10:21 a.m. Any new speculation on who the proprietor might be for the new CC hotel? Omni? Hyatt?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. Omni is certainly doing a lot of these deals in other cities.
Kurt Gwartney 10:22 a.m. What's your opinion on the proposed street car route?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:24 a.m. I've seen a lot of debate and consideration go into the proposed route, it seems to serve quite a bit of the high density sections of downtown, but also passes along some great undeveloped sites as well. I question whether Oklahoma City full appreciates how much operation and maintenance will cost, and I wonder if residents understand the MAPS 3 campaign and ballot made no such provisions for operation and maintenance of the streetcar system, the new park, the new convention center or the wellness centers. Far less consideration went into such matters than was evidenced in the original MAPS initiative.
Nick 10:24 a.m. Any updates on the Villa Theresa property? Are the sisters still grieving?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m. No updates. Are they grieving? Or are they being smart, savvy real estate wheelers and dealers by letting people bid up the price?
Scott 10:25 a.m. Good Morning Steve. Any news to share about a proposed out of state company relocating to downtown OKC?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m. That's another rumor that's out there.
Garrett 10:25 a.m. Good morning Steve. Besides the restaurants that have opened recently, like Kitchen 324, can we expect any new restaurants in the downtown area in 2013?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:26 a.m. Yep. The popular Cow-Calf Cafe in Edmond is opening up a second location in the Park Harvey Building.
Nick 10:26 a.m. I feel like I'm running out of questions for these chat sessions. A lot of what I hope for and am curious about is on a lengthier timeline and it's just a matter of waiting a lot of the time. What are some short term things that have you excited that you can actually share with us?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. Nick, the skyline in Bricktown is about to change far more dramatically than people may realize. Picture it with three to four new six- to ten-story hotels built up along the east end around the Hampton Inn. Picture the proposed Holiday Inn Express on Main Street. Picture the Stewart Metal Fabricators site built up as mixed-use housing and retail. This sort of development should secure Bricktown's long-term future and spare it the fate that befell the West End in Dallas. Deep Deuce and MidTown, meanwhile, are in a race to become truly wonderful mixed-use urban neighborhoods.
BethanySooner 10:29 a.m. I think you mentioned last week that Project 180 might not be as scaled back as at first appeared. If that is the case, where did the additional funding come from, and will the public art and furniture all be completed as originally planned?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. Bethany, I'll have a full update on Project 180 in the Sunday Oklahoman.
Elise 10:30 a.m. I read in the December 26th issue of the Gazette that "Friends for a Better Boulevard" founder Bob Kemp tied the extension of the ground level street to the rebirth of the Farmers' Market. Would this really make it happen? For the last 10 years it has looked like a sleeping giant. Is there going to be a vibrant future for that area raised boulevard or not?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. I can easily see the Farmers Market area revived if the boulevard is built in a way that embraces the area instead of blocking it out of sight as was the case with the old elevated Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway. Drive the area around Farmers Market, take in the vibe of the surrounding buildings, explore the close proximity to Western Avenue and the new I-40. The possibilities are really incredible. If I had won the $280 million lottery jackpot... I would have placed a stake in Farmers Market.
Garrett 10:32 a.m. Can we expect any new retail development in the downtown area?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. We've seen quite a bit of small shop expansion already, and I'll update that soon. I think we'll see a continued influx of small shops in and around Automobile Alley.
Guest 10:33 a.m. Has the city made any headway with the Santa Fe Depot?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. Not to my knowledge.
Scott 10:33 a.m. There is a prime spot of land in Bricktown that was to be developed for a print screening company, however I hear that plan has been scrapped and the owner of the land is negotiating with a popular out of state restaurant chain? Any speculation on this rumor?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. That's news to me. What parcel are you talking about Scott?
Dan 10:34 a.m. Steve, has there been any word on when work on the Marion and neighboring parking garage will begin?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. Designers have been hired. I spoke to the developers the other day, and if I recall correctly, garage construction starts later this year. No timetable is set yet for the Marion.
BethanySooner 10:34 a.m. The report on the streetcar project was puzzling to say the least. It sounded as if the City Council just woke up and realized that a route had been proposed by the subcommittee. And yet the route had been known for months. There must have even been at least one Council Member on the committee during the development process. Does this strike you as odd that all of a sudden they are wanting to re-evaluate? Also, is it possible that they could reduce the number of miles, thus saving money to funnel to another project, such as, oh I don't know, maybe the Convention Center?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. I am shocked, I say, just shocked to discover that politics have arisen over the streetcar project!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:36 a.m. (with all apologies to Captain Renault)
Okie Bigfoot 10:36 a.m. Biggest surprise for you for the midtown/downtown area in 2012?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. Okie, I'm going to find out who you are and I'm going to stage a huge surprise party for you.....
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. OK, surprises in 2012? I'd say it's the quality of the work done by SandRidge on the Braniff Building. It far surpassed anything I expected.
Nick 10:38 a.m. Do you know if P180 style improvements will continue should the city decide to work on streets in the future? Was it a design standard that is to be used from now on or is it merely for what is being done with the money from Devon and then it's back to the old ways?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. Yes, it's my understanding that all streets in the core of downtown will eventually be subjected to the same design standards.
Nick 10:39 a.m. Steve, any update as to what was found when they did the survey of the Rock Island Plow Building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. They found out that it needs A LOT of work. This building won't make anyone a lot of money - it will have to be a labor of love.
guy 10:40 a.m. Steve, could you give us just the initials of the companies or individuals building new towers or tell us what words rhyme with their names? (i'm completely kidding--there's a definite theme to today's chat session). Seriously though, it seems that rental property in the core area is saturated in 1bd's. There are 2bd, but i can't hardly find 3bd rentals in the area at all (aside from the crazy prices at the Aberdeen). Is the area just bent against families who'd like to rent in the area? Is there some intention to keep the populous of the area to mostly single people?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. Guy, by simply stating this frustration, you may prompt some changes. Developers in multi-family housing do follow these chats. This is a question I'll pose to themn as well. I don't think there's any conspiracy involved.
Scott 10:41 a.m. Bricktown Canal area? I believe it was going to be sports theme store and the owners print screen company? Does this sound familiar?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. OK, now I follow. You're talking about the House of Bedlam project. Yes, the project is on hold and may change significantly. Don't be surprised if the more controversial part of the project - the one story structured parking and retail on the inside of the canal curve is re-envisioned as a hotel.
John 10:42 a.m. Is Planet Sub planning to put a location in at Park Harvey?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. I heard that a few months ago, but then nothing happened (at least not yet)
Elise 10:43 a.m. I frequently wonder why the owner of the Homeland on 18th and Classen hasn't taken the opportunity to turn that store ino something really cool, knowing how the demand is for a good grocery store in that area.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. Good question. Maybe I'll hit them up on this.
Nick 10:43 a.m. Is the Rise still progressing on NW 23rd St.? There have been signs posted that say the furniture place isn't going out of business, but has an update saying that work is progressing. What's the real story?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. The hotel/motel liquidators are moving to a new location. The building is being renovated into The Rise. A leasing sign just went up this week.
Nick 10:44 a.m. Also, can I once again have hope for the renewal of the Tower Theatre? The Fowler VW guy (Jonathan?) seems to have taken an interest in it and your blog post seems to point to him being able to get it done...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. Fowler won't, and can't, do it alone. Ultimately, the owners (the family that owns Party Galaxy) have to be convinced it's time to move forward with a plan or sell to someone who can.
BethanySooner 10:45 a.m. My first guess for that project/announcement that you were excited about was that OPUBCO was moving back downtown. My second guess would be that First National will be bought by local developers with deep pockets who will develop that property to it's potential. Am I close?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Both developments would be applauded, I suspect, by many.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. (Forgive me if I start to sound like the old shake-up 8-ball we used to play with as kids)
Nick 10:46 a.m. Is Avis interested in taking on a labor of love? Or will it need to be someone else?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. I think Avis and Phil Scaramucci already showed their intent by spending quite a bit to fix the roof of the Rock Island Plow Building and strengthening its structure just to keep it standing.
Dan 10:47 a.m. Steve, what would you say was your biggest disappointment of 2012?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I think many downtown would say they were very disappointed to see First National Center remain in control of mysterious, out-of-state ownership.
PaseoFreak 10:48 a.m. Steve, I've been to Kitchen No. 324 a few times and all I can say is WOW!. AGEDG really raised the bar this time. Really feels different and more urban than anything else I've experienced. It must have cost a pretty penny. Do you see opportunity and likelihood for more dining establishmenst of this caliber without "Major Corporate Sponsorship" like I assume Sandridge and Devon are providing for establishments in their buildings?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. Maybe. Kitchen No 324 has certainly destroyed the notion that dining can't work in the central business district on weekends.
Scott 10:49 a.m. Do you see Brown's Bakery renovating their building extensively? Or any word if they will rebuild in Midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. The owners have talked about such a renovation in the past. But that's not been followed up by any indication it will actually happen.
Nick 10:50 a.m. So Fowler is wanting to work with the owners of Party Galaxy? Or he wants to buy it and do it with his crew?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. Fowler wants to see what he can do to help make SOMETHING happen.
Elise 10:50 a.m. Do you know if anyone submitted plans or ideas for reuse of the old jailhouse building on the east side of Shartel? It's beautiful and, I would guess, pretty solid.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. Yes, but I'm getting mixed signals as to what the city's true interest is with this project.
Les 10:51 a.m. Any idea on if they are going to tear down the old Magic Cleaners on 4th near Shartel?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I don't know.
Andrew 10:51 a.m. Will the intersection of Main and Hudson have traffic lights again? Project 180 has been such a pain. Now that Hudson is two way, it's been difficult trying to cross it without the aide of a traffic signal or a proper pedestrian crossing. It doesn't help that people roll through the stop sign to race into the Devon Parking Garage...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. Read by Project 180 update in the Sunday Oklahoman.
Nick 10:53 a.m. Can we expect Film Row to really get rolling now that Chip Fudge's companies are moving in?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Yep. Film Row is about to get very, very cool.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Folks, I'm going to wrap up now. Have a great weekend!
Nick 10:54 a.m. Thanks again, Steve. Take care.
by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author 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...
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