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What's next for downtown Oklahoma City?

Longtime eyesores are being converted into jewels as Oklahoma City developers take on challenges to renew buildings.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: July 27, 2014

Existing Bricktown tenants are expanding their footprint. The Chickasaw Nation recently opened Exhibit C, an art gallery, Bedre Chocolates shop and gift shop, next to its tourism offices at 1 E Sheridan Ave. Sonic is converting space on the first floor of its headquarters in Lower Bricktown into a test kitchen that reminds visitors the entertainment district is home to the nation’s most popular drive-in restaurant chain.

Midtown

Longtime eyesores are being converted into jewels as developers Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Chris Fleming take on some of the area’s most challenged old buildings. The Hotel Marion, built in 1904 and boarded up for 30 years, has been painstakingly rebuilt from the inside out and is set to reopen as upscale apartments later this year.

The developers also are building a garage across the street that will provide parking for the Hotel Marion and two other buildings that are claimed by both Midtown and Automobile Alley: the Buick and Packard buildings at 1100 and 1101 N Broadway. Those buildings also are being renovated and converted into offices and retail.

The intersection of NW 10 and Walker Avenue, desolate just a decade ago, is a busy collection of restaurants, shops, offices and apartments, with a renovated Osler building now home to the boutique Ambassador Hotel.

Just a couple of blocks to the north, the 250-unit Edge apartments is set to open next month. An even larger complex, Lift apartments, is being built at NW 10 and Shartel. When the construction ends, Midtown’s population will have grown from virtually nothing to more than 1,000 residents.

If the next efforts of Howard, Clagg and Fleming’s Midtown Renaissance Group are realized, the thriving Midtown hub at NW 10 and Walker will extend to Broadway with a mix of offices, residences, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues creating a vibrant urban mixed-use neighborhood.

And while the three have generally sought to redevelop existing buildings, the exception is the new home they are building at NW 10 and Hudson Avenue for a vintage-style Dust Bowl Lanes and Fassler Hall beer garden. An outdoor food truck plaza, Bleu Garten, meanwhile, is being built at NW 10 and Harvey Avenue.

Deep Deuce

Thousands of young professionals now live and play in a neighborhood that was a collection of boarded-up buildings and abandoned surface parking lots 20 years ago. On any given evening, one can drive down NE 2 — “The Deuce” — and see people shopping at downtown’s only grocery, Native Roots, dining at Urban Roots, the Deep Deuce Grill and Urban Johnnie, or enjoying a shot of whiskey and a good cigar at WSKY. Next to WSKY, the lounge’s owners are preparing to open a deli to further capitalize on the neighborhood’s growing population.

A newly opened Aloft Hotel is providing Deep Deuce with a modern, sleek beacon that is bathed in multicolored LED lighting at night. The Aloft Hotel is quickly becoming a magnet for the city’s creative class, with its top floor hosting hundreds recently for a 1970s disco night launch for the 2014 deadCenter Film Festival.

What few empty lots remain will soon be developed with more rental and for sale housing. Richard McKown, developer of the Level and Mosaic apartments, has started work on a shipping container development just west of the Aloft Hotel that will include a bar that caters to customers with dogs.

The remainder of NE 2 is filling up with a variety of neighborhood-oriented businesses including a dentist, a salon and fitness center. The jewel of Deep Deuce, meanwhile, is the restored historic Calvary Baptist Church, now home to the Dan Davis law firm but once the birthplace of the city’s civil rights movement that even hosted a young Martin Luther King.

The fringe and future

As such development continues, expect increased interest in fringe areas of downtown, most notably Film Row, which will soon boast a 21C Museum Hotel; the Farmers Market district, and along Classen Boulevard between Main Street and NW 13.

MAPS 3 investments in Core to Shore — a large city park and a convention center — likely will spur even more development south toward Capitol Hill.

And a MAPS 3 streetcar system is set to connect all of these areas when it begins service in 2017.

Former Mayor Ron Norick predicted the original MAPS would spur private investment totaling $140 millionin 1993. To date, that total has exceeded $2 billion. Add up everything underway, and that figure could grow by more than $1 billion in the next few years.

The vision of a vibrant downtown is a reality. The evolution continues.

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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