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.
What economic impact do you think the Santa Fe depot will have on Oklahoma City?
If the transit hub conversion is done correctly, the Santa Fe Depot could be a significant help in improving the connection between Bricktown and the Central Business District. The Brewer family is to be commended to restoring the depot and keeping it maintained. But the depot never realized its full potential this past decade. The right improvements, including signage, landscaping and public spaces could go a long way in creating a better gateway for the state's premier urban entertainment district.
Are there any new for sale residential downtown besides Lisbon?
The Lison Lofts in Midtown and The Hill in Deep Deuce are the main areas where new for sale housing is still being built downtown. But there are a couple more potential developments I am tracking that may also involve for-sale housing.
Will the new OG&E building add money to the TIF basket for Project 180?
No. The Devon TIF is limited to the Devon Energy Center property. But the State Center property is in the original downtown TIF, meaning 50 percent of new property taxes from this project would go into that TIF. But also keep in mind, that TIF district is already halfway through its life-cycle, so the bump from this might not be as significant as one might think.
Any timeframe of when the Stage Center site will be cleared?
An appeal seeking to stop demolition of Stage Center has been filed by Preservation Oklahoma that will be heard by the Board of Adjustment next month. No demolition will take place until all appeals are exhausted.
Can you tell us any news of new retail planning to move back downtown?
I've encountered some confusion out there about the city planners' intentions in saying Park Avenue was ideal for retail. Note, they were talking about the Central Business District, not all of downtown, which I pointed out in the story. I think everyone involved agrees Automobile Alley is indeed turning into downtown's first truly viable retail corridor.
And the sooner the city gets started with converting the parallel parking spaces along Broadway into angled spaces, creating a narrower street, the sooner we will see Automobile Alley's full emergence as a retail corridor. I fear if this parking switch is delayed much longer (it's been four years in the making to date), we risk seeing some of these retailers dropping out or the momentum stalling. Public Works Director Eric Wenger recently assured me he is committed to seeing this work start this spring. I believe him.
What cities do you most admire and what aspects of those cities do you wish OKC would implement to improve OKC?
I've not been to Portland, but I've read and watched enough to agree there's a lot about the city to love. I'm not sure that it's a good comparison for OKC to try to match up with. It's just so different in terms of geography, zoning, history and development. It's my observation that in the history of Oklahoma City, we've seen two cities dominate as influences in our development.
Between the 1890s and the 1930s, we saw a City Beautiful emphasis in Oklahoma City in terms of infrastructure, parks and public spaces that was greatly influenced by Kansas City.
In the post-World War II era, I think it's fair to say Dallas became a bigger influence than Kansas City. In my mind, this was unfortunate. I look at Dallas today, especially downtown Dallas, and I see very little I like. They blew it with West End, they continue to fall short in what can be realized with Deep Ellum, and Victory is a complete and total disaster. I love what I've seen take place in Kansas City however. They are on the right tracks in terms of place making, public transit and revitalization of historic buildings and areas.
Do you see the GE Complex expanding and potentially having offices on both sides of I-235?
I will be shocked if we don't see significant development pop up around the GE complex after it opens.
Are you aware of any good restaurants opening up down town in the next 3 months?
I'm hearing a couple of rumors, but nothing specific. I know celebrity chef Danny Bowien, an Oklahoma City native, indicated on Twitter this last week he'd love to open a restaurant in Oklahoma City if given a chance.
Do you think the renaissance of OKC has had more of an impact on folks moving to our fair city or keeping people like college graduates from leaving?
I've seen, first hand, how the revival of Oklahoma City, very much driven by what we've seen in the urban core, has helped retain our youngest and brightest, who end up living and working throughout the city, and has drawn very bright and talented folks from out-of-state who again live and work throughout our city. That's why I'm so turned off by politically motivated efforts to divide urban and suburban Oklahoma City.