Thursday, July 29, 2010

10th Street Rising

Disclaimer: This is a post I have had in the works for weeks, and in my opinion, is still incomplete. Going to go ahead and put it up since I'm not going to get the information I'm looking for, after two weeks of placing calls at the Planning Department (where the phone oft goes unanswered) and sending emails to individuals. This is put together after evaluating the 10th Street Medical Business District Final Report and combining it with my own general knowledge of what is happening in this area.

An overview of the area of MidTown OKC under the changes proposed by the Medical Business District Final Report.

First of all, the purpose of the newly-formed Medical Business District (which will be referred to as MDB), which is basically just MidTown OKC, is a corridor along NW 10th Street that links the Oklahoma Health Center to Saint Anthony's Hospital and the medical cluster around there. The idea is that 10th can grow by serving the demands of the burgeoning health industry that anchor it on each ends..and that is a large, untapped resource for growth considering the needs to remain unfilled. While the Saint Anthony's end is becoming home to a critical mass of good restaurants, there is very little in the way of that across I-235 albeit a Quizno's and hospital cafeterias (Yum).

We are also finding out that these hospitals, the Medical District in particular, would benefit from having a hotel nearby for family members of overnight patients. Something like the proposed Embassy Suites just south of the new OU Cancer Institute in the Medical District--a project that has not moved forward after 4 years of being on the boards. It is also worth mentioning that at least one of the properties owned by MidTown Redevelopment/Renaissance/Whatever (the old Marion Hotel) is a former hotel, just as it is also worth noting that Marva Ellard proposed a mixed-use project with a significant amount of boutique hotel rooms at NW 13th and Walker that OCURA put the kibosh on--Marva was at one point rumored to be intent on taking her concept somewhere else in MidTown, but there has been a recession since then.

Other needs in the way of development that have gone unmet in MidTown and in the Oklahoma Health Center are typical office and housing needs. With the city's largest concentration of high incomes, the Oklahoma Health Center would benefit from seeing some more specially-targeted housing be developed between that area and downtown--just as Saint Anthony's would benefit from more housing being made available MidTown. Only MidTown has housing available and more on the works, with absolutely nothing coming in the Medical District. Health clusters also have a huge demand for office space, as often times surgeons, and physicians, and doctors of all stripes don't office in the actual hospital unless they are specifically hospital management--this means a market for nearby Class A office space.

These developments intended to serve what already anchors 10th are intended to go in certain areas of the MDB, defined as A, B, C, D, and E.

A: The OCURA redevelopment site at 13th and Walker. This area apparently justifies its own offset area, but I'll go into the development statuses later. The intention is to do something mixed-use, but primarily residential, and tie in the nearby Heritage Hills neighborhood. They recommend 80-120 housing units.

B: Between Saint Anthony's and Classen Blvd. Infill has been stymied by land speculation driven up by perceived potential demand for office space around Saint Anthony's, and another challenge identified is the damaging "welcome" you get when entering the area on Classen, and yet another challenge are the unsightly enormous surface parking lots that plague the area. It is an area of many challenges. It calls for connected 11th St between Classen and Shartel and large-scale residential and retail redevelopment. It does not touch on the issue of contemporary infill occurring in the SoSA area (between 6th and 9th) though it does mention that the area has 45 vacant single family lots available for such projects. It suggests that Classen Blvd development have no setback and something be done with the surface parking around the Surgeons and Physicians Tower. Total development: 264 res units, 54,000 sf new office, 65,000 sf new retail.

In between B & C: The Saint Anthony campus masterplan is as follows. Notice the two new buildings, which I demarcated with red dots, and the proposed new surface parking lots, which are the yellow dots. The two new buildings are to the south of the current campus, with the larger new building proposed south of the recently finished Surgeon's Office Building at Walker and 9th (with the Starbucks on the ground level).


C: The defining feature of area C is the extension of Classen Drive, different from Classen Blvd, which diagonally cuts through MidTown, and will have new traffic circle interchanges at 9th and Hudson and 8th and Harvey, its terminus. There will also be a new traffic circle at 13th and Shartel. These traffic circles were funded by the 2007 G.O. Bond. There is also a park proposed on 10th between Hudson and Harvey, on the site formerly occupied by the Red Cross Building. The plan calls for high-density mixed use in area C, they must have forgotten about projected development counts though--or intentionally left it out due to the flexibility of high-density.

D: This area has some interesting opportunities, with the prospective commuter rail coming through here making a transit-oriented development (TOD) very possible (think Mockingbird Station in Dallas), and also the fact that it represents one of few large scale redevelopment opportunities downtown, where you can really do an RFP for a HUGE site and see what kind of mixed-use development we get out of it, though the last time we did that..we got The Hill. The report proposes creating a new N/S street adjacent to the east side of the BNSF tracks, make Oklahoma Ave two-way, activate Campbell Park (parallel to N. Broadway), realigning a 235 ramp, focus on the potential for a TOD, among other things I see here.

(Just as a side note, I would seriously question how the development appears to be inward-facing on the newly created N/S doesn't turn its back on Broadway or Campbell Park, but I feel like it needs to have more presence in connection to the REST of downtown, Broadway, and even the MDB area. Orienting the buildings primarily toward Campbell Park would create a much stronger sense of place on Broadway to connect it to other downtown areas--and it would give Campbell Park an almost "Jackson Square-like" feeling.) The red dot marks the spot for the old Bond Bakery building.

E: This is a proposed extension of the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park north of 10th Street. It is suggested that the density be higher here than on the current PHF campus, and recommends that PHF try to raise density on their campus--which as it stands is not even built out to the original proposal. Also proposed a new 235 ramp for 10th Street, pedestrian and aesthetic improvements for the 10th Street bridge, and connecting the grid to the current PHF campus. Proposes 31,000 sf of new retail and 190,000 sf of new office/R&D.

TOTAL: The total numbers for MBD development, which is anticipated to be near complete in 2020 (yeah, right) are as follows: 450,000-800,000 sf of new office space, 130,000-175,000 sf of new retail space, 200-250 new hotel rooms, 1,500-2,000 new residential units. Keep in mind that the 2005 Downtown Housing Study noted that downtown could absorb as many as 8,000 new housing units by 2015 (we'll be lucky to get 2,000, in reality)--so 2,000 for the MidTown OKC area is not at all unreasonable.

Let's also keep in mind that there are a number of projects potentially in the works. We know that Mickey Clagg and Bob Howard (MidTown Redevelopment/Renaissance/Whateverthenameisrightnow) are progressing mightily on the redevelopment of several properties. A half-dozen or so smaller apartment buildings have been refurbished west of Walker, mostly by Clagg/Howard. These projects have gone off without much hoopla but have added a significant residential presence. They are also progressing on their bldgs at 10th and Robinson, with the Hadden Hall lofts nearing completion, the Packard Building nearing completion, and the Guardian Lofts very well underway. The Cline Hotel will also be residential of some sort, it appears. I have also heard that they are more actively reviewing the 1100 and 1101 buildings (at 10th and Broadway) and a number of possibilities may await these buildings, so we'll have to wait and see on that, but an announcement will probably be coming (by the end of this year, I would imagine). 1212 Walker and the Osler Lofts are also still on, just not a priority right now for them.

The city has acquired the Red Cross bldg, completed the asbestos abatement, and demolished the bldg--the site has been cleared. Interestingly though, despite being recommended by the final report to become green space, the city is pursuing RFPs for redevelopment proposals. On the other city-action redevelopment site, Overholser Green appears to be dead in its tracks. They are fixing to get a short-term extension from OCURA that I don't think they should be given, so we will have to wait even longer until OCURA can open it up with a new RFP and maybe we can get a...more committed developer in there. Wiggin Properties seems more interested in Downtown Tulsa right now, anyway. That's just my opinion, though. The Palo Duro II project, which was one of those "rendering bait and switch" projects that we love so much (compare original rendering to what was actually built, and you'll see what I mean), is also finished at Hudson and 12th. The Grateful Bean Cafe is also closing, but the building owner is just going to replace it with a different restaurant concept that can be more competitive in the new MidTown scene.

I pointed out the Bond Bakery because Gary Hasenflu, a noted historic redeveloper from KC (Cold Storage Lofts + numerous OK projects) is working on a deal to redevelop the Bond Bakery into apartments that I hope is still on the table after we rescued the historic tax credits. There is also a plan to turn the Java Dave's space into a new deli, and Java Dave's will be moving into a smaller space. Also let's not forget the housing Marva Ellard has been very successful with (Seiber Hotel), and if the rumors are true that she is interested in taking her Mercy Park concept to a different site, perhaps she would be interested in doing a TOD in the offset area D? The Campbell Park-front sites are still owned by Bert Belanger, who demo'd the old flop houses that once stood at that site. Before the recession, he said he was planning a large mixed-use development, which is obviously no longer on.

I'll end with the unanswered questions I had for the Planning Department staff which have to do with the following:

1. There has been some confusion out there regarding the public classification of Medical Business District, Inc. It appears to me as what would be called a quasi-government organization, in that it looks like a private incorporated group, but in effect acts as a development surrogate for the city. The coordinator for this group is Robbie Kienzle, a redevelopment specialist with the Planning Department. The board is made up completely of civic figures. They have an website. Articles interchangeably refer to it as the city. Yet there are people out there adamantly insisting that MDB, Inc. is entirely separate from the city and 100% private--so could someone clear this up? Interestingly, the very number that one of these people told me to call at City Hall never answers her phone, so it's almost worth just writing the whole concern off altogether.

2. The Final Report recommends making the Red Cross site a green space project, but the MDB is pursuing private redevelopment concepts. 1, how has the response to that been; and 2, why did they opt to go with the private redevelopment over a public green space?

3. The Classen Drive extension was funded in 2007, and since it is a bond project, I don't understand why we haven't already begun with extending the road, let alone with right-of-way acquisition necessary to begin with first. When is the Classen Drive extension finally going to get underway? If these developments are supposed to be finished by 2020, and Classen Drive is the pivotal lynchpin toward redevelopment of the central swath of MidTown OKC--what's the hold-up?

4. How do we intend to route the streetcar system through the MDB? Most proposals I've seen have it running along 11th or 12th to avoid the traffic circles, but it would be possible for a streetcar to circumnavigate or more likely just transect a traffic circle, though you may have to have flashing stopping lights to clear the traffic circle of traffic before the streetcar can travel through there. Would it not be well-worth it to have streetcar contribute toward the sense of place and also as a development impetus for the 10th Street corridor--I just don't see why so much emphasis is placed on activating 10th Street as a focal point for MidTown, and then we would run the streetcar down 11th (which is not even contiguous) rather than 10th. It is one of the many things going on right now that I do not understand at all.


Sid Burgess said...

Great research. I am really excited to see this corridor solidify and grow. I am also curious just how much Lincoln south could be impacted eventually creating a complete loop on the east/south-east side of the area.

Doug Dawg said...

Excellent job, Nick.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

Thanks Doug, and Sid--I think Lincoln is largely detached because of the 235 valley. It will have to do with how effectively we are able to bridge 235, I think--and how strong of an impression we're able to create by framing 235 with dense development. In order to bridge it, I guess you could say we need to create a "highway-wall" (as opposed to a streetwall) in order to get some kind of contiguously urbanized region together.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

In addition, let me just say that I doubt it will ever happen. I doubt that the city is very committed to this plan, and there is plenty of proof to it, such as numerous developments underway that are highly non-conforming with the recommendations made in this study..setbacks, parking lots, demolitions, etc. I also doubt that there will be enough development activity (in spite of surging demand) to create these urban neighborhoods any time in my lifetime. We're talking about this in addition to Deep Deuce, Arts District/Film Row, Bricktown, the downtown core, and Core2Shore, all of which have high hopes for mixed-use attention. Something's gotta give..

Sid Burgess said...

Great points. I just love Lincoln as a road and I see so much potential. Granted, a lot of building needs to occur.