Steve Lackmeyer: OKC Central Chat transcript, Nov. 16, 2012

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: November 16, 2012 at 11:58 am •  Published: November 16, 2012

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 9:34 a.m. Good morning everyone. Steve will be signing in at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Nick 10:00 a.m. Morning Steve!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:00 a.m. Good morning Nick! Missed ya last week!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. So I'm all set for a lively conversation, I've got my online '70s station playing, and all is good!
Gary T 10:01 a.m. I remember Devon had a little bit of an issue with the water table when digging down to set the foundation of the tower. Since the larger of the convention space is set to be built underground two blocks south of the tower, do you see that being an issue there as well?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:03 a.m. It wasn't so much of "an issue" as it was simply one of many tasks they had to address during design and construction. And yes, the site chosen for the convention center is also in the old river bed. The only issue I can see is whether the water table - and other potential underground challenges - might jack up the price to a point where a new site must be considered.
Gary T 10:03 a.m. With the plans to build the Holiday Inn Express, the Hilton Garden Inn already under construction, the Marriott Springhill Suites and the two other hotels to be built, do you see BT getting too many at one time to support the demand? Especially since most of them will be at the east end of BT. Also, with all those going in, do you see any chance the convention center location could be changed to the East BT lot so a hotel wouldn’t have to be built in the immediate future?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. A discussion about the potential jump in hotel space downtown - especially the number of limited service hotels - has been going on behind the scenes for the past few years. A hotel boom was about to hit Bricktown in 2008 when it was cooled by the Great Recession. But with that over (for now), the pent up interest for hotel development is rushing forward. I am not surprised at all by this. The Bricktown Hampton Inn enjoys very high occupancy rates and recouped a multi-million dollar profit for its developers when they flipped it after just a couple of years of opening - and in the midst of the Great Recession. Some observers worry this expansion of hotel stock could create a collapse later on - and cause problems for development of a 600- to 650-room conference hotel. The demand and interest in these new hotel rooms, however, does not seem to be hurting older downtown hotels so far. I wonder if the ultimate outcome of this expansion will be at the cost of the I-40/Meridian Avenue hotel corridor, where some big name restaurants have already flipped over to secondary or third-tier names, the hotels are beginning to age, and the presence of adult establishments proves to be less enticing to travelers than the mix of entertainment, eateries and venues in Bricktown.
BethanySooner 10:10 a.m. Good morning Steve. There has been speculation that an office tower might be built on the Stage Center site and that several other locations are being looked at. Can you name what those locations are, or at least the general areas? Also, is there any possibility that a residential or corporate tower might be built in the area between Hudson and Walker just west of the Central Business District?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:13 a.m. If another tower is to be built downtown (and I’m pretty convinced one or more will be built), I would be shocked if it’s not built at the current home of Stage Center. The site is just too prime, too ripe for development.
I also still suspect we will likely see an expansion of the Devon Energy headquarters on the site of the old Carpenter Square Theater at Main and Hudson someday. From there, it gets a bit tricky. The Chase bank drive through at Broadway and Robert S. Kerr Avenue was designed for a different era, and all those lanes are not really needed very much. Ditto for the Bank of Oklahoma drive-through (at NW 4 and Robinson). I once thought the triangle at E.K. Gaylord and NW 4 might be home to a tower; it has since been bought by an affiliate of SandRidge Energy.
From here, the question gets more difficult. Do we see office development in Core to Shore? Or maybe north of NW 5? Or do we tower development around the Civic Center?
Rick Dowell, meanwhile, has always had a plan to build a mid-rise residential tower along NW 5 west of Walker Avenue.
Gary T 10:13 a.m. Since Avis still owns the parking lots south of Zio’s and west of the Rock Island Plow buildings and really hasn’t done anything in several years, do you see any sort of development being put on hold indefinitely due to the areas possibly being used for the Multi-modal hub? Same question in regards to the lot north of the U-Haul building.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. Avis does not own the lot south of Zio's - that is owned by the Brewer family. Avis only owns the small parking lot immediately west of the Rock Island Plow Building. I really don't have an easy answer for the rest of your question... there are way too many moving pieces with those two properties to say what is or isn't possible.
Bill 10:15 a.m. When do you see the final 1-way streets in Downtown being open to 2 way traffic?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:16 a.m. Good question. An update is needed. I'll get back to you.
Dan 10:16 a.m. Steve, do you know of any developments that are going on in the Paseo? The building that was formerly the Paseo Splash was renovated not long ago, but not much has happened with it...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. John Belt is not going to rush in with a half-baked concept for the old Paseo Plunge site. But I suspect he's getting closer to making up his mind. I also see dramatic development taking place along Walker Avenue leading into Paseo from NW 23. We already know about The Rise being developed by Jonathan Russell and renovation of the old garage door building by Keith Paul. Expect more to come.
Bill 10:17 a.m. Will the housing on top of the new parking garage be built at the same time as the rest of the garage or possibly as a second phase?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:18 a.m. I would be surpised if the housing is not built at the same time - it's just too costly to do it separately.
Nick 10:18 a.m. Thanks Steve, wish I could have made it.
Nick 10:18 a.m. How did the Residence Inn in Lower Bricktown get away with the site plan it did? Especially when considering how the newer hotels being developed are being held to more stringent design standards and aren't surrounded by loads of surface parking.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. Lower Bricktown is under design control of the Urban Renewal Authority while the rest of Bricktown is under design control of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee. They have, at least in the past, had different standards, though Urban Renewal is clearly raising the bar as evidenced with the insistence on improved designs for the Kevin Durant restaurant last month.
Nick 10:20 a.m. Are there any plans for renovations of the upper floors of the building that houses Spaghetti Warehouse?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. Some of Bricktown's most respected developers have dreamed of adding housing to the upper floors of Spaghetti Warehouse for 20 years. It's an ownership issue.
Nick 10:21 a.m. This probably isn't your beat, but since they're downtown, is there trouble brewing at SandRidge? I've seen two major shareholders are now calling for changes in management.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. I'm reading the stories just as much as everybody else is ... you tell me.
Nick 10:21 a.m. Now at this point, this question is purely hypothetical, but do you think a potential corporate headquarters on the Preftakes block is a wise choice that constitutes a higher use? That is the last really good remnant of our Main St. and there are so many other empty lots that could be used that I just don't think that block should be wiped for a headquarters. What say you?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. I think there are some incredible opportunities to create some very cool retail spaces along Main Street. I also am not sure if there are as many viable empty lots left for the development of high-rise towers. It's a dilemma for sure.
Gary T 10:23 a.m. I remember hearing that 5 NE 12th Street owned by R&F LLC was going to be remodeled into offices. Has there been any movement on that?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:24 a.m. The last I heard, the property sold to a group that chose to retain the old Bond Bakery building as a records storage facility.
Hardy 10:25 a.m. Great article on convention center economics. The CC seems like an expensive overreach that could risk the longer term MAPS brand. Why do you think the chamber is so full speed ahead? Group think, small group decision, old info, midas touch complex? All evidence around the country seems to hint that it is a bad idea.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. I'm not sure how to answer this one Hardy. I'm working on a column ... hopefully some of your questions will be answered in my upcoming coverage.
Nick 10:27 a.m. When is construction supposed to start on the new 10th St. exit off of 235?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. i know you want to know about this. I have a map finally read to go - I just need to get out some calls.
Ed 10:27 a.m. I have several relatives who work for Enogex in eastern OK. Even though they don't work at the current HQ in downtown OKC, these relatives have mentioned a "new downtown headquarters building" several times. They made clear that they were not referring to the current office space downtown. Do you think it's possible we see several energy-related companies occupying a new office tower built by local developer who understands the forthcoming demand
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. In last week's chat, a reader mentioned a new tower that would house OG&E and Enogex. I can not report anything firm on this - but I'm not going to dissuade anyone from thinking this is a real possibility.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:29 a.m. I can add that this potential development is not the only tower project I'm tracking.
Gary T 10:29 a.m. Who owns the lots on north side of 13th and either side of Broadway and are there any plans to develop them?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. MidTown Renaissance owns the two big brick warehouses - is that you're talking about? If so, yes, plans are being drawn up.
Gary T 10:30 a.m. Do you have any film row updates for us?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. I think my last story from over the summer still pretty much stands.
Nick 10:30 a.m. Have you seen the renderings for the proposed Main St. Garage housing? Anything to get excited about?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:31 a.m. The request for proposals is within a week or two from going out, so it's very early to expect to see any renderings.
Nick 10:31 a.m. Who owns the Spaghetti Warehouse building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:31 a.m. It's an out-of-state LLC. if I recall correctly.
Bill 10:31 a.m. Any word on the progress at the Carnegie Center building?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. As I recall, Judy Hatfield obtained her tax credits and building permit...
Gary T 10:32 a.m. Since the Humphreys aren’t moving forward on the Flatiron building, do you see them selling it to let someone else develop it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. Yes, I do see that possibility. It's very reasonable to expect to see movement on this site in the next few years barring any economic downturn.
guy 10:33 a.m. i noticed you tweeting about poor architecture while viewing some slide show presentation. Is there any new projects that show clear improvements in architecture quality? What can be done about drab architecture elsewhere?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. Devon Energy Center is a huge step forward architecturally. And despite controversy over the demolition that took place at SandRidge Commons, the new construction underway with the Braniff Building, what's planned with the amenities building, and another building on Broadway can't be dismissed as anything short of sleek, contemporary and eye-catching. The designs that came out this week for the new Holiday Inn Express in Bricktown are getting a lot of praise. And a lot of folks say anything done by Brian Fitzsimmons is likely to be a potential award-winner.
Nick 10:35 a.m. Urbanized had a very nice post on OKCTalk about the convention center and basically said that we need a better facility and that OKC could benefit by realizing that we don't compete with the major cities but that we could excel with a regional center easily accessible by highway, but that currently, our facility is embarrassing and that we can't even beat our smaller peers for business. This was a pretty well-reasoned argument for why we should support a new CC. I do still have questions about the site selection though.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. Urbanized is a smart guy.
BethanySooner 10:36 a.m. Loved your article about Convention Centers in the Sunday edition. In your estimation, is there even a remote chance that the CC committee might reconsider the chosen location based on cost overruns? There are several smart businesspeople on that comittee, do you think they would ever re-evaluate the investment costs versus a realistic return? If they did have to backtrack regarding their site choice, might some of them view this as failing, and therefore stubbornly forge ahead, but compromising quality in the process? Sorry for the rambling post, it is just hard for me to get my head around their decision-making process.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. I have no doubt the chosen site will continue to be challenged. The convention center subcommittee is filled with some of the smartest, most accomplished of the city's civic and corporate leadership. It's very difficult to explain with limited space in the newspaper, limited time, etc., all the complexities that go into these projects. I don't sense that any of them want to compromise on quality. They also don't want to reduce the size of the complex. And money is limited. If site costs escalate, could the site be reconsidered? Possibly. It's all about taking 3 plus 3 plus 3 and making it equal five.
Stevie G 10:39 a.m. Steve, your article last Sunday was very informative last Sunday...do you have a position on the convention center and hotel.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. No. I think it's important that readers understand why proponents say we need a convention center and hotel, how such development might benefit the city, and what risks might be involved, and what's currently going on and expected to occur with the convention market.
BethanySooner 10:41 a.m. I'm not at all satisfied with the renderings for the new Downtown Elementary School. The dark brick, lack of windows, and scarcity of architectural detail make this building seem somewhat depressing instead of uplifting especially since it will be for children. Was there a budget constraint that limited the design opportunities? Is there any chance that it will be modified?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. You're not alone. I'm not hearing anyone really rave about the designs. The designs also don't seem to fit in with what TAP Architecture usually goes for...
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. This is a project in which I need to learn more from those involved ...
Nick 10:43 a.m. There are a lot of Mexican restaurants in Bricktown. What kind of restaurant do you think would do well in Bricktown that isn't there currently? It's a chain, but I think a Buffalo Wild Wings would do a bang-up business down there.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. I'm still heart broken that Sammy's Pizza came so close to becoming a reality and then fell through. Bricktown needs a good pizza place. Ditto for seafood.
Buffalo Wild Wings? Intriguing .... do you really think it could sustain steady business throughout the year?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. As an aside.... if someone were to open a genuine Jewish deli like the ones I loved as a kid in New York ... I'd write a long column in tribute of that person....
Jay 10:46 a.m. Have you seen the new Omni 1,000 room Convention Center hotel in Dallas and what do you think about it being owned by the City of Dallas? There was a lot of battles over a hotel owned by the city.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. I've not seen the Omni, but I've read about it. I'm told by quite a few people that the age of developer-financed conference hotels is over - and that Oklahoma City will likely need to build a hotel much as Dallas did.
Nick 10:47 a.m. In regards to the potential out of town/state company that might relocate to OKC, do they ask you to keep their name quiet or do you remain hushed about it until a concrete deal is reached so you're not seen as dealing in rumors?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. I've been told I'll be shipped to Siberia if I talk....
Steve Lackmeyer 10:48 a.m. ;)
guy 10:48 a.m. Yes! You can't get a decent pastrami sandwich anywhere in OKC that i know about. Also, do you know if the houses to the east of Robinson in Heritage Hills are subject to the same strictures as those west of Robinson in Heritage Hills? (i've seen a sign over there that said "Heritage Hills East" as though it was a distinct neighborhood.)
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. I'm pretty certain both neighborhoods are subject to regulation by the Historical Preservation Commission.
Bill 10:50 a.m. about a year ago on OKCTalk you told people to not be surprised if we saw more hotels in east bricktown. I think that corresponded when the first building was torn down on sharidan. Do you have any similar warnings? Possibly where the hale photo building was torn down? It seems ominous that something will be built there and soon because instead of paving it immediately, they just put a small plastic retaining fence up. Much like they did on Sharidan before the new hotel started construction.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. Jonathan Russell has said he hopes to build a three-story office building on the site (he also bought the old OPUBCO lots to the immediate east of the Hale building site). Could something more ambitious pop up on that site? With so much in play right now, anything is possible.
Nick 10:51 a.m. I was devastated by the Sammy's deal as well. What exactly happened? Is there no way they'll try again? Ohh, seafood would be good as well. I just never see a BWW that isn't busy. And a jewish deli would be a smash hit. I wouldn't even mind an Old School Bagel Cafe downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. My understanding is the Sammy's pizza restaurant was under-collateralized and there was a disagreement between tenant and landlord that couldn't be overcome.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. Old School Bagel ... yeah, that would be nice.
Nick 10:53 a.m. Which reminds me, what happened with the rumored Panera deal for downtown? Heard it died, but why?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:53 a.m. You heard it died on OKC Talk. I'm not hearing that. We'll see what happens.
Hardy 10:53 a.m. Not many talking about the loss of the current site choice for CC would be maybe the best place in the city for true huge mixed use development in the middle of everything, foolish to use for CC when it could create the true connection to everything.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. I understand that argument.
guy 10:54 a.m. BTW--i missed the significance of a comment last week about someone spotting a back hoe near the SE end of the Bricktown canal. What was the point? That work on extending the canal will begin soon? Or that something else will be built down there?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. I'm pretty sure work is about to start on the canal extension under the new I-40 bridge.
Nick 10:55 a.m. Is the Midtown group waiting to start the Old Marion and parking garage project until they finish up the Packard?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. The Packard Building is done! No, if I understand correctly, design work is underway for the garage and the Marion.
Bill 10:55 a.m. Has anyone ever successfully baited you into answer a question on a topic that you previously decided you were going to remain quiet on? I see attempts all the time.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:56 a.m. This chat sure does put me in the other seat, doesn't it?
Nick 10:56 a.m. Do you see Native Roots grocery thriving with its current model? I on OKCTalk
Nick 10:56 a.m. Do you think Native Roots can thrive with its current model or selling high priced organic stuff without lower priced daily essentials?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. The folks who own Native Roots seem very committed to closely monitoring what the market wants, adapting when needed. They seem to be doing just fine so far.
Nick 10:57 a.m. Along the riverbank, is that the SandRidge Pavilion that is currently under construction?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. I noticed that too! Did they really start work without a groundbreaking ceremony? I'll have to find out.
Nick 10:58 a.m. haha, I screwed up that Native Roots question badly. Apologies.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. We're good.
Nick 10:58 a.m. How long is the site work for the Edge expected to take?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. Oh, all the dates, facts and figures I'm supposed to remember! Can I answer it will open by mid-2014 without anyone getting upset if I'm a bit off on that?
guy 10:59 a.m. Is river front development restricted to the North shore? Or is there anything happening or planned for the Southern shore?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. Nope, development can take place on both shores. Once the American Indian Cultural Center is completed, that likely will spur more interest in the south shore.
Nick 11:00 a.m. There's a rumor floating around about a Valir expansion downtown. Have you heard anything about it involving their current campus and not the other land in the MBD?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. Looking into it.
Gary T 11:00 a.m. What’s up next to close for Project 180 construction?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. They should be letting out another package of work fairly soon. It looks like Hudson, Robinson and Sheridan are very close to completion.
Nick 11:01 a.m. You think it will be completed?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. There may yet be just a few adults left in the room. We'll find out this spring.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Gang, I've got to call it quits now and get ready for some volunteer mentoring I'm doing over the noon hour at Emerson High School. Have a great weekend, and have a great Thanksgiving. I'll be off black Friday, so no live chat next week.
Nick 11:05 a.m. Have a happy Thanksgiving Steve! Appreciate all your hard work.
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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