The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer 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.
OU eluded to the idea of OCU building housing near the new law school. Do you think that would be a possibility next year? Five years?
Yes. I will, actually, be shocked if there isn't at least an announcement of student housing within five years of the new OCU law school opening at the old Central High. I will repeat - the relocation of OCU law school to downtown is far more significant than people may realize. The influx of hundreds of students and faculty will bring quite a bit of life to the neighborhood.
With 21c announcing they are going to be converting the Fred Jones Plant into one of their museum hotels, do you think we will see a reimagining of Classen from the new I-40 to 23rd anytime soon?
One would hope that at the very least it might prompt redevelopment of vacant, neglected buildings like the old Sunshine Cleaners. And certainly there's opportunity to fix up Classen without it being a huge costly task. Imagine some updated lighting and some strategic landscaping and fencing. Such improvements could make a huge difference for the boulevard.
How long until you think we see serious development jump to the west side of Classen?
It's trickier, but not impossible. The real challenge along Classen is between NW 18 and Sheridan Avenue. As I mentioned, properties like Sunshine Cleaners are the big impediment - and opportunity - waiting to be addressed. I'll add to that the old Triples restaurant (originally the home of the famous Herman's Seafood) and a rather sorry looking old Texaco (now a used tire store) make for a less than desirable entryway from Classen to the 16th Street Plaza District.
I suspect that with continued success of the Plaza District, an answer to these two properties will eventually be found. Likewise, the long boarded up old office building at NW 13 was torn down this past year and is set to be redeveloped as the home for Sunbeam. So progress is within sight, but it won't be quick. Perhaps the biggest challenge to the entire area is the future of the current Oklahoma City Public Schools administration. That building is falling apart. Yet if and when the school system finds a new home, they'll sell the current property to the highest bidder, and that's not always a good thing.