The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer and City Hall reporter Bill Crum took questions from readers in today's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve's Q&As on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Read the complete chat transcript here.
Do you know what is actually going on with the Rise and if things are falling apart on this project?
STEVE: It's clearly falling further behind schedule and problems are emerging with tenants. I'll have an update soon.
What is your take on the whitewater rafting facility coming in over budget? Do you think the city will take bids from non-local companies to try to get the cost down? If the cost ends up being at the low end of the bids ($37 million) what does the city do?
BILL: As far as whether taking bids from out of state, they had lots of interest but they only got these three. They are allowed to take bids from out of state. They only got these three. The mayor said today you make the White Water center all that it's supposed to be and you look at the other amenities planned and decide what to do. Basically, he said you face giving up other stuff to get the White Water center done.
STEVE: So Bill, does that mean the grandstands and wind screens could be trimmed down or eliminated?
BILL: Yes. People are already talking about spectators preferring to sit in the grass along the river instead of a hot grandstand. So I suspect the grandstands could end up dead. And they've already put off the wind screens pending completion of the white water center.
How do you feel OKC compares with other cities in terms of the quality level of public works?
STEVE: I've been told by some that Oklahoma engineering colleges have not kept up with trends and new approaches to public works projects and that Oklahoma City has continued to hire from those schools instead of pursuing any shake-up in how things are done. This may or may not play into what is being built by the city and problems that have arisen.
After the journey the Guyutes folks had through the Planning Commission, do you see any changes on the horizon?
BILL: I was at the planning commission - they seemed to have good reasons for asking the request be denied. I think neighborhood supporters of Guyutes came in to the council and that seemed to help. We've seen the council go against the planning commission on other recent issues as well.
How do you think the city will respond to some of the changes being sought for the Wheeler District?
STEVE: Wheeler will likely require creation of a tax increment finance district, some road improvements in the next bond issue, and possibly a business improvement district. Council members I visited with seemed supportive of the project, but I cannot predict how that will translate into votes at City Hall.
Any chance that we'll see affordable housing in downtown/Bricktown?
STEVE: Affordable housing is being included in the Steel Yard development in Bricktown, and the city is trying to encourage affordable housing elsewhere downtown. To the credit of the Sycamore Square developers, their effort would result in lower priced housing as well.
What is the city doing to actively recruit non energy companies to OKC?
STEVE: The city and chamber have spent a lot of time recruiting manufacturing, aerospace and bio-tech companies - with quite a bit of success (Boeing being the big one).