Unedited transcript of OKC Central Chat with Steve Lackmeyer, Sept. 7, 2012

Oklahoma City reporter Steve Lackmeyer chatted with readers Friday during his weekly chat about downtown developments and issues.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am •  Published: September 7, 2012

Oklahoma City reporter Steve Lackmeyer chatted with readers Friday during his weekly chat about downtown developments and issues. Below is an unedited transcript of the chat.

NewsOK 9:29 a.m. Good morning everyone. Steve will be signing in at 10 a.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 9:59 a.m. Good morning everybody!
 
Matt 9:59 a.m. Won't have time at 10am to be here in person. Sending this question earlier and will read the transcript later. The land owned by OPUBCO on 4th and EK sold recently, what have you heard about this? Is this our "mystery tower" site?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:00 a.m. An LLC is behind the purchase at NW 4 and E.K. Gaylord and so far I’ve been unable to determine who is behind the LLC. For this site to work, keep in mind half of it is owned and controlled by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority. It’s pricey piece of dirt now, so I can understand why some may think the block could be a potential skyscraper site. I do know that SandRidge Energy was trying to acquire the property earlier this year, but officials with the company say they ended the effort and they are not the buyer.
 
Nick 10:00 a.m. Good morning Steve! When do you think we'll know more about the fate of the Villa Theresa properties? I know it's probably a sensitive issue for the sisters, but what do you see happening and when?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:02 a.m. I suspect it will be quite some time before a deal is done involving Villa Theresa. Keep in mind, for the Sisters who ran the school, this was a painful decision - not unlike the loss of a beloved relative or friend. Interested parties are not difficult to find, but the Sisters, from what I'm hearing, need some time to grieve and collect their thoughts about the future of what is widely seen as one of the most valuable sites left in MidTown potentially open for redevelopment.
 
Gary T 10:02 a.m. What is the latest on Skinny Slims?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:03 a.m. Skinny Slims is a bar proposed for the tiny flatiron building that was once a part of the Rock Island freight yard operations along Main Street. We have seen renovations off and on for several months with no real opening in sight. Will Slims open? Possibly. Or it could end up like Sammy’s Pizza, where the building was renovated and appeared ready to open for months, only for the deal to fall apart and never become a reality. This is the side of business and development in Bricktown that frustrates many, but it is what is.
 
Dan 10:03 a.m. Steve, from my observation, development appears to have stalled along the boathouse district. Will the proposed 2nd and 3rd boathouse be built anytime soon?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:06 a.m. Yes. An announcement is expected within the next few weeks on when construction will begin on the SandRidge Energy pavilion, which will include a zip line over the river, a wave pool and other amenities. I'm hearing a similar announcement isn't far off for the University of Central Oklahoma boathouse. Planning remains underway for the OU boathouse. Add in planning for the MAPS 3 whitewater venue, a shoreline grandstands and other city improvements, and one can safely say that there is no "stall" along the river - just a lot of work going on behind the scenes that we can't see.
 
BethanySooner 10:06 a.m. Steve, I can't remember seeing this mentioned anywhere, so I was wondering if the Maps Central Park included funding for streetscaping Hudson and Robinson which will border the park.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:08 a.m. I don't believe a funding source has yet to be identified for such streetscapes, but you can take comfort in knowing the city has all along had this need in mind and I suspect they'll tap into bond funds to get this work done.
 
JC 10:08 a.m. Im sure this has been talked about but Im new to this. What is going on at the corner of Sheridan and Joe Carter in Bricktown?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:09 a.m. Site work began last week on the Hilton Garden Inn that will be built next to the Hampton. This is one of up to a half dozen hotels I'm tracking for Bricktown and Deep Deuce.
 
Nick 10:09 a.m. There's a structure going up in Midtown just north of St. Anthony's I believe off Shartel, across from Villa Theresa. However, they left a huge gap to the east of this new structure. Is this going to all be parking for the new building? Please tell me no...
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:10 a.m. The structure is going to be offices... as for the gap.... it's been too long since I last saw the site plans. But I'm not going to tell you "no."
 
Nick 10:10 a.m. Do you have any idea what Land Run Development is up to with all their acquisitions along 23rd St?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Yes. You'll be reading about it soon.
 
Mikey 10:11 a.m. Good morning!
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:11 a.m. Good morning!
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:14 a.m. Anything else?
 
Nick 10:15 a.m. Is it too late in the game for the convention center site to be changed?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:17 a.m. That's difficult to say Nick. If the city can not settle on a purchase price for the chosen site, or if the site is deemed unfit the convention center, yes, things could change. I have noticed that critics of the chosen site argue the convention center will block flow between the Myriad Gardens park and the Core to Shore park. But how would those concerns be addressed if the site is to be privately developed?
 
Pat 10:17 a.m. What type of amenities do you see for the new Kerr park, fountain maybe ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. The last plans I saw for Kerr Park show a lawn, a couple of paths that cross the block as if shaped like an "x," and a few benches. That's it. The new Kerr Park will have far less amenities than it did prior.
 
Jennifer 10:19 a.m. I have heard rumors of an Old School Bagel Cafe expansion into the city core. Any truth to it? Can we please get good bagels in downtown/midtown??
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:19 a.m. I've been hearing the same rumor; also hearing Panera Bread wants in.
 
G 10:19 a.m. Will anything fill the buildings at 10th and broadway besides the Lego cityscape?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:20 a.m. With the addition of the garage to be built by the Bob Howard group, it's safe to say those buildings likely will be popular with a mix of office and retail tenants.
 
Andrew 10:21 a.m. Have you learned anything about the row of buildings being renovated directly to the east of Nic's on Penn?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:21 a.m. No, but I'll check into it.
 
Nick 10:21 a.m. Why so many hotels for Bricktown and Deep Duece? Is the city really in need of that many hotels?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:22 a.m. The Hampton Inn is seen as a virtual cash machine, both in terms of operational profits and property value appreciation. And when one deal works that well, more developers follow. You're asking if Bricktown and Deep Deuce are about to be overbuilt with hotels. You're not the only one asking this question.
 
Pat 10:23 a.m. Any news on the Kevin Durant resturant in LB ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:23 a.m. Everything has gone quiet on the deal. I have calls out on this, but it's looking and sounding as if the deal is dead.
 
Dan 10:23 a.m. How far along is Project 180 is coming along, and do you see the businesses that have been hurt by it starting to recover?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:24 a.m. We're about to see a major chunk of Project 180 wrapped up later this year. Coney Island Hot Dogs reports they're beginning to hit pre-construction business levels.
 
B 10:24 a.m. Who do you think are some of the best young business leaders who will shape okc in the next 10 20 years?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:25 a.m. Define "young." Are we talking about under 30? 40? 50?
 
Drew 10:25 a.m. Any updates on the design for the new boulevard? Are they still planning to have a large portion elevated on the west side?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:26 a.m. An out-of-state engineering firm is tasked with reporting back to the city all of its options in regard to the boulevard. Opposition to the elevation is pretty united, but the opportunity and how to redo this plan isn't yet known.
 
Joe 10:26 a.m. Is this new downtown school going to be constructed in such a way to allow for vertical expansion once they add additional grades?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:27 a.m. The school is being designed to allow for future expansion. I am not sure if it will allow for vertical expansion.
 
Nick 10:27 a.m. I had heard rumors at one time of St. Anthony continuing to expand, but that seems to have since fallen off. Any idea if their campus will grow any more?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:28 a.m. Yes. St. Anthony's actually has been pretty consistent with its growth this past decade and I see nothing slowing them down.
 
Sam 10:28 a.m. Steve, any chance this city will ever get an indoor water park similar to Great Wolf lodge?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. Wouldn't that be a great addition along the Oklahoma River? Stan, a lot of "nationals" are looking at Oklahoma City. Anything is a possibility. If you want a Great Wold Lodge, contact the company and tell them they are invited.
 
Pat 10:30 a.m. Any new hotels in the CBD, not counting the CC hotel ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:30 a.m. If First National sells to new owners, I can see part of that building being converted into a hotel.
 
Drew 10:30 a.m. Do you know of any planned development (private or otherwise) along the Maps park?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:32 a.m. The city is trying to create interest in the development community and steer activity to the area much as it did as part of the I.M. Pei. But otherwise... I can picture some housing, but hat's about it.
 
Guest 10:32 a.m. I dont think they are being overbuilt at all. You saw the demand of rooms for this past NBA Finals. People were staying in Norman. With OKCs success the city will only grow more and more and so will the economy. Not to mention, with more hotel rooms comes a chance to host an NBA AllStar Game
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. That's a very forward-looking vision and you may be right. I'm not saying the market is being over-built. But that concern is out there.
 
Pat 10:33 a.m. Have you heard any hints of any major announcement of a corporate relocation to the CBD in first quarter 2013 ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:33 a.m. 1st quarter? Not that specific.
 
Andrew 10:33 a.m. What is the status of the extension of Classen Drive from NW 10th to NW 8th? There is money assigned to it in the 2007 Bond.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. The last I checked that project is dead.
 
Joe 10:34 a.m. Do you think we might see some more infill in Midtown in the near future? There are a lot of large, empty grass lots. The Edge should help, I would think.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:34 a.m. Absolutely.
 
Andrew 10:34 a.m. I believe St. Anthony's will be starting a new project in the very near future that will be directly behind Kaisers. Upward Transitions is relocating and their building will be aqquired.
 
Dan 10:34 a.m. What is the status of the Main Street Arcade renovation?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:35 a.m. The Downtown Design Review Committee approved renovation plans, but I've not yet seen a building permit go through.
 
BB 10:35 a.m. Is the MAPS CC Subcomittee meeting this month? What council seats are up for re-election?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:37 a.m. The city doesn't give a lot of advance notice on this meeting, and it's been hot or miss on them getting scheduled each month. I know Skip Kelley and Pete White are up for re-election next year. I think Gary Marrs and Larry McAtee may be the other seats up for grabs.
 
B 10:37 a.m. 30s and 40s
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:38 a.m. OK, so the question is, who do I see as upcoming movers and shakers in the business community? Folks who are in the 30s and 40s now...
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:39 a.m. Renzi Stone, Andy Burnett, Grant Humphreys, Ty and Tony Tyler all have that potential to some degree....
 
Nick 10:40 a.m. Speaking of, what is the latest on FNC? Is Yashouafar going to get YET ANOTHER extension or is the poor parking plan going to come to fruition or something else?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:40 a.m. Yep. All my sources tell me that Yashouafar bought another extension that will take him through Oct. 4. Beyond that, anything is possible.
 
R2D2 10:41 a.m. Do you have any idea what is going on with First National Center?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Several private development groups are eager to see control of First National go to a receiver to allow for it to be sold new owners. But Aaron Yashouafar is finding just enough money to buy extensions to his deadline to find the full amount he needs to pay off the defaulted mortgage with Capmark.
 
Drew 10:42 a.m. Any updates on the design of the convention center?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Firms are being interviewed for the design work.
 
Nick 10:42 a.m. Did the Edge finally secure the funding needed to start construction?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:42 a.m. Yes.
 
Nick 10:43 a.m. And is it going to be better than the Legacy disappointment?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:43 a.m. I've seen extensive renderings and animation of The Edge. I just don't see a lot of comparison between the two. The exterior finish, the lay-out, is just far more evolved and thought out than the Legacy.
 
Nick 10:44 a.m. Andrew, that was the same project (behind Kaiser's) that I was thinking of, but I thought it died...
 
Drew 10:44 a.m. Any updates on the Stage Center site?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:45 a.m. There's an effort by the city's historic preservation commission to have placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the effort does not have backing by its current owner, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
 
Andrew 10:45 a.m. Is there a drawing available of the ramp reconfigurations at NE 6th & NE10th at I-235?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Nothing that can be comprehended by anyone but engineers. If we get something that can be printed, I will do so.
 
Pat 10:46 a.m. Four groups are interested in the Stage Center site if I remember correctly, any movement on that site ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:46 a.m. Nothing that is being told to the public at this time.
 
Drew 10:46 a.m. Do you know of any planned development to the east, between the OU Health campus and Martin Luther King Blvd?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. The JFK neighborhood is an incredibly under-rated, under appreciated success story in this area.
 
guy 10:47 a.m. Hi Steve. i have several questions. First, do you know when the northbound Shields exit will re-open (or has it already re-opened?)?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:47 a.m. No, but I can find out and get back to you.
 
Dennis 10:48 a.m. I think more people would frequent the downtown area if they didn't have to pay to park. Any comments on that issue?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:49 a.m. It's a debate that has raged for 30 years. I don't see anything really changing either way. Parking supply will continue to improve, but I also sense there are those who simply won't come downtown regardless of the reason.
 
guy 10:49 a.m. Steve, i know a lot of residential opportunities have arisen in Bricktown, but is there any more current residential development in downtown proper?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:50 a.m. More housing is being planned for Bricktown and MidTown. I'm not sure there is much opportunity for housing in the CBD. I can see more housings possible someday along Autombile Alley.
 
guy 10:50 a.m. Third, has there ever been recent talk of extending the underground?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:52 a.m. When The Underground was being renovated by Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. several years ago, Councilman Gary Marrs wanted to finish the never opened tunnel that goes under Hudson Avenue between the County Courthouse and the art museum. The museum folks didn't show a lot of interest in the project, and the effort never gained much traction. A grand entrance designed by Rand Elliott, meanwhile, never took place due to opposition by James Cotter, the Texan who owns Chase Tower.
 
guy 10:52 a.m. Is there any current development of retail businesses in downtown?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:54 a.m. I had a story on retail last week. Automobile Alley is turning into a very promising mix of stores, restaurants, offfces and housing. I'm very intrigued by the suggestion by a retail expert this past week that Brooks Bros. may consider opening a downtown flagship store.
 
Nick 10:54 a.m. Steve, forgive my frustration, but what in the hell is going on with Capmark and their continued willingness to let Yashouafar have more time? They were fools in the first place to lend on a mortgage that everyone knew was too high, but at what point do you cut your losses and move on?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:55 a.m. We have a banking system in which bad lending choices are rewarded with big bonuses and then tax-payer bail-outs when the loans go bad.
 
BethanySooner 10:55 a.m. Steve, do you think that once Project 180 is completed that there will be more movement of businesses into the downtown core? Also, what are some of the constraints that might be hindering business growth?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. The lack and expense of parking is a big issue for companies wanting to move downtown. I've seen it first hand. I do believe that Project 180 has damaged existing businesses - mostly the ground floor retail folks - and that completion will allow for recovery to begin.
 
Andrew 10:57 a.m. The mattress store in the Plaza District is apparently moving next month. Have you heard anything about what could be going in in its place?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. Not yet Andrew. But the departure of the mattress store is being celebrated by the Plaza District's leadership.
 
Drew 10:57 a.m. I've heard that one of the developers of the JFK Neighborhood has plans with the city to expand to the North with another large housing project. Have you heard anything about this?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:57 a.m. No.
 
Nick 10:58 a.m. I would think that once Midtown R gets a shot at converting the Marion and building a garage, we may see the viability of housing along Broadway increase considerably. Do you think Housing would work in the Rock Island Plow Building? What other housing have you heard about for Bricktown?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 10:58 a.m. I think the Rock Island Building is ideal for either housing or a hotel. I also see a lot of indication that a redevelopment effort will be announced soon.
 
JimBob 10:59 a.m. Steve, talk about the time frame for the buildout of the light rail system. Is it still in the 2020 range? Also, don't you think it should include the OU Health Science campus to make it really useful and not just a tourist ride?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. I don't have the exact timetable in my head, but based on what I recall, and adding in a bit of pragmatism, we're probably looking at a streetcar system being launched in about five years.Your concern about the OHC is legit, but I'm not sure current funding allows for such a route.
 
Pat 11:00 a.m. Is it or could it be possible that Preftakes would aquire the City building and parking in his block ?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:00 a.m. Anything is possible. But it's very unlikely
 
guy 11:01 a.m. Also, i always notice the cool rooftop space on Automobile Alley just above the antique store that's next to Coffee Slingers. Is that a public space? Or is it only available for renting out? Or is it simply private and off limits to the public? (Do you know the space i'm talking about?)
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:01 a.m. Yes, Cardinal Engineering rents out the rooftop for special events all the time.
 
Nick 11:01 a.m. Can you give us a hint at all to the long-rumored corporate relocation??
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Yes. I'm continuing to track this story and I'm sticking with what I've said previously.
 
Nick 11:02 a.m. Also, are you aware of plans for the site at 4th and EK Gaylord? What is going on there?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. Yes. Read my earlier answer.
 
Pat 11:02 a.m. I heard Mayor Mick speak about a possible 'metro regional tax' for light rail service. Is this just hype or setting up political strategy for a Maps4?
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:02 a.m. It's the start of a conversation. Where it goes is up to the community.
 
okdt 11:02 a.m. Steve, Has there been any news about any new companies moving downtown? We have a lot lof oil and gas, but we should learn from history that we need to be a little more diversified.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. I hear ya.
 
Nick 11:03 a.m. Avis should just have her son design the redevelopment to keep her costs down...
 
Nick 11:03 a.m. I am stunned that the streetcar isn't going up Lincoln to the HSC.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. I understand.
 
Steve Lackmeyer 11:03 a.m. Thanks to everyone for participating in this OKC Live Chat. See you again next week.
 

by Steve Lackmeyer
Reporter Sr.
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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