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Unedited transcript of OKC Central Chat with Steve Lackmeyer, Sept. 14, 2012

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers during his weekly OKC Central Chat. Participate in the chat every Friday at 10 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Business.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: September 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm •  Published: September 14, 2012

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer took questions from readers during his weekly OKC Central Chat. Participate in the chat every Friday at 10 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Business. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 9:30 a.m. Hello everyone. Steve will be logging in at 10 a.m. You can start submitting your questions now.
Guest 9:59 a.m. Hi Steve,
Steve Lackmeyer 9:59 a.m. Good morning!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:00 a.m. This has been quite a week. Aaron Yashouafar still owns First National Center, though the storm gathering overhead is more menacing than ever. Dr. Irene Lam is losing the Gold Dome. And it seems as if there are development deals popping up everywhere downtown.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:00 a.m. So let's get to the questions, shall we?
BJR 10:01 a.m. Steve: What is the word on future restaurants, a coffee shop, or perhaps even a book store opening in Midtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:01 a.m. MidTown already has a pretty impressive collection of restaurants, including Irma’s, Kaiser’s, Café do Brazil, Prairie Thunder Bakery, Go Go Sushi, McNellie’s Public House, Brown’s Bakery, 1492 New World Cuisine, Stella’s, Louie’s, and my favorite, Foodies Asian Diner (great underdog story at 1220 N Hudson). Saturn Grill is being added to the building that is also home to Go Go Sushi. A breakfast place may be coming to 1212, and I hear a restaurant deal is in the works for the Packard Building at Robinson and NW 10. Keep in mind we already have a great coffee shop with Elemental Coffee at NW 8 and Hudson, along with the beloved Ludivine Restaurant. Shops include a bridal shop and optical shop. As for a bookstore… gosh, I love bookstores. But the number of book stores is sadly dropping, not expanding. I was heartbroken by the loss of Taylor’s Newsstand a couple years ago.
Brian 10:01 a.m. Hi Steve. Let me first say I am excited about the beginings of developments around the 23rd & 24th Streets and Walker. First, have you heard anything about their concrete plans? Also, do you know if they plan to restore all of the buildings they've purchased as opposed to razing them? I think there are some really great potential with what's existing with a little or a lot of TLC. Thanks!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:05 a.m. There may be some activity taking place along NW 23 and Walker Avenue in the near future, but I’m told reports of sale transactions are premature. I promise I’ll provide a full report when a deal is done. I suspect if a development does take place, it will involve a mix of old building renovations and demolition to make way for new construction.
guy 10:06 a.m. Are there any plans for the buildings on the NW and NE corner of 10th and Broadway? (i'd love to see the top floors of the NW building become loft apartments.) Or the old Marion hotel?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. The future is looking pretty good for the 1100 and 1101 N Broadway buildings, and the Hotel Marion. The city recently approved an agreement with the MidTown Renaissance development group that will allow for construction of a garage along NW 10, immediately east of Frontline Church, that will accommodate housing and offices in all three buildings. Expect work to begin this next year. Read more about this project here: http://newsok.com/garage-is-proposed-for-oklahoma-citys-midtown-and-automobile-alley/article/3693334

10:08 a.m.
Kevin 10:08 a.m. Gold Dome, seemingly without a clear plan under a new owner v. Gold Dome, seemingly without a clear plan under a prior owner. A step in a good direction all the same?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. David Box has a pretty good track record and has the resources to move forward with the Gold Dome. Keep in mind the man was very involved in redevelopment of Campus Corner and also is a partner in some of the redevelopment along NW 23 and along Western Avenue. But as reported in today's story at www.newsok.com, David admits he isn't quite sure what to do with the Gold Dome.
Kevin 10:11 a.m. Morning. Link sure is easier to find once it is up
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Good!
Nick 10:11 a.m. Good morning, Steve!
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Good morning Nick!
Joel 10:11 a.m. I know there were talks in the past about redeveloping parcels of land on E. Reno Ave, any updates on the status of this project?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:12 a.m. If you're talking about Reno east of Bricktown, redevelopment of this area is a goal for the city. But I am not aware of any solid plans at this time.
guy 10:13 a.m. Do you think that the core to shore development might eventually lead to development on the south side of the river? For instance, river front residential properties (rent or sale?)
Steve Lackmeyer 10:15 a.m. I think it's possible, especially along Robinson Avenue. But I don't anticipate it will be quick or easy due to the industrial uses on the south shore and diverse ownership.
guy 10:16 a.m. What going to become of that big aluminum building mill/factory complex just on the other side of where the old I-40 crosstown used to be (i think it's a cotton mill?)? Is it part of the property acquisition for core-to-shore? Is it going to stay there (it seems to be blocking a clear development path from bricktown to the river)?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. The Southwestern Producers Oil Coop is one of the oldest continuous operations in the city, dating back to the late 1800s when Bricktown was first developed as a manufacturing and trade exchange area for cotton farmers. The cotton farmers want to relocate their operation to the old Dayton Tire Plant in west Oklahoma City. They offered the property up for sale two years ago with their broker, Gary Gregory, listing it for $121 million. Gregory thought the site would be a prime spot for a new convention center. He also told me at the time he was convinced he could get other buyers for the asking price. He was wrong on both counts, and he was dropped as the broker last year. I have not seen any indication of any new deals for the cotton oil mill, though one board member has indicated to me the farmers now realize the $121 million asking price was too high.
Rob Abiera 10:20 a.m. Last year, California abolished its "redevelopment" agencies. Any thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. Oklahoma City remains very aggressive in public/private efforts. Californians are moving to Oklahoma in increasing numbers. I'll let you decide for yourself whether California is making the right decision. Read more here: http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/childs1/ReverseMigrationarticlesOK.htm
Tiffany 10:23 a.m. Here's a question from a reader on Facebook: Do you see anything resembling OKC's perceived success in the downtown area being mimicked to any degree in smaller OK communities?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. Heck yeah. A few years ago I was fortunate to travel the entire state. In Miami I visited a combined coffee shop/bookstore that Oklahoma Citians would love to have in MidTown or Automobile Alley. In Poteau I met a retired trooper and his wife who bought an old building, opened an upscale steakhouse downstairs and turned the upstairs into their home (which was featured on HGTV). Stillwater did a great job bringing its downtown back to life. I love downtown Enid, which has its own scaled down Bricktown Ballpark and a great park (Leonardo's). Durant is inspiring - one of the state's under-rated economic powerhouses. And the list goes on and on....
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. One more note: state historic tax credits were critical in helping many of these Main Streets come back to life. Without such tax credits, large historic hotels and office buildings in Shawnee, McAlester and Poteau would remain boarded up and dilapidated. State lawmaker David Dank indicated he still wants to see these tax credits either eliminated or scaled back.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. State historic tax credits also were key to development of the Skirvin and Sieber hotels in Oklahoma City.
Joel 10:30 a.m. I know there are some concerns from urban minded OKC citizens that the hotels planned for Deep Deuce/Bricktown by Dr. Patel will be suburban in design, your thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. Patel will have to win approval from the Bricktown Urban Design Committee for the hotels he wants to build along Sheridan Avenue, and from the Downtown Design Review Committee for the hotel he wants to build in Deep Deuce. The Bricktown Urban Design Committee has a track record of taking pretty tough stances on hotel construction (as evidenced by the Hampton Inn and final design of the Hilton Garden Inn). Downtown Design Review, however, has a growing share of critics who question whether they are effectively upholding the intent of the ordinance they are tasked with implementing. I'll be covering these projects and reporting back to readers as they progress.
BJR 10:33 a.m. Steve: Is there any progess on the Tower theater?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. We keep hearing "in a few months..." That's all I've got for you.
T 10:34 a.m. Any news on additional housing in the deep deuce area?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. The Hill was often the development that was overlooked in the excitement over for-sale housing. It just didn't grab headlines or spark interest like the Brownstones or Block 42. The developer, Bill Canfield, doesn't like doing interviews. But after a long stall at the start of the project, The Hill is emerging as the most successful for-sale housing downtown, and I see dozens more units getting built over the next few years. The apartment market, meanwhile, is just getting started. The success of Level fully leasing as soon as it opened means the demand is strong. Add the opening of downtown's first grocery, Native Roots, construction of a new downtown elementary, and a streetcar system, and it's easy to suggest we're about to see a big bounce in downtown housing not just in Deep Deuce, but all over. I can see Deep Deuce being fully developed within the next decade.
Elise 10:38 a.m. I am excited about Core to Shore and the development south of downtown but there are a bunch a great buildings in west downtown. I worry that this area will be neglected due to the push south. The corner of Main Street and Classen, for example, has an incredible historic view in any direction. Do you see a brighter future there than I do?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. Yes. But if the boulevard is rebuilt as an elevated road through that area, I've not heard anyone explain how this area will bounce back from the blight that began with construction of the original elevated Interstate 40 in the mid-60s. I also see a lot of potential in the Farmer's Market area.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. I also think development will go where it wants, regardless of any city effort. The city may push south, but if the market wants to go west, there's not much the city can do to stop that.
James 10:40 a.m. I have heard that the Co-op has land somwhere and that the site will eventually redeveloped. If this is true, where is this land, when might it move, how soon could we see the area develop.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:41 a.m. The property is out by the old Dayton Tire Plant. See my earlier answer on why this is not a simple challenge to overcome. It will still cost tens of millions for this operation to relocate.
Erick 10:41 a.m. Could we see some more basketball courts like the one at Reno and Hudson put in other parts of downtown or the rest of the city in the future (lone of the vacant lots in Midtown would be great!)?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Yes. So far downtown's civic leaders are very impressed with the response to the current basketball court. I've been told they are looking at how to move forward with this idea.
Nick 10:42 a.m. With all the recent announcements of hotels in Bricktown, why don't they move the convention center to the Bricktown site? With the streetcar possibly running through here one day, are people really upset about the "distance"?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:44 a.m. I don't have any answers on this one Nick. I suspect the only site that would truly make everyone happy is the current site, which, ironically, no one wants ... I could try to spend the next 20 minutes explaining this to you, but then I would need some intense therapy afterwards.
guy 10:45 a.m. Is that Latin restaurant still going to open in the Gold Dome? Or has the recent change of hand kill the new restaurant altogether?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Let's sort through the facts on this first: while Dr. Irene Lam promoted this as a restaurant, the operator himself says it's a bar, not a restaurant. The new owner will be looking what deals were made, how many were well thought out, and whether any were done out of desperation and not in the best long term interests of the property. My answer: maybe, maybe not.
Chris 10:46 a.m. What is the status of the jail and how probable is it to move outside of downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. The jail was built 20 years ago. It opened with many, many problems. Authorities determined that corruption involving those who designed and built the jail, and those overseeing its construction at the county, was rampant. The county has had a history of corruption and dysfunction. There has been no major reforms of county government since then - just new faces added in among many veteran players. Will voters trust county government and approve hundreds of millions of dollars for a new jail? I don't know. So I can't really answer your question either...
Nick 10:50 a.m. Why can we not finish one street wiht Project 180 before we rip up another? Hudson has been torn up for ever. Let's lay some pavers already.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:51 a.m. I counted weeks and months where contractors did nothing on some Project 180 streets. I've scrutinized such delays repeatedly. These projects are overseen by the Oklahoma City Public Works Department, which answers to Assistant City Manager Dennis Clowers, who answers to City Manager Jim Couch, who answers to the Oklahoma City Council.
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. At least two businesses closed saying they were killed by these delays.
Jason 10:52 a.m. I have always wondered why there are no commercial/popular restaurants like Red Lobster, P.F. Chang's, Chili's...etc...in Bricktown or downtown, I would think they would do pretty well in that area, your thoughts?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. Some downtown advocates celebrate the concentration of local operators and lack of chains. Will people really want to visit the Bricktown Canal just to eat at a Red Lobster? Probably not. That said, the national chains are circling downtown. I've tracked interest by Panera Bread, Denny's, Qdoba and Dunkin Donuts. A Panera Bread downtown is getting close to becoming a reality.
Gary 10:54 a.m. I know there was a lot of issues with Bass Pro getting the deal they did to build such a non-urban building in an area that is becoming more and more urban as the years roll on. I have been in there on weeknights and it has been absolutely dead. Do you see Bass Pro getting out of the deal and that area being redeveloped? Hopefully upward and onward?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. Sales tax reports show Bass Pro is still pulling in business - though it has never performed to the levels predicted by the consultants Bass Pro had the city hire in determining the incentive deal for the retailer (yes, you read that wording correctly). Ii don't see a change anytime soon with Bass Pro Shops.
James 10:56 a.m. The Margarita Mama's building has been vacant for what seems like 10 years. I would consider this the second most embarassing thing in Bricktown behind the Rock Island Plow building. Why has this remained vacant, and is there anything happening with it?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. The Margarita Mama's building has been cursed with ownership that either wasn't committed to making it a contribution to Bricktown or selling it someone else who could do just that. I don't know if the current owner wants to do something until questions are resolved about the adjoining "curve" lot along the canal.
BethanySooner 10:58 a.m. Steve, has there been an announcement as to when construction for the new police headquarters and okc municipal court buildings will begin? Will streetscaping for those surrounding areas be included? And do you think this will continue to promote growth down Sheridan and Main streets?
Steve Lackmeyer 10:59 a.m. If I recall correctly, design work is underway and the city wishes to start construction this next year. I think these two buildings could be a great boost to redevelopment of west downtown - especially W Main.
From Florida 10:59 a.m. When will downtown Oklahoma City see its first high-rise condo project? They are common here in Florida...
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Developers toy with the idea from time to time. Rick Dowell wants to build a mid-rise along NW 5. As downtown developers, the odds of such a project go up . But I'm not tracking any such project in the immediate future.
Nick 11:01 a.m. At what point do we see Midtown R start to actually do some totally new construction? Do you think that's even in the cards?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Give Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Chris Fleming credit for focusing first on the "hard part" - redeveloping long blighted properties. The 1212 building, in my mind, is as good as any new construction - and it took a longtime eyesore and turned it into housing. New construction will come with The Edge and other infill projects by other developers, and eventually, "Midtown R"
Brian 11:02 a.m. Another area I find very interesting is South Robinson just south of the river. I noticed the Hub Cap Alley signs. That could be the begininng of a ver cool district. I know one of the buildings is purposed to be developed as a green top (green space on the roof). Do you know of any progress being made in the area?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:06 a.m. I love the potential represented by S Robinson and Capitol Hill. The city's MAPS 3 park will incorporate the west side of "Hub Cap Alley" and there are plenty of great old buildings that could be redeveloped on the east side. Redevelopment of the area won't be easy, but if Hub Cap Alley comes back, then it's an easy transition into creating something great with Capitol Hill. Efforts are underway to make all of this move forward.
Brian 11:06 a.m. MAPS4 seems inevitable because we've pretty much had a continuous MAPS sales tax since the first. So any thoughts about what projects will or should be included?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:10 a.m. I love Oklahoma City. I love downtown. I can talk about the great legacy of MAPS. But it's not a perfect creation. MAPS 3 has some challenges we've not seen before - specifically a lack of funding plans for project operations and upkeep. Civic leaders are uncertain whether they will be able to build the wellness centers as promised. The sidewalks are being targeted for significant cuts from what was promised. No funding exists for funding of the streetcars or new park. I don't see a MAPS 4 as a slam dunk. But if one does emerge, I've said before the public transit advocates are likely in the lead to dramatically improve what most people agree is a very broken public transportation system.
James 11:10 a.m. I still believe retail can work in Bricktown, especially along the north end of the Canal. With the Red Dirt Emporium and Bricktown Marketplace consolidating into one location do you see the former Emporium a good spot for new retail. What about the sight that would have been Sammy's Pizza? Or the street level of the Kingmon Building (isn't that owned bt Mark Moore?) Canal level of JDM, Hardware Building (ACM), etc... Any chance of this becoming Bricktown's retail corridor?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:15 a.m. The Emporium and marketplace are consolidating due to some issues outside of the stores' performance. Bricktown is a conundrum. Critics say the property owners are Bricktown's worst enemies .... the friction between tenants and property owners is often high, the temptation to turn the district into a Friday/Saturday night only club cluster is seen by some as being far too real...
Guest 11:15 a.m. Did you attend the Downtown Park Public meeting last night? What were your thoughts? I was disappointed to find out that the completion of the entire park wouldn't be until 2021. I also had the feeling that they really had no clue what would go into this park. Overall I left discouraged in the lack of progress.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:18 a.m. I wanted to. A late afternoon meeting and the Gold Dome story prevented me from attending. I understand that the park programming is a question ..... and it has been since it was first proposed with amenities that were already being added to the revamped Myriad Gardens.
jon 11:18 a.m. im thinking about moving to oklahoma, why are the insentives to moving my business to oklahoma?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:18 a.m. Jon, call the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City and I think you'll find they'll be eager to answer all your questions.
Rob Abiera 11:18 a.m. I think some people might say that it was the actions of California's redevelopment agencies - before they were abolished - that motivated at least some of the people who have made the decision to leave California.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:20 a.m. I don't think there's a simple answer to your question - some say California is being crushed by far too generous public employee union contracts that have pension obligations bankrupting cities. Others blame the crash in the housing market. Others blame taxation....
Guest 11:20 a.m. It's been how many years since MAPS 3 was passed and I don't feel like we have seen any really progress in any of the projects. The Downtown Park is still littered with old buildings, no ground has moved on the convention center, the monorail system doesnt have a definite grand station, the stadium seating and lights along the river race course aren't under construction... What is holding all of these projects up? I know location selection takes a little time, so when will the ground be broken and which project will be first?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. Welcome to MAPS 1. The same complaints were being voiced in 1997, four years after the first MAPS passed (I was there). Patience...
Kent 11:21 a.m. I read a while back that OCURA was needing more money to be able to buy surrounding properties of the future downtown park. Why doesnt OCURA put out more RFP or simply sell more of their current properties?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:21 a.m. Good question.
Nick 11:21 a.m. What's the next development deal we can expect to hear about?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:22 a.m. More housing. More historic building rehabs.
Chris 11:22 a.m. What is latest on the jail? Do you think it will move outside of downtown?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:22 a.m. See my answer earlier in this chat.
guy 11:22 a.m. Will all for-sale housing being constructed around Deep Deuce and Bricktown be as expensive as the Hill and other town-house style developments? (Really a general question, is there any room or interest for more affordable housing in these areas?)
Steve Lackmeyer 11:23 a.m. The demand is there. But developers to date can't figure out how to make those numbers work with the price of dirt downtown.
David 11:23 a.m. I heard the rationale for a new convention center comes from a study the chamber did but won't release publicly, and that the total full cost would be much more a need a subsidized hotel. Any chance we don't really need a new convention center to handle things?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:25 a.m. The Boston Globe had a report last year that showed the consultant hired by the chamber to determine Oklahoma City needed a convention center had never encountered a city (at least that's what I recall in the report) that didn't need a convention center. Consultants have already advised the city it will need to chip in about $50 million for a conference hotel. You are asking me to take sides on a very controversial question - I can't do that. one can debate the need for any of the projects slated as part of MAPS 3. In the end, voters decided that yes, these were projects they wanted.
guy 11:26 a.m. Also, my wife and i adore the row of ultra-mod houses around Western and 7th/8th street. But i'm not thrilled about the surrounding area. Is there any bright future for development around that area of midtown? (is that even part of midtown?)
Steve Lackmeyer 11:26 a.m. The folks moving into the homes on NW 7 at Shartel are definitely urban pioneers. The area is developing. I suspect in 10 years these property owners will be quite happy with their investments.
James 11:27 a.m. The County Jail seems to effectively block any positive develompent in the area. Is there still a plan for the Jail to be relocated, and if it is (and if the boulevard is brought down to grade), how do you see the westward development of Downtown? And has there been any indication that this area could be the next big thing?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. I understand what you're saying James. I'm just skeptical as to whether voters are going to support giving the county money for a new jail. Westward development is taking place along Main Street and Sheridan Avenue with or without a jail.
Elise 11:28 a.m. Is there any news about redevelopment of the old city jail building on Shartel? That building is awesome.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. Private developers are showing an interest in the property. I'll be among those eagerly watching this...
Chris 11:28 a.m. You mentioned in your opening there were development deals popping up downtown. Anymore info you can give us on what to expect from those?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:28 a.m. Just what I've reported.
Rick Reiley 11:28 a.m. No question. Just a comment. Glad to see Steve is still at his post. A good man, doing good work. Thanks.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. Thanks
Guest 11:29 a.m. Where will the downtown elementary be located and when will it open?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. The school will be immediately south of the Sheridan Walker Garage and if I recall right, it opens in 2014
Richard 11:29 a.m. Why was Bass Bro not encouraged to build the building along the canal, maybe even incorporate the canal into the building? Seems like that would have been more ideal rather than a big parking lot separating the two?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:29 a.m. Because the city council wanted to make Bass Pro happy and not scare them off.
Keith 11:30 a.m. Sidewalks/Public Transport will always be broken or put on the backburner so long as the car is king and there are no real signs of that changing. Thoughts on if it is actually changing or, if not, how to change it?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:30 a.m. I think the younger generation is demanding it change.
Guest 11:30 a.m. Will they ever do something about the awful looking water tower I see sometimes in the skyline of OKC ?
Steve Lackmeyer 11:30 a.m. Not sure what water tower you're referring to.
Steve Lackmeyer 11:31 a.m. Folks, we're going 30 minutes over now. Thanks for joining me in this chat. Look for details about an upcoming Google video hang-out for OKC Central Live Chat...
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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