Steve Lackmeyer: Wheeler District developers also committed to improving surrounding areas

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 10:30 a.m. and submit your questions about the happenings in and around downtown Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: July 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm •  Published: July 18, 2014

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.

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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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