Sunday, August 31, 2008

Perspective on OKC's sprawl

This is a ranking of US cities that added the most sprawl inbetween 1970 and 1990. I'll copy the top cities and how many square miles of sprawl that they added during said period.

1. Atlanta, GA 701.7
2. Houston, TX 638.7
3. New York City-N.E. New Jersey 541.3
4. Washington, DC-MD-VA 450.1
5. Philadelphia, PA 412.4
6. Los Angeles, CA 393.8
7. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 372.4
8. Tampa-St.Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 358.7
9. Phoenix, AZ 353.6
10. Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN 341.6
11. San Diego, CA 309.5
12. Oklahoma City, OK 307.7
13. Chicago, IL - N.W. Indiana 307.3
14. Baltimore, MD 282.9
15. Kansas City, MO-KS 268.6
16. Saint Louis, MO-IL 267.6
17. Orlando, FL 262.9
18. Detroit, MI 247.4
19. Boston, MA 226.8
20. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA 221.4
21. San Antonio, TX 215.1
22. San Francisco-Oakland, CA 193.1
23. Austin, TX 187.4
24. Pittsburgh, PA 181.7
25. Cincinnati, OH-KY 176.6

While I'm not shocked at all that OKC is in the Top 15, I am shocked that Philly added as much sprawl as DC and LA, which both have very sprawly metros. What's strange however is that OKC added less than 300,000 people in those 20 years according to statistics. By the way, Tulsa comes in at #41 with about 125 new square miles of sprawl.

As if explanation is necessary, I think OKC is somewhat unique in that the city isn't one that developed around a core or even into one area. There are essentially several different autonomous parts of OKC. For instance, the northside and southside have pretty separate identities and don't interact that much. Plus they've very separated by the blight all along I-40 with the clear exception of booming downtown.

OKC's development more or less reflects where the jobs are. You have a chunk of old city around downtown, a big chunk of suburbia up by the Northwest Expressway, Edmond, a chunk of the metro down by Tinker and WRWA, and then Norman. Whereas you have Tulsa, which is a much more contiguously developed metro area, similar size, and much much further down the list (or I should say, more reasonably located).

P.S. This isn't for bragging rights. This is a clear problem. If OKC, population 1.3 million is about as sprawled as Dallas-Fort Worth, population 7 million.. then Houston, we have a problem. And if you don't believe OKC has a sprawl problem, drive from South Norman up to North Edmond, or from Yukon to Choctaw, and rethink that assumption.

Update on OKC Projects Page

On the projects page for OKC I have so far all MAPS 1 projects and the secondary phase of MAPS for Kids, excluding suburban schools (like John Marshall and Centennial). The way I'm doing this is all civic projects first, and then all private projects thereafter, starting with MAPS-related stuff. Then I'll make some editing marks on the OKC Map, then move on to Tulsa.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

JoeBama v. McPalin

Was it possible for McCain to actually score a home-run in his campaign against Barack Obama? Would anyone have perceived him wowing everyone enough to break the neck-and-neck(edness) of the election so far? The wait is over, as last Friday McCain finally unveiled what we all wanted to be the new first black female vice president under 40.

I absolutely LOVE this new Sarah Palin. She's great. She's also hot, as numerous periodicals have named her America's Hottest Governor. Contrary to Al Gore's sermons, her hotness is actually the single largest contributor to the Polar Ice Caps melting. She was runner-up for Miss Alaska, which would truly be 'Change We Can All Believe In.'

Mrs. Palin led her high school basketball team to the state championships. This caribou-hunting, snowmobile-loving, NRA-supporting, mama-of-5, moose burger-eating female governor also boasts a 90% approval rating throughout her 2 years as Governor of Alaska. She and her fisherman hubbie have 5 kids with names Bristol, Piper, Track, Willow, and Trig. She could win Vermont on that alone. Sadly, Trig was born with Down-Syndrome, giving her a unique understanding of America's medical establishment. As a mom with 5 kids and zero Washington insiderness, she also one-ups the "empathy" of Obama's economic plan.

Gov. Palin has brought incredible reform to Alaska. She defeated the special interests in Alaska that controlled everything in the 50th State. She's also a true maverick. Staunchly conservative, but with a mind of her own for fairness. Her first veto as GILF was a bill stealing benefits from same-sex couples in Alaska. She pulled the plug on the rediculous Bridge to Nowhere. She's a headlining member of Feminists For Life. She's proposed more taxes on the oil business in Alaska, but supports drilling in ANWR. Democrats call her inexperienced while she has more experience than their presidential candidate. She used to smoke marijuana while it was legal in her state (she's since grown up). She's an excellent motivational speaker. By leading the construction of new pipelines in Alaska, she's done more to secure America's energy independence than any Democrat.

The VP spot is the first real decision that a president makes. Obama chose waffler Joe Biden aka "1% Joe" (although he actually got less than 1% in Iowa). Joe has been in Washington as a typical liberal Democrat operative ever since Sarah Palin was 9, which was about the same time that McCain checked out of the Hanoi Hilton. What's odd about the JoeBama ticket is that Obama makes Biden look presidential (and vice versa, Biden makes Obama look vice presidential). On the other hand McCain went with someone that few people knew about and selected someone he admired, a true maverick, an inspiration for young women, and someone that we know will take on special interests in Washington in the same way that John McCain always has, pissing off Republicans and Democrats left and right.

Draft Cordish Development for DT Tulsa

Some of you have likely seen the St. Louis Cardinals' new stadium which opened in 2006. What some of you likely haven't seen is the $650-million (nearly the price of Devon Tower) mixed-use development called St. Louis Ballpark Village. The project, by the same developer as KC's Power & Light District (which surrounds the new Sprint Center), includes 450,000 SF of retail and entertainment, 1,200 residential units, 300,000 SF of office space, and 2,000 parking spaces.

Now it appears that the City of Tulsa is embarking on a $70 million downtown ballpark for the AA Drillers, one that will seat 6,000 spectators..a smallish number to ensure plenty of sell-out looking crowds (though it won't be saying much). Surrounding the ballpark, on the north side the City wants a hotel complex, and on the west and south sides, it wants typical urban development between the ballpark and the tracks. Also, the area around the new BOK Center is surrounded to the south by the City Hall complex that the city wants to liquidate into mixed-use development of this nature. Of course the Drillers Stadium area is also adjacent to the heart of the Brady District's slough of redevelopment projects, but so far the only project to come as an apparent result of the proposed Ballpark is 120 Brady Village, which will include 40 high-end lofts and nearly 20,000 SF of retail.

We know one development that is now unlikely due to this project (the Ballpark will be on the site instead) is Franklin Square, the $30 million project by the Greenwood Chamber to revitalize the Greenwood district with an 82-room boutique hotel, 44 brownstone units, and 79,000 SF of retail/office.

If Tulsa is indeed interested in some eye-catching urban development, City Hall should contact Cordish and be willing to make whatever concessions are necessary in order to get a P+L or Ballpark Village built around the new Drillers Stadium. This company specializes in two things mainly: A, projects oriented around major sports venues; and B, projects that completely revitalize downtown areas. This is what Tulsa needs right now around either the BOK Center or the new Drillers Stadium.

Real hush-hush

The closely-guarded name of the new OKC NBA team has all of us scratching our head. Mainly those of us who hate the name 'Thunder' and have been pulling for 'OKC Barons'.

Surely these Okie billionaires have more taste than AC/DC and Thor (God of Thunder)-related team names. Most OKC fans do, and that's saying something...about AC/DC and Thor.

When KOCO-5 was the first to release the name will be Thunder, based on some fine Internet sleuthing when Clay Bennett was rumored to have parked the domain, we were all aghast with either rage or love over the name, then reassured ourselves it probably won't be Thunder.

Then all of the insiders were reporting: Thunder. The NBA accidentally put up for a brief hour or so. And when the NBA released OKC's 82-game schedule (which came underfire for excluding a single Saturday home game) it consistently called them the OKC Thunder. Then more insiders, and pretend-insiders from the SportsAnimal (which is when you know something must be false) claiming it will be Thunder.

Then a mid-afternoon text message issued out to all users that claimed next week will be a press conference on Wednesday (as opposed to Thursday) where Clay Bennett will announce the team name, the Thunder.

And now that moving vans from Seattle have arrived in Downtown OKC finally, photographers embedded in the scene got a glimpse of boxes of this.

What if it's all meant to be too obvious? What if this is all to throw us off? Surely such a secret that Bennett's guarding so closely with this kind of obliviousness must be a throw-off.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Minneapolis in the 70s

Minneapolis, 1970s

The IDS Center is still the tallest building in Minnesota at 794 feet, but people sure were concerned that it dwarfed the skyline all through the 1970s. Remind you of anything?

OKC project list

This is where I'm going to start listing all post-MAPS downtown development in OKC. It will include nearly a hundred items when finished, but I'm starting with the initial MAPS projects and then branching out. I'll do the same for Tulsa and Lawton eventually. If you all notice I've been quiet lately, it's because I've been busy working on this.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cityshot VI

6th Street: The Pearl District & DT Tulsa

Gotta love online forum drama

For those of you Devon lovers that haven't yet gotten a chance to check out a mostly negative, anti-OKC forum, this post is for you. See, the folks over at don't exactly like OKC. They don't exactly like any city that's supposed to be a really sucky, dusty, flat, desolate and miserable place, but turns out to be a vibrant and booming center for industry, culture, entertainment, art, and the urban movement... which is mainly, you guessed it, OKC.

For this blog post, I thought I would pick a select few of my absolute favorite comments from just one of the 4 threads that feature a lot of pessimism about the Devon Tower. You can read the thread yourself (follow the link above) if you want maximum jollies. Enjoy:

...and it will never be built. -Geaux Tigers

Its nice to see Dallas's largest suburb building up. -Big Texan

And I'm not trying to be a d*ck, you'll end up being swamped by pretty much the whole forum saying that OKC is no where near the 'next great American city', and you guys will end up being offended. - Cajun Dude

It's going to take a lot more than an NBA team for the rest of the country to see OKC as 'major league' and that's the truth. - Cajun Dude

I could make a list for Louisville that sounds just as impressive, if not more impressive than SRG's list - eweezerinc

Cities like OKC are just playing catch up at this point. - Cashville

the office market is going to take a SUBSTANTIAL hit and this should eliminate the construction of any new office space in DT OKC for decades! - cwilson758

You act like OKC is booming or something. - papa spaz
The funny thing is, if the tower actually goes up, it will be the 1st(or near it) skyscraper to be built in OKC in nearly 3 decades. It's sure the next great American city though... - Cajun Dude

you showed us a graph that downtown has the best places to eat & shop in OKC. Congratulations, that's the case for about every major city out there. - Cajun Dude

things are great but with a CSA and MSA smaller than Greensboro NC, Oklahoma City is strictly relying on prosperous and local energy companies manipulating the economy and turning in their chips while they still have a chance. If OKC is still aggresively growing in even 4-5 years I will be VERY impressed with the infrastructure and vision of Oklahoma City.- duraleigh

quit being jealous people, be happy that this work of art can be built anywhere! - RON-E

Actually I would say OKC has a very small downtown for a city it's size and they really need several more skyline buildings. - papa spaz

Wow from reading this thread, you really get the sense that this is just eating some people up that OKC is getting this building. - gwiATLman

When will OKC people on here get over this little man syndrome? - papa spaz

Come on everyone, admit OKC has it going on. - Nic

I think what I'm most happy about is what this does for the esteem of those from Oklahoma City. They've always seemed to feel second rate about OKC, so, maybe a tall building will change that for them. It certainly represents poor city planning if it is approved. - Sean in New Orleans

Translation: "OKC is outshining my city." - Dale

I hope OKC gets about ten of these just to piss the naysayers off. - Dale

The tower does look out of place. Maybe that's b/c OKC had a very small skyline to start with. - papa spaz

Some people are mad... -BillBanneker

Why can't Toronto get at least a couple 1000 footer? Is it because we're pinkos? - to'er

For a comparison here are Nashvilles numbers. - Cashville

(if you ventured over to and read the Devon Tower thread there you would know what Im talking about.) - Cashville

I think that OKC without this tower has vacancy issues at 23.0%. Vacancy rates in New Orleans are just below 10%, and even lower with the entire metro area (Metairie is around 5%). - Sean in New Orleans

the rest of downtown which will be close to 50% empty. - Cashville

The idea that $750 million investment in the downtown is a "problem" is so silly its not really worth debating. - gwiATLman

I just can't support this project. - lamsalfl

Special thanks go out to Cashville and Cajun Dud without whom this post wouldn't have been possible.

Haven't forgotten about the BOK Center

Amidst the rush of Devon Tower euphoria that must be covered on this blog, I have still not forgotten about you, Tulsa. I recommend everyone start following the finishing touches on the BOK Center, because the thing gets more dazzling by the week. And yes, it still has more room to get more razzle dazzle. Just wait for the streetscape to open up completely around surrounding streets (i.e., Denver Avenue, which I'm not sure if it's finished yet or not), or further down the line the hotel/mixed-use redevelopment of the current City Hall site.

But lately, the shine has been put on the metal exterior, the 40,000-foot glass wall is up, and now the nightlighting elements in the glass wall are turned on. Personally I severely underestimated how the arena would look from the back, especially with that view of the Tulsa skyline peering over it. I also underestimated how the glass wall would be visible from all around downtown, especially all lit-up at night. Take a look further down.

For those of you not familiar yet with the BOK Center, get familiar with it. It's going to become one of Oklahoma's premier places to catch a concert or a major event, and potentially down the line, some major league action (just not in the NBA, which went to OKC, but possibly AFL or NHL). To view some more multimedia of the BOK Center, check this Tulsa World site. The Cesar Pelli masterpiece will be a 550,000 SF facility with 18,500 seats for the arena format, and can do over 19,000 for a center-stage concert. For a downtown centerpiece, the project came in well under $200 mil, which is overall less than OKC's Ford Center would be built for (including $121 mil in upgrades). It will at least revolutionize the way in which Tulsans feel about their Downtown.

While Tulsans may have balked at the construction cost increases and the overall cost initially, it is such a small penny to pay for what this arena will do for their city. When OKC's first MAPS project, the Bricktown Ballpark opened, all of OKC completely shifted from being disgusted with MAPS to being completely in love with MAPS and all-things OKC. The pride that Tulsans feel is nothing yet, but as soon as this facility opens, it will give T-Town a new perspective on their city. It will make them realize how much they love their city, how unique it is, and how much potential it has to be great. It will do everything that the Bricktown Ballpark did for OKC and probably more.

-Photos from and dscott on Flickr

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cityshot V

Photo I took at Classen Blvd / W Main can see where Devon will go

A look at other cities' Supertalls

Omaha, First National Tower

In 2002 Omaha's 663-foot, 43-story First National Tower was built, earning numerous design awards, including Emporis' 2002 Skyscraper of the Year Award. The tower can ironically be seen across the Missouri River region and from corn fields in both Iowa and Nebraska. The tower, which became iconic of all things Omaha, was the first of recent changes to Omaha's skyline.

Louisville, Museum Plaza

Proposed last year was Louisville's Museum Plaza, a 703-ft tall glass and steel monolith that defies traditional design wisdom. The 63-story tower comes with the projected price tag of $495 (about 3/5ths of Devon) for 1.5 million SF of mixed uses (hotel, office, and residences). The national reaction to this project is primarily negative, while Louisville's local reaction is still mixed. The inspiration for the project was to take the skyscraper back to industrial roots.

Cleveland, Key Tower

At 947 feet, the Key Tower was one of Cesar Pelli's early masterpieces that became the launch pad of the famous architect's career of building landmarks. The tower sort of matches the gothic look of Cleveland's skyline, which is dominated by soaring Art-Deco buildings with small footprints. Originally known as the Society Center, the building has undergone 3 different ownership changes. Between its construction in 1991 and the Comcast Tower in Philly (2007), it had the distinction of being the tallest tower between Chicago and NYC. With 1.5 mil SF, it's the USA's 17th tallest tower.

Nashville, Signature Tower

1,030 feet is all you need to know about this one. When announced in 2005 it shocked the design community as it will be the tallest tower in the Southeast. While it's still debatable if the tower will be built, scalebacks in how the condo floorplans are divided will set back rising construction costs, however nearly half of the proposed units have already been presold, lending a strong degree of likelihood that the tower will be built.. Not to mention that the FAA has recommended that the height not exceed even half the proposed height (while there are towers taller than 515 feet in DT Nashville), however the Metro Nashville Airport Authority has lent its support to the project. The cost has been estimated at $250 mil, far far less than that of Devon Tower.

OKC, Devon Tower

How do you think Devon Tower compares? 925 feet, $750 mil, 2.3 mil SF (total), 54 floors..

Friday, August 22, 2008

Devon v. Chesapeake Smack Talk

This is just for those who haven’t forgotten about Devon’s cross-town rival, and especially for those that see a psychiatrist because they wish Chesapeake would move downtown so bad..

Chesapeake: Nice tower, but it should have an observation deck.. So that
they can enjoy the view of our entire ‘city.’

Devon: You mean to look down on, right?

Devon: Damn, we thought being in 5 separate buildings was bad.

Chesapeake: Nifty design, very phallic-looking.

Chesapeake: I hope that their new tower can withstand the jet stream,
or at least Oklahoma wind.

Devon: And we hope that a tornado doesn’t wipe "Chesapeake City" off
the map.

Chesapeake: Ahh, Nichols Hills..

Devon: Downtown, bitch.

Chesapeake: Did I mention phallic-looking?

Devon: Mine is bigger.

Stop Comparing Charlotte

All of us are ecstatic over the new 900+ ft-tall tower being built in Downtown OKC. Those of us that were already ecstatic over OKC’s urban rebirth are proud of the things that makes OKC a somewhat unique city. Despite tearing down more historic buildings than almost any other city during the "Urban Renewal" period, there is still a rich tapestry of "old" buildings 110-60 years old.

Beautiful buildings and areas that have matured over time enough to provide a true sense of place, meaning that you can walk down North Broadway or around Bricktown and you would know, "Ah-ha! I am in OKC."

Many other Sun Belt cities would consider themselves lucky to have such an impressive area as Bricktown, Automobile Alley, or the Walker Circle in MidTown. What’s vital is that all of these areas are bustling epicenters of activity at all times of the day, even MidTown which was once so desolate St. Anthony’s was threatening to move to SW 119th and May (remember that?).

Yes, it’s possible that the new Devon Tower can do for OKC what Bank of America’s gleaming supertall did for Charlotte, but don’t compare us to that city. Charlotte has little in the way of significant, landmark-esque buildings that are mature. It’s certain that 50 years from now Charlotte will have a veritable mature, urban environment, but it will take time for that city’s surroundings to feel more lived-in, or worn a bit. This is for two reasons: 1, Charlotte was much smaller than OKC until a few decades ago; and 2, Charlotte is still tearing down the old to make way for the new.

We’ve learned our lesson, so we’ll let them learn their lesson. But don’t compare us to Charlotte, because OKC will never be the next Charlotte. I don’t mind the comparisons one bit, but the Charlotte one that’s been running rampant lately is over the top. Instead, here’s some fodder for comparisons: Indianapolis, Cleveland, Austin, Omaha, and Louisville. Have fun.

Some new additions here

I’ve decided that I really want to bring back some of the features I used to have at the site before we went to being just-forum, so I’ll soon be re-adding the development portal (sorry Tulsa, starting with OKC first).

This will be done in a separate blog and there will be a nifty link featured in an important place somewhere on this blog. I’ll also be linking between the forums and the blog, and adding the Development Maps that I made on Google because believe it or not, they are still there, although they could use a massive overhaul/update.

For those of you that decided to stop checking my blog each day, you need to start doing that again! The period where I was treading water is over, and since the Devon plans are finally all out expect to see multiple posts a day. In fact expect the same at other blogs, too, like Steve’s and Doug’s blogs. I anticipate that the Devon deal will provide the spark that the OKC blogosphere has really been in need of for a while.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Downtown's Devonian Age

We were expecting Oklahoma's tallest skyscraper. We weren't expecting what is basically a thousand-footer; taller than anything in Dallas, Ft Worth, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin, Tulsa, Little Rock, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Memphis, Birmingham, Louisville, St Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St Paul, Des Moines, Wichita, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Portland, Providence, D.C. area, Baltimore, Richmond, Norfolk, Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Columbia, Charleston, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, more than likely Nashville, and MANY more.

The tower is a beauty. You all know the stats so far. 1.9 million SF, 3,000 employees, 54 stories, 925 feet (which comes very close to the tallest towers in at least 3 more cities) and 20th tallest in the nation. There's the grand 6-story atrium aligned along the "Harvey axis" which is an imaginary pedestrian spine that Devon is facilitating through Downtown. We understand that it will start construction about mid-way through 2009. The 400,000 SF civic addition. We know the CityCenter garage will be expanded to 10 stories to double the number of spaces. Several acres of park space between the tower and Sheridan. We know major upgrades will occur across the street at the Myriad Gardens. And I think we all understand what the tower itself means for our city, and that is that this will be bigger than any of us could understand. I still have some questions though:

  • What all will be included in the 400,000 SF civic addition?

  • What can we expect of properties bought up in Devon anticipation (Preftakes)?

  • Will the CityCenter Garage expansion match the current design of the garage?

  • To what extent will retail be incorporated in the complex?
  • Is it true that the complex would include an auditorium?

  • Is Devon already in talks with other potential downtown tenants to move into their space?

  • How will the tower be illuminated after dusk?

  • Will there be a lit-up cross, in the tradition of Downtown OKC?

  • How can the mayor call this a C2S anchor with a straight face? Is everything C2S now? Great!

  • Will Devon push for some sort of mass transit upgrade at the new location?

  • Is Devon going to place more stipulations on funds the tower puts in the TIF?
  • How soon are we going to begin to see the impact of the $750 mil project around the tower?

  • Will there be design regulations proposed for the Arts District to assimilating Devon Tower?

  • How soon will it likely be until we see the skyline 'fill in' around the Devon Tower?

  • Are we going to see a national press reaction akin to Oklahoma getting an NBA team?

We know that OKC wants to be a Tier 2 city on the level of cities like Indianapolis and Kansas City. And it's clear that some Tier 2 cities will take longer to catch up to, but is it at least debatable yet if OKC has surpassed a few Tier 2 cities, ultimately earning a Tier 2 place? Milwaukee? Kansas City? Indy? Salt Lake City? Who is to say that OKC isn't already a competitive Tier 2 city with an NBA team, a sparkling downtown, a growing downtown research campus, several good metro universities, a lot of economic growth, and more that we would have never dreamed of 15 years ago.

The reason OKC is not Tier 2 technically, yet, is because in terms of convention facilities, we're working with amenities that Tier 3 cities like Omaha and Des Moines would be ashamed of. There is no clear Downtown headquarters hotel, and our convention center is 100,000 SF-tiny, which means a lot of business is going to never even consider OKC for their meeting. Transit is utterly dark ages. We all realize this needs an expensive overhaul. In the next 5 years OKC will officially be funding a new convention center, a massive new downtown park, a light rail system, and several other amenities. Also don't forget that we already have a pretty decent skyline, and a pretty decent downtown that is bustling for the first time in decades.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who wants to wait?

Not me.

We've been waiting on a lot of things right now. Waiting on Devon to release renderings. Waiting on Bennett to release the team name officially (still holding out for Barons!). Waiting on the credit crunch to be over so that we can go back to downtown development as usual. Waiting on MAPS III. Waiting for Village Quail Springs to open, and for University North Park to start on the lifestyle center, etc.. waiting for Tulsa's new Drillers Stadium to begin construction. Waiting to see this announcement of DT Tulsa light rail. Waiting for the River District to open. Waiting for the DT Lawton projects/streetscapes to begin. Waiting for the next time I'll be down in Oklahoma. Waiting for lots of other things.

My school is beginning and I'm busier than heck getting settled down in a new city, going to a new school, and all-new life, etc. I'm ready to pounce as soon as any of these things come out. I'm standing by, trust me, so if anyone is worried or finds my absence odd, don't fret.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Completely tied

For a while I've been noticing the results of the poll that is being taken on the left margin of this blog that will be going on for the next two months. I want to point out that since the inception of this poll the race between Light Rail and C2S as OKC's most-pressing priority has been neck-and-neck, with neither ever really having a majority. It was 1-1, then 2-2, and so on, each time I've checked it. It is now 10-10.

Personally, I voted for light rail. I believe that OKC is big enough to be able to finance a light rail system of decent proportions, and any city that can financially pull it off can become a light rail city regardless of factors that detractors bring up like density, traffic, etc. Basically my belief is that any major city that wants to be a light rail city can do so, all it needs to do is build light rail. Light rail itself transforms any city into a light rail city because of the way it builds up density, adds to the walkability of an area, etc.. even in cities such as Phoenix, where light rail was a success in terms of spurring urban development in Phoenix, probably the worst example of sprawl in the nation.

If light rail can bring up Phoenix's density, it can at least have a similar effect on OKC, if not more drastic. This is because OKC is already a light rail city even without it presently, since OKC was built on light rail. The reason strips such as NW 23rd and Capitol Hill exist is because those were well-traveled streetcar lines. Neighborhoods like Jefferson Park and Gatewood were literally 'streetcar suburbs.' OKC, being a city that was designed around rail when it was born, will see an amazing impact and transformation back to its roots once light rail is running in the city again. Light rail can do for OKC everything that we're looking for: a thriving, bustling downtown with lots of street activity, more density, a decrease in obesity (America's fattest city), and more business at the center of the city as visitors are whisked from Bricktown to MidTown in a New York minute.

That's not to say that C2S isn't an equally bold and important venture that OKC should be focusing more on. OKC is in the lucky position it wasn't 20 years ago where it has multiple things going on right now that will be able to propel the city forward to the next level. Light rail would be the best stimulus for gentrifying the rest of the inner city, C2S is important so that downtown has a new, defining part of downtown, highways are important so that growth further from downtown is managed and the suburbs and downtown don't feel segregated, WRWA expansion is important so that OKC can reach the world non-stop, the new convention center is important so that OKC can position itself as a national leader in business, and the Medical District planning is important because it too is going to become a defining area of OKC, almost a research-oriented C2S, as construction is about to take off on many new facilities that will make OKC a leader in medical research. It's a good time to be in OKC because never before could we have actually had a decent debate over which one thing out of many is the one that will take OKC the furthest. If you voted in the poll, you ought to take a brief few seconds to mention what you voted for and why, and I'll do a follow-up on that later. If you haven't voted in the poll, go vote!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Core to Shore Lofts?

For those who don't believe we will see much impact yet in terms of real development from Core to Shore, this post is for you. Because, hearken, you are about to be proved wrong.

As I was checking Google for anything new on C2S I was a little surprised when I came across a Sperry Van Ness commercial listing for a circa 1919 4-story brick warehouse building off Shields that is being pitched as a perfect site for lofts. The 56,000 SF building and adjacent 30,000 SF warehouse is being marketed for the pretty penny of $4.25 million. I've always thought this building would be a good fit for some pretty cool lofts. So I was glad to see that there's some lofty activity going on in the area already.

The listing mentions the pristine site, and how the area is being revitalized for new offices, retail, and lots and lots of lofts. Unfortunately the listing fails to mention the convention center proposed for C2S. Any guesses why?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cityshot IV

Tulsa's new City Hall Building with Blue Dome District grit in the foreground

CAIR takes a hijab at ANF

Please speak up if you notice anything absurd in the following scenario.

A woman, who is under the age of 18, walks into the Abercrombie & Fitch store at Woodland Hills in Tulsa and attempts to apply for a job, and she is turned down at the interview because she refused to part with her hijab, which apparently is some sort of covering that Islamic fundamentalists like to see women wearing.

And CAIR is suing. CAIR stands for Council on American-Islamic Relations. And it is basically a lobbyist group that's aims are to put every American on a prayer route to Mecca 5 times a day, make sure that every American female is properly wearing her hijab, and make certain that everyone gets their 72 virgins in heaven.

Believe it or not, there is more than just one reason why the scenario is ridiculous, and none of them include the fact that this actually happened. The first is that every higher-end retailer in America whether it be ANF, J. Crew, GAP, Banana Republic, or any other, has 'image guidelines' and one of the primary reason for hiring associates isn't to make sure that the store always looks nice and the clothes are always folded (which if you've ever walked into an Abercrombie store, that rules that out on the quick) but is to promote the company's image, which is the sole reason that they're in the business of selling clothes. And last time I checked Abercrombie's summer line, it didn't include hijabs.

Also as someone that has a lot of experience working for one Abercrombie's lower-end Hollister stores, there are numerous practical and legal reasons why the scenario is ridiculous. First of all the minimum hiring age at ANF stores is 18 due to the racy advertising that is prominently displayed on every wall. The hiring age at Abercrombie Kids stores and Hollister stores, where the wall advertising is a bit more subdued, is 17. I believe that the Tulsa girl was not even 17, so that rules out her application right away whether she applied at ANF or Abercrombie Kids.

Plus I seriously doubt this as a sincere effort to seek a minimum wage-paying job. If it is, my advice is to seriously dissuade her from her chosen path. Working retail is about the least fun you can do, and particularly so if you're far along enough with your college degree to be promoted to Assistant Manager. I know a lot of girls that are Muslim that do NOT wear the hijab. It is hardly required in order to be a devout Muslim no more than it is required to for women to wear a veil during Mass, which some still do. Women elect to cover themselves in the name of modesty, believing that men can not help but view them as sex objects if they don't cover themselves up. Of course this goes along with the line of thinking that women ARE sex objects, which is a role that fundamentalists in almost every major religion are comfortable with. Abercrombie & Fitch is obviously also very comfortable with the line of thinking that women are sex objects and it is probably the last place in the universe that anyone wishing to get away from promiscuity should go. In fact that is the sole reason that ANF employees are called "models" and not "sales associates" like other stores, where a lawsuit like this from CAIR would have been less extremely ridiculous, but still ridiculous.

This is just further Islamic fundamentalist aggravation deep in the heartland of America, where apparently America is most offensive, gaugeing by the reactions of the religious folk. Which is not surprising considering how much news their advances here in Oklahoma have been making lately, with the OU bombing rumors, rumors of an al Qaida cell in Norman, and so on. See, if the people at CAIR were better salesmen, they would already have the folks over at Abercrombie sold on the whole 72 virgins thing, which is way cooler than what awaits good Christians and Buddhists in heaven..

Paris Hilton 2008

I don't know if the glass is half full or half empty. Perhaps Hollywood isn't so bad if it has better politicians than Barack Obama. Or maybe that just speaks to what a joke Barack Obama is. If you haven't seen Paris Hilton's actual response to one of the recent McCain ads, not only does she show Obama how it's done, but she also puts that wrinkly old man in his place. The presidential race takes the strangest twist of all as McCain's spokesman told TMZ of all formidable media outlets that, "on national energy policy, Paris is actually deeper than Barack."

OK, I'm sorry, but if your campaign's chief spokesman is talking to TMZ, who is the celebrity now?? "Paris can be my energizer bunny!" Sorry, but McCain is officially a creepy old man as of now.

But pardon me for a second, but didn't she just propose John McCain's exact energy policy? Offshore drilling + environmental oversight + alternative energy research + tax breaks for hybrid vehicle development (Obama's version of a 'tax break' is that he might not hit hybrid development with new taxes like everything else) .. certainly sounds like McCain's proposal. On the other hand Obama energy policy suggests Americans keep their tires properly inflated, and of course proposes new taxes on everything under the sun.

It shouldn't be at all surprising since the Hilton family have actually been McCain donors and supporters, believe it or not. Until now of course, with the Hilton family calling the McCain campaign "a complete waste of money," in the wake of using Paris' image to lampoon Obama. But apparently, Paris is honored, if you saw her response. And maybe that's not even a bad thing. Think about it, at least The Simple Life had higher approval ratings than the Bush Administration, so it couldn't be any worse than that.

That's hot.

Cityshot III

Amazing pano of West Houston, showing nearly all of Houston's highrises (I did not take this pic)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mum's the word on the Colcord

In March Devon made history in OKC by announcing the undertaking to build a skyscraper that will become a new symbol of a city that has outgrown its comfortable symbols, and one that will not only be the city's tallest, but surely the entire State's, and believe it or not (@ incessant Oklahoma detractors), that's saying something. The state's 4 tallest buildings, all in Tulsa, range from 514-663 feet, which is far taller than anything in most states our size (SC and OR are closest in size). But skyscrapers in both OKC and Tulsa got a much humbler start, as they did everywhere they are found. The first skyscraper ever proposed in Oklahoma was the 12-story Chicago School-style building at the corner of Robinson and Sheridan. Interestingly enough the Colcord Building was planned by Charles Colcord to be a hotel, and while it began construction 2 years after statehood in 1909, it wasn't until being redeveloped in 2006 that it actually became a hotel.

Furthermore the 12-story hotel building was originally planned to have a 'Phase 2' of construction during which the L-shaped building would be a U-shaped one, as shown in this rendering (from Doug's blog).

Today Devon Energy Corp announced that they are purchasing the Colcord Tower and that it will be incorporated into their new mixed-use headquarters campus that will break ground later this year, and change more than just OKC's skyline for quite a while. While mum is the word on their official plans, the following are evident:

  • It will be an integral part of their corporate headquarters
  • It will remain open during construction on the tower
  • Devon clearly has a unique opportunity with the Colcord
  • The Colcord was never actually completed
  • The building will remain an upscale boutique hotel
Furthermore ironic is how those of us in the blogosphere and that regularly post on the OKC forums have been blabbing wet dreams of completing the U-shaped Colcord Hotel some day. This is also further evidence that proves that Devon is sincere about their wish to have a significantly positive community impact with their new headquarters. It's believed that the new Devon Tower will have features like a multi-story enclosed arboretum, perhaps an auditorium for the community, and lots of community meeting space. They have also pledged to incorporate the park across the street, and now the Colcord. They have said they will do significant improvements to the Myriad Gardens, and just like the Gardens, they will likely have some plans that make the Colcord even better, because that's what Devon does.

Now IMAGINE, for a second, the new Devon headquarters at this site. Imagine a 700-footer here at this corner, complete with the things I mentioned above, plus only the best in corporate creature comforts (employee food court, gym, etc) and what he's described as what will be "Oklahoma's grandest lobby" (though nothing will ever be as grand as the Art-Deco Great Banking Hall of the historic First National). Imagine an iconic plaza where the tower meets the Gardens, which you must imagine after significant Devon-funded improvements. Now imagine the U-shape of the Colcord finally coming to fruition. The construction could try to closely match the existing half (and show Bricktown a thing or two) or it could go contemporary, for contrast, which would be better for actually incorporating the Colcord into the site plan.

The benefits of incorporating the Colcord into the Devon's headquarters site plan could be incredible. For one, Devon could further impact downtown, especially the area surrounding the park. All of downtown's corporations benefit if downtown gets something it desperately needs, which right now, downtown needs to bump up its hotel count dramatically as it soldiers on toward becoming a Tier 2 city. More directly this gives Devon a place to lodge visiting employees, shareholders, public officials, etc., and with the excess rooms, Devon can use them to make partnership deals with other local partners of theirs. We know cross-town rival, Chesapeake Energy would scoff at the suggestion, but there are probably over a hundred energy companies located downtown, and Devon has to be on friendly terms with some of them!

WTF is anecdotal whimsy?

As I was putting the finishing touches on this blog and making the announcement to have folks check it out, one thing had me perplexed--WTF is anecdotal whimsy?

Of course I know very well what anecdotal whimsy is. It just sounds so out there..kind of like one of those things that you wish you could immediately take back after you already said it on a first date or something. It almost sounds like something some granola head NYU environmental law student would blog about on his laptop in a first-ran Greenwich Village coffee shop. I'm not like that. First of all, I am writing away from Calgary's Bankview district, and not NYC's Greenwich Village, thank-you-very-much. Second of all, I'm no granola head, again thank-you-very-much! In fact that's what this blog is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be connecting the love for all things urban to average joe thought. Sort of a BRIDGE between the urban elitists that ma and pa (actually ma and pa are pretty well-off, but just bear with me) blame for all of America's problems, and the average John Q folks back home in OKC.

The right-wing politics aspect of this blog seem obvious: to share my right-wing outlook on World politics, which right now, is the American presidential election, thanks to Mr. Obama. The urban advocacy aspect of this blog should also seem obvious: to talk about the cool urban stuff I encounter in my life, whether it be back home in Oklahoma, or up in Canada! The anecdotal whimsy aspect is less obvious perhaps. What I meant by that was just, random, off-the-cuff stories that sum up anything extraordinary that happens to me in my life.

So far nothing extraordinary has happened to me in my life, so thankfully, no anecdotal whimsy, whatever that is.

And I would really like to thank everyone that has perused my blog on its first day open, and feel free to let me know what you think, suggest anything to be covered, or let me know how you feel about what all I'm covering, etc. The point of this blog IS to have readers, and I do want to have readers! Hopefully this blog will leave the kind of impression that other blogs that have come before it have left in terms of advocating the urban for OKC and other cities out there.

Obviously OKC is a very special place to me, and I'd rather not be away from it at this point in my life, but I promise I will come back home better positioned to leave the kind of impressions that I would want to on my adopted hometown. Whether I settle down in OKC, or Galveston where I was born, remains up in the air, but the only thing certain at this point is that I am hardly finished with OKC. I want this blog to have the same kind of impact that Doug Dawg, Steve's OKC Central, and other blogs have had, in informing readers about the life of urban OKC, and perhaps Tulsa, too! And I will be making comparisons to beautiful Calgary whenever possible, just for the purpose of expanding you guys' horizons.

Thanks guys!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cityshot II

West side of Downtown looking over Ft. Calgary Historic Park

'The One,' and only

By now surely we've all seen the recent Internet ad released by the McCain camp. It sarcastically pointed out that Barack Obama, the recent presumptive nominee of the DNC, is also the presumptuous nominee of the DNC. More importantly it proves two very important things: First, it goes over the top without resorting to offensive tactics and shows beyond a doubt how ridiculously egotistical and self-centered Obama has become. Second of all it proves that John McCain still has a witty sense of humor, which the American people will like. John McCain will have to rely on his sense of humor more often if he wants to put away Obama once and for all.

Obama's gift as a great orator notwithstanding, he has a problem if all of his speeches are about the World rising up and fixing everything that most Americans don't believe is wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with being a great orator, but knowing how to channel that gift is key. Obama's problem is that when he channels is all he can do is display how out of touch with the American mainstream he is. All people can talk about is how impressed they are, but is that necessarily a good thing? I for one am very impressed. I have a distinct impression from Barack Obama--a far more distinct impression than I have been given by John McCain. Obama is big news because he's out there, and he's got people on his side, but if anyone thinks that puts John McCain in danger, they are insane. In fact the race is absolutely dead-locked going into this weekend despite Obama's aggressive efforts to distance himself and Obama's stardom in the press and on the nightly news outlets, which is proof that Obama may be special, but to be presidential, he is still going to have to run a presidential campaign just like everyone else that ever wanted to be president.

The Obama camp has come up red-faced in the wake of the recent very good McCain ads that take a stab through the press bias that Obama is getting. They've accused McCain of running a dirty campaign, being cynical, and they tried very hard to accuse him of being racist, too (it should go without saying both campaigns are trying as hard as they can to dump the race card on their opponent). It's more than just disingenuous to accuse McCain of running a dirty campaign and that accusation just further proves how clueless Obama is about American politics. If he thinks McCain will smear him, especially if he thinks McCain already has, then he's going to have another thing coming after the convention. Maybe he could just ask McCain about political smears.

There is a degree of separation between plain-good political ads that are effective and funny, and a down-right smear campaign, and accusing one of being the other is down-right lying from the Obama campaign that they shouldn't get away with, just like they weren't able to get away with accusing McCain of racism. Then they say that McCain needs to focus on McCain and not Obama, which is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard--how can someone not focus on Obama when all the spotlight is on him this month?--and this election has been said over and over to be a referendum on Obama, not McCain, so Obama will just have to get over that. It looks like McCain already has. Some of the most ludicrous press coverage that the swooning press has given the "McCain barrage" (lmao!) comes from veritable threats to McCain such as The Australian. It seems like the International community (which is to say, the not-American community) has their hopes riding on Obama.

"Berlin, can I count on your vote?"
"Yes, we can."

Cityshot I

Downtown skyline overlooking Sheridan Avenue in Bricktown, OKC

Rename SW 25th Street

In some places along SW 25th Street in the old Capitol Hill district, the street signs actually read "Commerce Street." In most places, the street signs read "SW 25th Street" and the addresses for all businesses along here are split between 25th and Commerce. So which is which?

To me SW 25th Street resembles the decay of the Capitol Hill district following the advent of Crossroads Mall and the white flight to points in Cleveland County. This is just a part of the century-plus long history of the Capitol Hill district which became around 1900, and was formally chartered in 1905, just two years before Statehood in 1907. What exists today along SW 25th Street is merely a reminder of the once-thriving city that once stood here right after the turn of the 20th century.

Capitol Hill is basically an inner city ghost town. It is the equivalent of towns like Picher, which had over 30,000 inhabitants and then whithered away because of air not fit to breath, and now recently, a tornado. Or like Tombstone which had 15,000 and then whithered away after fires, floods, and emptied mines. Capitol Hill was once a thriving independent suburb of OKC. Even though past population statistics for Capitol Hill (prior to merging with OKC) are nonexistent, the 1910 Census shows OKC having around 65,000 residents. One year later OKC annexed the City of Capitol Hill, but Capitol Hill retained a degree of separateness and over time the area had suffered significant population losses, business had entirely left once-booming Commerce Street, and the once autonomous district clinging for its identity was virtually dead, and not long after, it's rich history and identity was dead, too.

Long forgotten were the days when the city was a 1910 "Moore" or "Midwest City." Though the reality is that comparing Capitol Hill to a historic version of Moore or Midwest City is an insult to the quality of city building that existed back in the day. The Suburban Railway Company operated a streetcar system in the city, with a line that ran up and down Commerce Street, which was the downtown for the south side of Oklahoma County, and of course, the streetcar connected to rail across the river in OKC. And long gone are the department stores on Commerce Street, like Brown's, and Penney's (although Sears is still on S. Western after several decades in business). And most forgotten of all is the neighborhood's Irish heritage, which is mentioned in this Dustbury post. The truth is that S. OKC's strong Catholic Heritage runs much deeper than Hispanic migration. The reason for Catholic institutions like St. Mary's, the Mount St. Mary School, St. James, and so on, is because the kind of suburb Capitol Hill became was one assembled of stout Irish heritage. It may be unfathomable for anyone who has trekked through the area in the last 20 years and thought the Oklahoma Opry was a little out of place.

Today there are good feelings all around Capitol Hill over a revival. Life has been poured back into historic Commerce Street. Shows still go on at the old Oklahoma Opry, to the west traffic backs up on Western Avenue for many blocks during the day. East of the Opry, there are now shops, bakeries, Mexican eateries, American eateries, businesses, law firms, community organizations, and so on. The new streetscape along Commerce Street has brought in new businesses and activity into the district. A large swath of S. OKC that used to have abandoned homes and no activity or street life now boasts families in homes that have found the American dream in Capitol Hill. Churches enjoy packed congregations, whether they're one of the 4 Catholic churches in the area, or one of the dozens of Baptist, Methodist, or other denomination churches. Schools are so packed that a majority of Maps for Kids money is actually being allocated for new and expanded schools in S. OKC.

There are good feelings all around Capitol Hill, but much work remains to be done. It is doubtful if the city is willing to make the kind of investment in Capitol Hill that has been proven to work in several other areas of the inner city. It is time to bring back Capitol Hill's heritage and identity. Many of the original south side families are still there on the south side, and others would be astonished. Many of the original graduates of Capitol Hill High School and U.S. Grant High School still live in S. OKC, just right on the other side of I-240. Many of the elderly in the area trace their families to the original 1889 Land Run, and remember running family businesses butcher shops, bakeries, groceries, newspapers, etc that all called Capitol Hill home. It is time to bring back the legacy of Commerce Street, because perhaps then the area will be as close as it ever was to its once-thriving self. Dominoes will fall into place once SW 25th Street gets completely reverted back to its original name. There are so many things one can imagine that could turn Capitol Hill into a star, or at least an exciting and vibrant modern, urban district. But first let's just bring back Commerce Street, just like it was.