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Unedited transcript of OKC Central chat with Steve Lackmeyer, August 17, 2012

Reporter Steve Lackmeyer chatted with readers Friday morning during his weekly live chat to talk about downtown Oklahoma City development and issues.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: August 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm •  Published: August 17, 2012

Below is an unedited transcript of a chat with reporter Steve Lackmeyer about downtown Oklahoma City developments.

Good morning everyone. Steve will be signing in at 10 a.m. for his weekly chat. Submit your questions about downtown issues now.
- NewsOK at 09:32

Good morning.
- NewsOK at 10:00

Did everyone get their kids off to school this morning? Beautiful weather for the first day of school.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:01

Recent news coverage included a story re Brooks/Burnett East Bricktown Apartments development. In the article, it was mentioned that a 2nd and 3rd phase could be implemented to further expand the project via OCURA land. Do your sources support these statements?
- Joel at 10:02

Joel, I've actually had quite a bit of coverage on this project in the last several weeks and this week's story was pretty much rehash of what I've already reported. This is a complicated project that be built in phases with the hotel, garage and apartments first, with more apartments and potentially other commercial development on the far eastern edge of the block at the end of the development.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:03

Good morning, Steve! With the convention center project slowly starting to move forward, we haven't heard much lately about the convention center hotel. We all know that it will require a several million dollar incentive package to lure a hotel. Any indications where this money will be coming from? I'm assuming city officials will be making deals soon to coincide with the convention center construction.
- Dustin at 10:04

My sources are telling me the city may have identified sources of public funding for subsides expected to go with a hotel that won't involve tapping into existing tax revenues. I am not sure how that is possible, so we will just have to wait and see. The city is doing final interviews for the convention center and is negotiating to buy the parking lots south of the Myriad Gardens for this project.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:06

What brands are making the strongest proposals for the new Convention Center Hotel?
- Joel at 10:06

No hotels have publicly made any such pitches at this time, though I would not be surprised if the "Omni" name comes up when they do.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:06

Steve, I had the same question as Joel. The recent news reports seemed to list the apartment component as being in a different phase than the 4 story apartments, which seemed to contrast the original proposal that had made the rounds. Anyway, thanks for clearing that up.
- Nick at 10:06

Hey Steve! What are your thoughts on this recent news regarding the First National Center? Are we going to see something good finally happen with this property? I may be in the minority because I know that parking for that area is absolutely necessary for any meaningful revitalization, but to turn 14 stories into parking seems like it might be a waste of opportunity for something grander.
- Nick at 10:07

To steal from a bit of classic literature, it may be the best of times, it may be the worst of times for First National Center. If one entity buys the entire First National Center and converts the new annex buildings into parking, then yes, it's a bright future for the landmark. But if an entity is planning to just buy the annex buildings and convert them into parking, and leave the historic iconic tower in the current ownership of a man facing up to 10 years in prison for embezzlement in Arizona, then I know of a lot of key decision makers downtown who say this deal is disastrous. And if it's structured this way, the buyer and broker on the annex buildings won't be very popular in some circles.
Keep in mind, First National Center once had attached parking. Over a dozen years ago, when I was still somewhat of a pup reporter, former owners with Irish Realty donated the office buildings to Feed the Children and kept ownership of the cash cow, the Main Street Parking Garage. That deal is seen by many as one of the actions that have kept First National from making a comeback.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:12

Are there any new housing developments that are waiting to pull the trigger until the new downtown elementary school breaks ground?
- Ami at 10:12

- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:12

Wow, I meant the hotel component. It's been a long week...
- Nick at 10:12

A hotel has always been planned as part of the East Bricktown project.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:13

There was a recent article that the City had 14 different architecture firms submit a proposal to design the new convention center, do you know any of these firms?
- Joel at 10:13

I'm familiar with some of them. The finalists, I suspect, will consist of the most respected firms in the country. I doubt there will be a bad choice among them.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:13

What is your guess on when the next big skyscraper will be built to add additional class A office space?
- Lack at 10:14

Within the next five years. Maybe sooner.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:14

There has been some discussion on other websites that the new convention center should be mixed use, with not just a hotel, but retail, housing, and office, is this possible?
- Ami at 10:15

The idea of doing mixed development with the convention center has been discussed since the Core to Shore planning done several years ago. The question is, will people really want to live next to a convention center? And can retail co-exist next to such a huge, event-driven complex? It's possible to build such mixed uses, but will they succeed? I've not been shown a lot of examples of where this has been pulled off to great success.

- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:16

Is the developer of Level apartments going to be doing another development in Deep Deuce?
- Nick at 10:16

Nick, I think it's almost a certainty that Richard McKown, developer of Level, will be building more apartments. Look for him to do his work immediately west of Level in the sliver of land between the 2nd Street Lofts and the Brownstones at Maywood Park.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:17

What do you know about Rick Dowell's rumored plans to build a substantial residential tower somewhere around 5th and Dewey? He's notorious about not taking on debt, but do we see this start within in the next 2 years?
- Nick at 10:18

It's not a rumor. Rick Dowell has had a mid-rise residential tower in his master plan for the past decade. It's also true that he's the slow but steady turtle in this discussion. He reverse finances his development - a brilliant move that allows for him to proceed with very little risk or vulnerability to economic ups and downs. He's proceeding with construction of the garage extension on Walker Avenue, and then he'll likely finish Dowell Center, the former Midland Mortgage Building on Robinson Avenue, in the next two to five years. With reverse financing on those projects ... yeah, he'll likely have the money to build the residential tower.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:22

- at 10:23

Rick Dowell showing his plans for development downtown, circa early 2000s
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:24

Whatever happened to the proposed Embassy Suites for the OU Health Sciences Center area?
- Nick at 10:24

The Embassy Suites hasn't been cancelled, but it sure is asleep. I suspect at some point it may happen. The developers, Bob Howard and Mickey Clagg, are pretty much focused right now instead on MidTown.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:25

The lost ogle kinda got in your business about the viability of the Farmer's Market as a concert venue, but I agree with you Steve. I think it's a great spot for concerts, parties, showings, etc. It kinda reminds me of Cain's a decade ago, adrift from downtown. Now, however in Tulsa there is great infill going on in the Brady area. It's just a matter of time, in my opinion, for like development in OKC. Keep dreamin', Steve-O!
- Jimmy at 10:25

I don't have a basement and I swear that "Russian Sam" did return home to St. Petersburgh where he has kept busy creating models of cities throughout the United States. (Thanks Jimmy)
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:26

Steve, Mark Beffort announced in February that a global company was going to establish a North American headquarters here in the city. Is this still in the works or has the deal fallen through?
- BethanySooner at 10:26

I don't remember him saying it would be a global company. But yes, there are still some major deals still in the works for downtown.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:27

Recent news stated that Dallas put in a bid for the 2024 Olympics, if Dallas succeeds, do you see a trickle down affect that could effect development in Oklahoma City, since its close?
- Ami at 10:27

If Amtrak could get its act together in terms of meeting schedule times, I could see the possibility of poeple considering spending less money on hotels by commuting to and from Oklahoma City. It's a massive undertaking, so I can imagine the economic spin-off going pretty far. But I'm not sold on the idea Dallas will win its bid either. And looking at the London Olympics, are we really certain they pack the same attendance they once did?
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:30

Do you think the proposed construction of a new convention center will affect the vitality of the Cox Convention Center?
- Kade at 10:30

If it's staged right, I can't see how construction of one in a separate location would impact the performance of the current one. I suspect the city will redevelop the Cox Center block once the new one is opened. When the new convention center opens, the Cox Center - never one of the city's best built or designed facilities - will be a half century old.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:31

I seem to remember in 2008 plans for renovations of the two buildings on the north end of the Canal (southside, where Zio's is). These plans were to include canal level retail, street level restraunt and loft apts. I think it stalled with the economy, but have heard that this project may be picking up speed again (also heard the loft apts. idea has since been dropped in favor of office space). Any idea when or if these buildings get redeveloped, and if the canal level retail is still a possibility?
- Guest at 10:34

Good question. Harding & Shelton did a great job renovating a pretty sketchy set of buildings along that part of the canal, but the project did not go as far as originally intended. I'll check in with them and provide you with an update.
- Steve Lackmeyer at 10:35

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author 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...
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