Monday, September 28, 2009

Downtown Norman: Revitalization complete

Just wanted to post a few photos of how amazingly well the revitalization of Downtown Norman has gone. Here they be.

Pics taken over the summer..

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New MAPS3 renderings

I think arguably I've posted more renderings about potential MAPS3 projects than anyone else, but here are some new ones that came out. The Chamber launched a new MAPS3 campaign website at where they do a lot more to explain the projects than anyone anywhere else has, namely the City of OKC itself. I think though perhaps they aren't doing that at risk of promoting the ballot too heavily, or maybe they just "stink at life," I don't know.

Here are the new ones that haven't been posted anywhere on this blog yet:

Overall, I'm excited to see the streetcar renderings. Even though I know it won't look anything like that. For one, if they put streetcar in they would probably end up making Sheridan look nicer, and secondly there aren't any tracks OR wires in the street in those pictures. But it is still exciting for them to show us a picture of Sheridan with streetcar going down it, with Bricktown buildings and the Devon Tower lining the street in the background.

The convention center rendering is a joke. All of the C2S illustrations are way better (2 different designs), even though the location they have in mind is horrible. In the end we know these renderings are preliminary just to show the concepts of streetcar and convention center, yet the convention center rendering is so horribly atrocious. That is exactly what a $280 million convention center does NOT look like no matter what. That thing is worse-looking than the Myriad would have been had it not become the Cox Center, and it reminds me of Tulsa's outdated convention center that they're renovating. Perhaps it would have made up for it if it showed the OKC skyline or Bricktown in the background..

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How a convention center hotel is funded

I came across this Dallas Business Journal editorial from Dallas mayor Tom Leppert arguing the case for Dallas' controversial convention center hotel. The hotel has been a large source of controversy in the Dallas area because other hotel owners are upset that a hotel development is getting public assistance, and the Libertarian crowd are upset that a developer in general is getting public assistance. Proponents argue that it is not public assistance and that in fact Dallas needs this hotel desperately if its convention center is to remain competitive on the national scene. You be the judge.

Leppert argues that the city is merely using bonds that it quickly repays because it's easier than getting private financing, and the city ends up with a profit out of the whole deal. The revenue the hotel generates goes toward some kind of expedited repayment of the bonds. He mentions that Houston recently sold their Hilton Americas (that the City of Houston owned) for a large profit, making money in the end on the whole deal.

He also argues that with all of Dallas' competition building these kinds of hotels, in order for Dallas to remain competitive, it too must have a large 1,000-room hotel ATTACHED to the convention center. "The convention center is a $1 billion asset we must protect." The operative belief is that Dallas would have lost money had they not chose to build the hotel.

That's not to say that the hotel is a convincing issue. It would not have become a reality without a pro-business City Council coalition pushing it through, despite the overwhelming citizen disapproval for the project. One great example is here. "When you plan your next convention, be sure to book it at Dallas' only city-owned hotel. We'll make your experience memorable, and provide a variety of official forms for you to file in case we don't live up to your expectations."

Another interesting fact, from Leppert: "Once the Dallas City Council voted to proceed with a hotel, the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau saw a record-breaking rise in major convention bookings, making Dallas No. 1 in the state." So not having the convention center hotel had been holding Dallas back, behind Houston (who does have a convention center hotel). With just an official announcement and ground not even turned yet, it has already made a very real impact on Dallas' convention business.

So we have to ask eachother, as we build one of these new 21st century convention centers ourselves, does OKC need one of these large 1,000-room convention centers? When should it be built, after the convention center is finished, or along with it? How should we fund it? Are we ready to compete with major cities like Dallas and Houston?

Friday, September 18, 2009

ODOT high-speed rail meeting

This is a taping of a high-speed rail meeting that ODOT had this last week in Tulsa to talk to citizens about the recent application for Stimulus funding for the OKC-Tulsa link.

Downtown Houston "monument"

Anyone that's familiar with Houston knows that it sure feels like it at times..

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The actual breakdown of $777 million

As we know, MAPS 3..announced today..$777 million. If you didn't know that, read the post below. I guestimated on the breakdown, and it turns out I was right..the convention center will be shortsighted. I think I suggested it get $350 million... try a little over $250 million, but whatever. Here's the total breakdown from this City pdf:

The Park: $130 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: 2 blocks wide between I-40 and the boulevard, only one block wide south of I-40.

Transit: $130 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: Will include streetcar and possibly commuter rail depending on whether the City can get a matching federal grant for fixed rail transit. (Commuter rail to MWC will already happen regardless.)

Convention Center: $280 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: The official proposal does not specify a location for the convention center like it does the park.

Sidewalks: $10 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: The 2008 bond issue included $68 million for sidewalks to be placed next to all resurfacing projects, but this is for "strategically placed sidewalks" near inner-city schools and libraries and connecting other sidewalk segments.

Trails: $40 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: The city has a trails masterplan that won't be complete unless this initiative passes.

River improvements: $60 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: They think they can do a small stadium, Lincoln Bridge improvements, a whitewater attraction, a floating stage, and more for just $60 million.

Senior centers: $50 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: The proposal omits specifics about where they will be, how many there will be, etc.. but I imagine probably placed in the wards of Skip Kelley and Brian Walters.

Fairgrounds: $60 million..additional nuggets of wisdom: No expo center.

The file also includes statements of support from councilmen Ryan and McAtee. Pete White, Meg Salyer, and others were in attendance at the press conference.

3 MAPS, 8 projects, 7 years, 1 city

Mayor Mick today unveiled the new MAPS 3 proposal that he has in mind. It will cost $777 million, including an extra $17 million in contingency funding, calling for a 7 year and 9 month penny tax extension. Personally I think this is low. It includes funding for 8 projects intended to appease a diverse range of citizens, making it likely to pass. The 8 projects are:

  1. New 70-acre downtown park, currently being designed by Hargreaves. I've heard of 3 concepts being explored, one sort of plays up natural topographical forms here in Oklahoma, a second focuses on a water feature, and a third focuses on land features.
  2. New downtown streetcar system as well as the potential for start-up funding for other rail projects such as commuter lines (to MWC) and a transit hub that the City Council asked ACOG to start looking into.
  3. New downtown convention center. I have to say I'm concerned about this because they will likely put it in the wrong place and underfund it, saying "we can leave open the potential for future expansion." Don't get too excited about this item, especially if there is only $760 to go around for all 8 projects.
  4. More sidewalks to be placed throughout the city..which was also included on the $900+ million bond issue passed in 2008. I'd be curious to hear from Mayor Mick why an item included on the last bond issue has not had progress made on it and why we need to include it on MAPS 3 as well.
  5. 57 miles of new trails throughout the city. Likely a great idea because it's an inexpensive item that helps persuade some citizens, such as seniors, who might not otherwise support a list of downtown-specific projects. With a 57 miles in routes, it's likely that many prospective voters would be passed by such routes.
  6. Improvements to the Oklahoma River, including a public whitewater facility and the upgrades that the Boathouse Foundation has suggested
  7. "State-of-the-art" health and aquatic wellness centers "throughout the city" for seniors
  8. Improvements to the Fairgrounds..probably on a much smaller scale than what they had initially asked for out of MAPS 3.
With $760 million to go's how I see it. We'll see how far I am when they go into greater detail at next Tuesday's meeting, when the City Council will be expected to vote on this.

Convention Center - $320 million
Oklahoma River - $100 million
Downtown Streetcar - $120 million
Core to Shore Park - $100 million
City-wide Trail System - $30 million
Sidewalks Initiative - $20 million
State Fairgrounds - $50 million
Senior Centers - $70 million

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Railway District

Woah check this out. This is a huge development that the Garrett Moore Company has planned for the area along Oklahoma Avenue north of the FlatIron area (between I-235 and the tracks, and bounded by NE 10th on the north side). To me it looks like a lot of surface parking and I just hope they preserve the few remaining really awesome historic warehouses currently there. Of course it should be noted that the Garrett Moore Company is also behind the mixed-use Riverwalk Plaza project in Moore that was supposed to break ground 3 years ago.

Great website for Film Row

The guy who put this website up recently posted a comment on my pics of the streetscape work beginning, but I wanted to bring this to the forefront. This is a really good website with lots of information, lots of pictures, and lots of history .. just lots of everything on Film Row. Check it out.

Council moves on commuter rail

3 new revelations in getting commuter rail up and running in OKC..

1. OKC City Council voted this week to pass a resolution in support of Midwest City's request for federal grants to do commuter rail between Tinker AFB and Downtown OKC.

2. The resolution, according to Mayor Mick indicates OKC's willingness to come up with a funding match should it be necessary to obtain a federal grant. Also the resolution indicated interest in obtaining federal grants for a Norman-Edmond line, yet I think that's neither here nor there and they should have left that out.

3. On the same measure they also asked ACOG to do a study to determine the best location for a possible downtown multi-modal transit hub.

Of course with that, the question remains.. don't we think we should hold off on a MAPS 3 package until we know the best location for a downtown transit hub? Believe it or not transit is kinda important.

More on the Midwest City line
The route follows an existing rail right-of-way that the state bought up for cheap (about $350,000), which according to ACOG officials, gives Midwest City a $20 million advantage over other cities when it comes to putting in a commuter rail link to Downtown OKC. The total cost of the proposed line is slightly above $12 million for five miles (route map here). About $5 million for the rail cars, and about $7 million for rehabilitation of the rails.

With all that said, I think it's fair to question whether this line is really a good idea. What is it really connecting? Midwest City jokes aside, this is basically connecting downtown to Tinker AFB..connecting the #1 concentration of jobs to the #2 concentration of jobs (granted there are 55,000 people that live in MWC). Whereas a Norman-Edmond line would connect several larger residential suburbs to downtown and link a few inner-city areas together as well, obviously a better deal.

Before you're put off on whether MWC/Tinker needs a commuter rail line to downtown, consider that the recent 2005 Downtown Housing Study cited that the overwhelming majority of downtown residents do not even work in downtown, or close to downtown. So in the context of growing downtown, stop thinking of downtown as a concentration of jobs and start thinking of it as a viable residential community no different from the Deer Creek or Moore areas, just a different style. With over 26,000 employees at Tinker, think of how accessible this makes downtown housing to thousands of stable, high incomes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Oklahoma River masterplan..a must see video

Definitely have to check this out.

River Stadium
Floating Stage
"Riverglow" theme
Lighting and wind protection
Bridge elevators
White Water rapids
Jumbotron scoreboards
to name a few..