Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bring on a new game changer

Game changers enter the picture and come downtown every other month now it seems, which is great considering the recession. MAPS 3 one month, Myriad Gardens renovation plans come out the next month, Devon breaks ground the next month, fast forward, and now we have a new potential game changer. And even though it seems like not long ago OCU had finished the Sarkeys Law Center, Fred Jones Hall just recently announced that his family's downtown building, the old Fred Jones plant, will soon become the new OCU Law School--which will be a $30-50 million renovation project.

Downtown has long been a montage with doctors on the east, and lawyers on the west. I would say a majority of Oklahoma City attorneys office on the west side of downtown due to its proximity to the County Jail and the old Courthouse, not to mention other attorneys and various legal services. Now OCU announced they're looking to get their law school in the fray of things, and they've gotten more certain about it with one added caveat: IF MAPS 3 passes.

So now MAPS 3 has to pass, and it's already gained what I like to call "an impact guarantee." When people pass public initiatives they like to be able to look back and say that it's had impact. We look back on the original MAPS and say it had a $5 billion impact on downtown. We'd like to be able to look back on MAPS 3 and say it had a similarly huge impact on downtown, which it will. But we can do one better--now we have groups promising to move downtown if MAPS 3 passes, so we can anticipate exactly what some of that impact will be: OCU Law moving downtown, into the old Fred Jones plant--a building I've always been fond of.

And then the reason that OCU Law could be a potential game changer is what it adds to a growing education sector that's downtown. Between the ACM@UCO and OCU Law, downtown will have at least 2,000 college students. With that should come housing that students can afford, restaurants and coffee shops students will want, and more. Also should downtown pass a threshold of 2,000 students, it's likely that other schools might be attracted to move into downtown. It also ruled out the Fred Jones plant as the future home for the ACM, which will have to look at expanding somewhere else.

Add into the mix all of the medical students at the OU Health Sciences Center in the Oklahoma Health Center just east of downtown and the picture starts to get big. Graduate students will be a very big part of downtown's future, and the OUHSC is still growing rapidly as well. The mix is diverse, and big. The possibilities are varied. In downtown Indianapolis there's a large college consortium shared by Indiana University and Purdue University--the two big state schools in Indiana. The IUPUI campus (Indiana-Purdue Indianapolis) itself has 22,000 undergrad students, 30,000 including grad students, and a $600 million endowment separate from IU or Purdue. To illustrate the impact IUPUI has had on downtown Indy, they recently just finished a $1 billion building campaign. I know OKC leaders have spent a lot of time in Indy studying what they've done with sports and the convention industry, but they should look at what they've doen with higher education as well.

1 comment:

mwheatley said...

Most interesting, thanks for posting this.