Uptown momentum continues with new shops, hope for Tower Theater

Oklahoma City's Uptown, the area along NW 23 between Interstate 235 and Classen Boulevard, is experiencing a revival.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: November 21, 2012

Price, like Newberry and Chamberlain, started his search for a new restaurant location in MidTown. As a fourth-generation operator of Jo's Pizza restaurants, Price wanted to open his newest restaurant in the urban core but had limited his search to MidTown and Bricktown.

After looking at the outside of the building, Price contacted Sellers and discovered the owner was just inside. The two started a discussion that quickly led to the remainder of the first floor getting leased.

The rest of the building redevelopment wasn't so easy. Sellers said he encountered several challenges with contractors, the installation of a passenger elevator and other improvements needed to update the building from it's 1970s appearance and function.

Both the new Orange Leaf shop, which opened earlier this month, and Pizza 23, which is set to open in early December, pay tribute to the area's history.

A mural of Uptown landmarks greets visitors when they first enter Orange Leaf, while patrons of Pizza 23 will be treated to large historic photos of the strip taken from the 1930s to 1960s.

With all the development under way along NW 23, the landmark Tower Theater that stands in the middle of the corridor remains empty. Marty Dillon bought the theater and surrounding retail buildings in 2005 thinking he could pull off a quick start of design and renovations.

Instead, Dillon has struggled to find financing for the project even with the prospect of the second floor office space becoming home to his family's business, Party Galaxy.

Dillon said Tuesday his latest plan is to renovate the building in phases, starting with renovation of the street level retail and office space first, and then developing the theater at a later time.

“It's been ridiculous,” Dillon said. “My main focus is running Party Galaxy. I've never had this much trouble getting something off the ground.”

With the upcoming redevelopment by Jonathan Russell and the work completed by Sellers and others, Dillion is hopeful that lenders will be more supportive of his efforts with the Tower Theater.

“There is so much more going on along NW 23 — there's more momentum and a lender will see that as a positive. Nobody wants to lend to a project when you're the only player down there. So this gives a lot more value to a lender.”

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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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