It is the hope of many that even the core of downtown Oklahoma City can some day become a vibrant, mixed-use arena. I would like to ask those who spoke in opposition to Preservation Oklahoma today, how they intend for that to ever come about. It is evidently clear that many of them have no such hope, no such intention, and no such wish.
Board of Adjustment commissioner Michael Dunn, who spoke first and gave a damning assessment of the economic viability of downtown residential as a whole, based his conclusion on a lack of parking downtown. Where will a happy family of 4 living downtown park all those cars? His assertion was that residential is completely impossible without specifically attached parking.
I think you can apply that to anywhere downtown, and you can include Bricktown to that mix as well. MidTown is going to have to lose some buildings to make way for some surface lots, but it's still doable there, according to Mr. Dunn. I think we should not take lightly AT ALL his comment and that it is not even beginning to scratch the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can presume by his statement to believe that Dunn is referring to a commonly held belief (apparently) that downtown residential is an impossible proposition.
I think Dunn was also inventing some facts. He conceded that the Park Harvey did have around 95% occupancy, but alluded to that occupancy dropping to 40% when parking was no longer available at the City Center/Galleria Parking Garage (Devon's new garage). I wonder what Dick Tanenbaum would have to say about such a negative analysis of one of the keystones of his real estate portfolio. I also wonder what Dunn would say to the Regency Tower, which has room for some residents to park on-site, but not even close to all. It has been a very successful investment, and will continue to be so for its new Omaha-based owners, speaking of whom I believe Barrett Williamson mentioned were preliminarily interested in the KerMac or India Temple bldgs. Dunn also corrected us all on City Code, which apparently recommends demolition when economic feasibility isn't where one would want it to be. So I guess we were all wrong on that. For future reference I would be VERY interested in seeing where exactly it says that, or if that is in the recent puzzling legal opinion from the city attorney's office, and if it is an actual part of the Code then why we weren't briefed on that by city staff whose sole directive was to inform the board where the project stands with City Code. I guess whoever compiled the exhaustive report recommending denial of SandRidge Commons would also be very interested in Mr. Dunn's revelations provided today.
This misconception of economic feasibility certainly seems to be the basis that today's 3-1 vote was based on, so it would have been interesting to have gotten a final word on its applicability BEFORE the verdict was already in. Other interesting observations..
It was fascinating to me to see Jim Allen cover his tracks from the last meeting where he voted in favor of saving the India Temple. He gave a complete public apology for doing so and iterated that he cast his vote "in error." I just hope whoever he was apologizing to will eventually forgive him.
The other two votes didn't ever give a single comment on the application today. At the last meeting, chairman-elect David Wanzer voted to save both buildings, and cast the lone vote in favor of Preservation Oklahoma today. Wanzer conducted the meeting very efficiently and gave each side an ample opportunity to express their conditions. Chairman-emeritus Rod Baker, who voted to save the KerMac but not the India Temple at the last meeting, cast a vote against Preservation Oklahoma in its entirety today and did not open his mouth a single time. Wanzer had to recognize the motion laid out by Jim Allen, who I don't think understands parliamentary procedure in spite of being a veteran of service on city boards and having fought for a lot of great things in the past.
The motion was laid out prematurely before Wanzer or Baker got to speak, but I'm not going to say the two weren't glad to have an opportunity to avoid speaking and just get straight to the voting. Can't say it made any difference because with these types of things, usually everyone's mind is already made up.
And that is how the cookie, and the buildings, crumble. I think we need to remember Michael Dunn's words, and I believe that they will be in a book someday--similarly to I.M. Pei who is quoted in Steve Lackmeyer's Second Time Around saying "You are whistling in the dark if you ever think streetcars will ever be successful again in downtown." Or something like that.
This is a huge historical blunder that we are in the midst of.