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 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City. Read the complete chat transcript here.
When speaking with the Humphreys, was there ever any mention or concern over the existing surrounding areas of the Wheeler District and how they would be affected?
The Rotary Park neighborhood to the west of the former Downtown Airpark (where Wheeler will be developed) is one of the poorest, most crime challenged neighborhoods in the city. Neither Blair Humphreys or those participating in this effort or blind to this challenge. The people participating in this development, and those who are committed to buying the first homes and opening the first businesses are more than just folks looking to make money or pursue luxury living.
I've visited with these very excited Wheeler folks, and they are committed to improving the surrounding areas and becoming a part of the south urban core. Wheeler doesn't fence off the area to the west known as Rotary Park. It creates connections, and even envisions a private Christian school (one that already exists and is interested in locating in Wheeler) being built at the boundary between Wheeler and the Rotary Park neighborhood.
There is precedent for this sort of urban pioneering - just look north to where the 16th Street Plaza District is prompting improvement of the Classen-10-Penn neighborhood to the south, or to the OU Medical Center which was followed by the revitalization of the John F. Kennedy neighborhood. Re-investment in an area can and does spread to surrounding challenged areas. Community is contagious.
Any signs of life on the Preftakes block? Any timelines of possibilities?
Yes. No deal is done yet. But it's more and more likely we will see a tower built on the corner of Main and Hudson.
When will we get an official word on what was decided on for the boulevard?
I suspect we will hear more later this summer.
What is the time line for development of the wheeler district? When should movement start?
The design and planning team are set to start tweaking and finalizing the work unveiled Wednesday night. Once that work is completed, Blair Humphreys will begin talks with the city concerning zoning and infrastructure. He has indicated he wants to start early, quick start development next year at the former Downtown Airpark's old hanger and restaurant. He has a group of residential and business tenants ready to stake their claims as urban pioneers at Wheeler. He hopes to start work next year with early residents and businesses popping up in 2016. Implementation of the entire plan will take years.
With 21c going in, the Arcade on Main, as well as all the work going on along Sheridan, do you think we can expect development on the empty lots along Main on the south side between Shartel and Dewey?
Talks are underway for development throughout the area.
What is one thing that you loved about the most recent draft for the Wheeler district?
One thing most folks didn't notice is that the placement of the Ferris wheel along the south shore of the Oklahoma River also includes a spot for a Carrousel and that the area is designed to create a great public space surrounded by retail and housing. This could be very, very cool if it becomes a reality. The Humphreys own the Ferris wheel. It's not a stretch to add the Carrousel.
What is the status on the rise? Are they still planning on occupying the space at the end of summer?
Is October still considered late summer? From what I've seen, it looks like all this rain hasn't helped the schedule.
What is one thing that downtown/Bricktown needs that other big cities have and we don't?
A visitor/history center.
Are we looking at apartment-style living in the Wheeler District or single family homes?
We're looking at the whole mix. I know Blair Humphreys really well, and I think he'd rather work at Walmart before developing apartments like those along Memorial Road, NW 122 and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Is their talk behind the scenes of starting a small list of what could possibly be included in Maps 4, if that were to happen?
Talk? Sure. Serious planning? Not really. I don't expect any such thing to happen until major projects like the park and convention center are done or close to being done.