The Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer fielded reader questions during his recent weekly OKC Central Live Chat. Each week, Steve hosts a live chat, giving readers a chance to ask questions about Oklahoma City development and growth as well as an opportunity to ask direct questions of OKC newsmakers like Mayor David Holt and Dan Straughan, the executive director of the Homeless Alliance. You can join Steve most Fridays at 10 a.m. to add your comments and questions about downtown development.
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Proposed amphitheater could create a visitor draw in west Oklahoma City
Q: I know this is an older article that you wrote, but tourism for OKC generated $4.3 billion from an estimated 23.2 million visitors. Chad Huntington was quoted as saying a lot of it is coming from north Texas. Besides the obvious things that will bring in more tourists (OKANA resort, new arena, SEC football, new state fair coliseum) what else do you see on the horizon that will increase those numbers even more?
A: The Sunset amphitheater could be a nice attraction for west Oklahoma City if it gets built. And while the proposed Block 405 RV&B resort at Interstate 35 and NW 36 is stalled due to concerns over its lead developer, David Aduddell, it’s too good of an idea to die. And if it does come back, it will join some other likely developments in making the Adventure District a bigger tourist draw.
A new arena matching the latest in design and programming also could become a tourist draw.
Dick’s House of Sports next big addition to Chisholm Creek/Quail Springs retail corridor
Q: What are the next big projects coming to Chisholm Creek? Lots of available land west of Top Golf and over west of Pennsylvania Avenue by Aloft hotel.
A: I’ve not visited with the folks at Chisholm Creek recently, but I know they are hoping they can lure the right type of hotel to be built overlooking their lake area.
More:From the archives: Before Chisholm Creek, a state fair promotion led to decades-long legal battle
A Dick’s House of Sport, meanwhile, is being built at 13145 N Pennsylvania Ave. Near the Aloft Hotel. The building permit shows the two-story, 116,317-square-foot store is being built where Winco once planned to build a new grocery.
The new Dick’s store is an example of the move to experience-based retail, where shoppers are offered an array of interactive sports including a climbing wall, multiple golf bays with TrackMan simulators, and multi-sport cages that can be used for baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer.
Interest rates delaying projects throughout downtown
Q: Are there any developments you are aware of that have stalled due to interest rates?
A: I delved into this question recently as part of my look at the ongoing construction boom. We’ve seen a couple of projects that collapsed due to cost increases before the deals were done. We certainly saw a lot of the more exciting architectural finishes trimmed from the Convergence development at Stiles Park. Several projects are delayed but not killed, including the apartments at NW 4 and Shartel.
Expect restoration of Brown’s Bakery back to its original mid-century design
Q: Brown’s Bakery closed in Midtown. What do you think will happen to the property? Will someone develop it or tear it down and build new up to the corner?
A: It will be restored and become a showcase of mid-century design.
Midtown infill is gaining speed
Q: Palomar is going to build a new building to the west of their current building in Midtown. I searched in the area and feel like Midtown needs more multi-family. You have the Sieber, Sentinel, 430 and then you have Lift and Edge on the edges (no pun intended) of Midtown. As great as Midtown is, it feels like it has a long way to go.
A: More is to come. Count on it. We are about to see construction starting on most of the remaining empty blocks with a mix of offices, retail and restaurants.
More:More than $200 million going into creating a new skyline in Midtown Oklahoma City
Regional transit remains a partnership between Edmond, Oklahoma City and Norman
Q: Have Yukon or Mustang or other nearby cities made any noises about potentially joining the Regional Transportation Authority?
A: There have been some discussions, but I’ve not heard of any progress beyond that and at the last RTA meeting I recall a mention that no further talks have occurred. The west Oklahoma City routes include the option of ending up in the section of the city between Yukon and Mustang. I suspect RTA planners will likely stop short of the two towns unless they join the RTA and share in the cost of implementation.
What properties are key to urban core success?
Q: Looking at several districts, a very broad question: What currently is the most important property that you think needs to be developed (no current plans known to the public) to keep the districts moving forward in the following areas: Uptown 23rd, Midtown, downtown and Bricktown? My vote would be in order: Gold Dome (Uptown), the large parcel to the north of The Collective (Midtown), the surface parking lots west of the arena (downtown) and the parking lot east of the ballpark (Bricktown).
A: I like your list. At last check, we still have the chance at seeing the Gold Dome turned into a live music venue. The deal has had its ups and downs, but at this point we’re still looking at the chance of the project proceeding with assistance from the city. I’m not worried at all about empty properties in Midtown. They’re pretty much all in play.
The former Fred Jones Ford dealership east of Paycom Center, and between the Myriad Gardens and Scissortail Park, is also not a big concern for me. Bob Howard has been smart to sit on it and wait for the right development to emerge. These surface parking lots are too important to simply be developed without a lot of thought and consideration.
The ballpark parking lot is part of a carved-out TIF zone, and that alone ensures it won’t be long before we see some proposals pop up for the property. I would add Spaghetti Warehouse for Bricktown, Brown’s Bakery for Midtown, and the long closed green and yellow Asian supermarket at NW 23 and Walker for Uptown.
As an aside, I’m most concerned about the Farmers Market area. It needs new sidewalks and lighting. The street needs resurfacing. Develop the vacant land south of the Market into apartments. Then we get another great district.
Skydance Bridge overcame early criticism
Q: What are some projects that were considered bad at first, but turned out to be great and on the flip side, projects that were considered bad and turned out to be just as bad? My thoughts would be the pedestrian bridge on the first one and the OKC Boulevard on the second one.
I remember people talking about the pedestrian bridge being a terrible design, ice will fall off to cars on the highway, it will get hit by a tornado, etc. Then the bridge turned out to be on about every piece of literature pushing OKC there was.
A: You’ve got a great pick with the Skydance Bridge, which is now featured on a U.S. Postal Service stamp (reminder to self: get stamp before it’s too late).
On the second one, I had a conversation early on with a very well-known person in the community that argued we should restore the street grid and the boulevard will just be another highway and they weren’t wrong.
The boulevard as originally designed deserved the opposition it attracted. It was designed to be a replica of the old highway with an elevated span all the way to Walker Avenue. With fierce grass roots opposition, the design was changed so that the elevated bypass was reduced to a bridge spanning a merged Western Avenue and Classen Boulevard. Slip lanes along the ground level street also were replaced with traditional intersections.
Neither side got all they wanted. But I’m not convinced a street grid response would have been ideal. The final verdict isn’t in on the boulevard. Not yet. Development over the next decade will provide us the ultimate judgment.
Asian chamber represents city’s growing diversity
Q: Can you tell us more about the work of the newly created Asian Chamber of Commerce? Exciting to see leadership formalized in this way!
A: Let me share a quick anecdote before I answer you. The other day I was enjoying an addictive bowl of chicken tortilla soup at a now beloved fairly new family-owned neighborhood restaurant. A mix of Mexican music was playing in the background and in the middle of it all, a Spanish-language Neil Diamond song popped up.
I love diversity. And I love surprises that comes from such diversity.
I remember, years ago, when Charles Barkley suggested Oklahoma City is a boring, predominately white rural small town. That wasn’t the truth then and it certainly isn’t now.
We are growing city. Our population is 13.8% Black, 19.95 Hispanic, and 4.4% Asian. And we have an Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce and an Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, both of which seek to promote opportunities within their communities and the diversity they add to our city.
The Asian chamber is another tool to promote our city’s diversity and create even more opportunities. Their website provides a good roadmap for where they are going – to promote business connections and to showcase events and opportunities. I learned from visiting the website that more than 50,000 Asian Oklahomans live in the greater Oklahoma City metro and that more than half the state’s Asian population lives in Oklahoma City.
Sprawl remains a challenge for OKC planners
Q: In your opinion, what are the two to three items in the development code re-write process that the city needs to “get right?” The things with immediate impact or potential for great impact?
A: I need to spend more time delving into the discussion already underway. But I do know this: every time we annex land, every time we allow more neighborhoods to be built on the fringes of this 621-square-mile city, we are doing so at the expense of future generations. Continued sprawl comes with a cost to schools, public safety and our environment.
The new neighborhoods built today will be the aging neighborhoods with increased demand for police and fire protection in the future. I’m also wondering if more can’t be done through zoning to ensure we have neighborhoods and adjoining commercial development that are designed for pedestrians and bicyclists and not just cars.
Can we create zoning that encourages transit-oriented development? Can we place more limits on retail parking lot egress to streets? Can we create corridors free of signage, as we are attempting to preserve them now with the Lake Hefner Parkway? I can go on and on, but you get my gist. We need to plan for what our city will be facing in 30 years. And by all measures, that means we need to look at changing weather patterns, higher fuel costs and strain on city resources.
In terms of immediate impact, why not look at ways to use city codes to incentivize neighborhood developers to create connections to nearby trails and parks? Provide information and examples of how to create greenspace trails in the center of neighborhoods that can connect to city trails and parks. Create zones where such development is recommended.
Transit-oriented development potential yet to be realized
Q: Bus Rapid Transit is mere months away – what opportunities do you see around/along this initial route for denser residential or mixed use?
A: With the first bus rapid transit set to launch this fall and more routes in various stages of planning for south and northeast Oklahoma City, I’d love to hear more discussion on how the city and the development community can create real transit-oriented development.
Throughout the city we have property that for whatever reason was never developed along major corridors. These streets are not a good option for traditional suburban housing and yet they aren’t set up well for retail, office or other uses. I can think of several stretches of Northwest Expressway that could be transformed by the first BRT that is set to start in December.
We have a great opportunity to show what is possible if voters approve regional transit (likely late next year). The city has a long stretch of land along the north side of NW 10 between Western and Pennsylvania Avenues. The land was surplus from when NW 10 was expanded from a two-lane street to a four-lane boulevard.
A deal struck between the city and homebuilder Aaron Dodson to build housing on the land never got started and the land is back with the city to maintain. If regional transit is approved, there is a chance to start a west OKC BRT line along this stretch of NW 10.
If this route is chosen, the city can join with developers, transportation planners and architects to create a great prototype for transit-oriented development where we cut down on parking spaces (one car spot per residence? One shared parking lot per block?) and show what sort of efficiency we can get with this new opportunity. If done right, we could be looking at an opportunity to create affordable housing throughout the city that in turn will help boost use of public transit.