But Kirkpatrick said the first generation of Bricktown property owners appear to be transitioning to a new set of owners more willing to try out new approaches. The recent purchase of the Oklahoma Hardware Building along the canal by UCO@ACM, he said, was important toward creating street life during weekdays.
“On any given day there are over 200 students in Bricktown during the day, eight to five, when Bricktown is usually a ghost town,” Kirkpatrick said.
It's that growing enrollment at ACM@UCO that prompted school President Scott Booker to seek out Guestroom Records as a tenant. Booker is also eager to participate in discussions on how to bring more retail into the district that will address the interests of visitors and his own students.
“As tenants come and go, we will always be proactive in looking for tenants that compliment our student body,” Booker said. “I would love to see more retail in Bricktown that cater to college age individuals.”
Chad Huntington, who helped open the Red Dirt Emporium and the Bricktown Marketplace in the nearby Miller-Jackson Building, sees ACM@UCO as a key to helping the district overcome its past struggles at developing long-empty space.
Huntington said his two stores were opened in response to concerns voiced by passengers of the canal water taxis, which he oversees for owner Bob Bekoff, who also co-owns the stores.
The marketplace, he noted, is the largest locally owned retail floor-plate downtown spanning 6,000 square feet.
“I believe that a major obstacle to retail in Bricktown … has been a lack of smaller retail spaces in Bricktown,” Huntington said. “Local, mom-and-pop style shopkeepers generally can't say grace over 4,500 feet, 6,000 feet, 10,000 feet, yet often those were the only choices, as I think building owners have been hesitant to carve out 500 or 1,200 feet for a small retailer, potentially eliminating an opportunity down the road to lease or develop a large contiguous floor plate.”
Huntington said he agrees with the study's conclusion that the right retail mix must be discovered to ensure future success. According to a survey by the Travel Industry of America Association cited in the Bricktown study, 42 percent of visitors want to buy books or music. With ACM@UCO added into the mix, Huntington believes Guestroom Records is the perfect addition.
“You have students who are working on their own musical foundations, and they will now have a great place to discover new and old music that will influence them in their career,” Huntington said. “But beyond that, I think many travelers look for great record stores when they are visiting a city, especially in an urban area.”
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At a glance
Recommendations for Bricktown
The Bricktown Strategic Plan lists several actions that can be taken by property owners and merchants, including moving the Bricktown Association into a more visible location, collective marketing and working together on a master plan. The plan also suggests several actions that can be pursued by the city:
To read the Bricktown Strategic Plan Summary, go to NewsOK.com.