Friday, December 30, 2011

News on NW 9th?

Was by the Iguana today and noticed that across 9th Street is a sign that S&B Burgers (currently on North May), known for its delicious greasy burgers, is hiring. The sign was directly in front of an old brick building (I think) that I'd previously heard was "perfect for a burger joint."

So I'll put two and two together. Is S&B either moving or opening a new location on NW 9th? If so, that could be a huge success. Already a decent following, plus a really well-suited business model for the 9th Street crowd.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Coffee and snacks @ Nonna's

For all the negativity I may have expressed regarding Avis Scaramucci, which I believe was rightly deserved for the current Bricktown doldrums, I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. Just the other day I had some time to kill, so I and a friend visited the Purple Bar to catch up--I had some coffee and a few delicious orange madelines (hard to describe, but I highly recommend) and took in the incredible view from above Nonna's.

Bricktown may have run out of steam under Avis' watch, but that doesn't mean that the entire Nonna's compound, retail, bar, restaurant, and all (including the heart-warming story of an Italian emigre family from Krebs) is an OKC classic. Avis truly does things right with Nonna's, and perhaps that alone is justification to run the show.

So let me pose a question to readers, and feel free to comment and share your opinion, although I know many of you are lurkers. Is it better to "lead by example" or lead with your votes? One could argue that Scaramucci has been rather lenient on the Bricktown Suburban Design Commission. One could also argue that Nonna's, from an urban design standpoint, is the standard-bearer for Bricktown in terms of development, maybe even restaurant quality (although too many good restaurants for that one to be clear-cut).

So which is more important?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crazy prediction for 2012: FNC

Steve Lackmeyer has been covering the heck out of the Yashoua-however-you-spell it indictment. The Village Voice, one of the nation's most respected alternative news outlets (think Gazette, but with history) has named Yash one of NYC's worst slumlords. The head honcho of LA-based Milbank Real Estate, and notorious absentee landlord/slumlord of OKC's once-proud First National Center, is looking at some hard prison time that might be well-deserved just for how he's ruined the Arcade level of the FNC. I'd put him in prison and throw away the key just for that (kidding, slightly). He's not an investor; he's a divestor.

The FNC is one of OKC's most iconic buildings. This property can not afford to go through another cycle of these kinds of owners. Something has to be done if we want to rescue this building.

So here it is, my crazy prediction for 2012 (a few days early nonetheless): A local group of investors, it may or may not include some of the usual suspects and/or "Allied" Alliance "Allies," will form together and make a play for ownership of the FNC. The city will get involved and try hard to put together another Skirvin-type deal, it will be difficult simply because Empowerment Zone resources have been spent already and that pot of money won't be replenished until either the Skirvin is totally paid off or it gets sold to a bigger hotel chain. I think the Skirvin is fine the way it is, but I'm also confident that the City can put together some kind of deal here. It may just be a typical TIF that the Alliance is offering up to anyone, and that could work.

But I believe we are getting closer and closer to a local investment group making a play to save the FNC. That's undoubtedly an optimistic prediction, so who knows, but one can certainly hope. As for what we might see, I have no idea. I have to believe that if it's led by local investors (who aren't the MidtownR people) the redevelopment project will be as unimaginative as possible.

Maybe even all office, considering that's back in demand right now, and these people believe that downtown can thrive as 100% office and that even constitutes "mixed-use." Regardless of whatever it becomes, I just hope to see the FNC saved one day. But the Mercantile Building in Downtown Dallas would serve as a smashing mixed-use (condo and hotel) example, and a very similar situation I believe, as well.

Friday, December 23, 2011

LEVEL update pics

Construction update on LEVEL: Friday, Dec. 23rd, 2011. The stucco was being applied to the south edifice--it's definitely a great touch, and looks even better than in the renderings. This is great news for those who were slightly disconcerted that the stucco might be mistaken in appearance for EIFS. The black-gray brick on the street level has been added to the east side, along Walnut Avenue, and boy is it sharp as well. Think Central Avenue Villas.

Even better is the idea that -shocking- we can take a developer at his word when he says he will design and build a quality project.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Artist ghettos and prolonged dust bowl

Back in town for a few weeks, I took to the streets today and just drove around town, catching up on the progress in certain parts of town--today I caught up on the north side. I always think it's good to step away from a situation or a place and then reexamine it later with fresh eyes. So it was today with these fresh eyes that I've come to two particularly interesting observations.

We often strive to maximize land values out of neighborhoods and districts that make up a city. I think this is a shame, because not only does it sometimes block out intrinsic value and human-focused priorities, but it also eats a hole out of the diversity that usually makes urban cities in the U.S. so awesome. It was a similar obsession with sanitizing the urban environment that leveled most of downtown in the 60s and 70s.

I am always railing about inner north improvements. My stance is that if you polish up OKC's north side, bam--you get South Tulsa or North Dallas (obviously more refined, sophisticated environments). Let's face it, OKC's built environment just isn't very "sophisticated." Today I've come to realize the good in that, however. If you fan out in all directions of NW 30th and Western, you are surrounded by the grungy, gritty things that add real culture and value yet sap sophistication to this city. It's mostly just this little pocket of run-down blocks in the north side, but I've tackled that situation in enormous detail before.

I just think whether it's the Paseo, aside from its iconic Spanish Village main street along Dewey, that offers cheap rent to the truly-quasi "starving artists" of this world, or the nearby Asian District/Military neighborhood that injects OKC with a large dose of diversity, this area contributes just as much to OKC as Nichols Hills or downtown.

Realization #2: We need trees. What are OKC's biggest needs? More density, improving corridor aesthetics, public transit, mixed-use development? No. OKC's biggest needs are trees, trees, and more trees. The dearth of urban canopy in OKC is stunning. Yes, there are some averse conditions, and yes, big beautiful oak forests aren't naturally supposed to be here. I think Denver is one of the best examples of very lush cities that aren't supposed to be lush--it can be done. More so, it needs to be done badly. NeighborWoods is a great program, but it's just not doing enough. So much more needs to be done.

The profound thing is that a lot of these areas that are identified as needing improvement could just be covered up if we had more trees. I realized this as I was on one of those bridges crossing the Oklahoma River--where you see an enormous, wind-swept "riverside" that gradually merges into the very-scenic Great Plains ranch land separating downtown from Capitol Hill. Many cities such as Fort Worth have strange expanses of greenfield like this, however they are always covered with trees, or at least along thoroughfares.

Instead of having to spread out urban development demand to fix this area and many more, why don't some of us plant some trees for crissakes? I'm not even coming at this from a tree-hugger perspective. It would just make OKC look 10000x better. Not to mention feel better when it's 105 degrees and 400% humidity outside, and that translates into real quality of life and walkability improvement. Urban shade is a good thing, not a bad thing!

So there, one positive, and one negative (but a really obvious negative that I don't imagine will tick too many of you off). That recap is just for those of you who complain that I'm 100% negative!

Monday, December 19, 2011


I wasn't really planning on extrapolating on my previous criticism of Avis Scaramucci and her leadership in Bricktown, but after seeing Steve's reference to my blog last week, now I suppose I am compelled to keep it going. Instead of going as far out there to say something wildly critical of Avis, let's just pretend that I did. "There, I said it."

But in all seriousness, maybe Avis is the leader of the Bricktown Association (or emeritus?) and Bricktown Suburban Design Commission because nobody else wants these positions? That would be sad, because here you have a district that is in dire need of leadership. There is such a multitude of issues that they could be addressing, or could have already addressed. But as it stands, Bricktown stays still. For its entire life, the Bricktown Association's response to the Bricktown parking problem has been to promote the rationalization that there isn't really a parking problem. Weak on leadership.

The Suburban Design Commission, which is tasked with maintaining urban design standards for the district, could have taken proactive action on targeting abandoned buildings, attracting new developments, assisting proposed developments, and so on. Instead of proactively making a difference in building a better Bricktown, they have been consistently contributing to the wrong direction for the district. The House of Bedlam vote was just the icing on the cake. Let's talk about building demolitions, giant inflatable dragons, and more.

So, the problem isn't anything personal I have against Avis. It's that I am disappointed that this district has had bad leadership. I don't know what it's like behind the scenes in Bricktown. I don't know if there's a power struggle. I don't know if nobody wants to lead. Maybe everyone is real chummy and pleased with Avis' leadership and sees no problem with the district's stunted progress (I'd put my money on that). Either way, it doesn't matter. What matters are the results. And they just aren't there.

So make a list of Bricktown goals. You won't get to cross very many of them off, and probably not for a while, either (all the while surrounding districts are crossing off goals like they're on sale). Then make a list of Bricktown's known problems. Parking crunch. Too many surface parking lots for pay. Losing density. Slow day-time traffic. Slum lords who sit on buildings waiting for values to rise. Lack of mixed-use. And so on.

All of those problem, except lack of mixed-use (her one development really was as outstanding as it gets, to give credit where credit IS due), Avis Scaramucci has directly (through her business interests) or indirectly (through her votes) contributed to. It turns out that she exemplifies one of them. If she's not a slumlord, then I'm not a blogger.

They have no plans to renovate the Rock Island Plow Building. In fact, as Steve informed us last week, they are boarding up even more windows THIS WEEK as I am typing this out. Furthermore, they have no plans to sell--essentially they make no bones about the fact that they're waiting for "the right time to sell," as they say. This is the ultimate indictment in my opinion.

How important is this building to Bricktown? Well, how important is wood to a woodchuck? Talk about a "Bricktown Gateway" in terms of the entrance on Reno. Furthermore, this is one of the most prominent buildings that OKC Arena crowds see as they're walking between the arena and the accompanying entertainment district that is aggressively promoted to those event crowds. When we have bball tourneys, fanbases will have a HQ bar in Bricktown. And with the planned transit hub, this location is set to become even more high-profile.

Something needs to be done. But it's not going to be done any time soon. Just accept it. What can people do? Well, I hear complaining doesn't hurt. According to my poll, almost 2/3rds of observers disapprove, most vehemently, of the B(s)UDC. This is even after absorbing a flurry of pro-Bricktown votes lately, I assume a small group of people heard about this discussion on the blogs. But what else can you do?

Not a lot. This is because when the bad interests get involved in the decision-making process, effectively preempting urban planning in a district that is little more than a massive public interest (WE built that canal, not Lower Bricktown developers, not Avis Scaramucci, not the Brewers, and NOT Chris Johnson, that is OUR canal god dammit), then the system is rigged. A rigged system is a broken system.

So one thing you can NOT count on is a rigged, broken system producing solutions that will get Bricktown back on track for where it needs to be in terms of its urban development.

New parking sites

For those who haven't heard, COTPA is selling off parking garage after parking garage, which is building up funding parking garages! I have some thoughts on those, first based on comments in the Oklahoman article.

Pete White is excited about the site at NW 10th and Robinson. Jim Couch says that regardless of whether they decide to target the office needs or mixed-use needs, both would be wins as far as downtown parking goes.

Theoretically, Couch is right. However the only problem with that is that this city currently has zero public parking facilities in mixed-use districts. All of this city's parking garages have been in the office core of downtown, which is anything but mixed-use and will remain that way for a while.

The proposed sites are as follows (I went ahead and ranked the sites based on favorability overall, but I admit I haven't really thought a whole lot about ALL of the sites yet):

I think that some of these sites have a lot of strengths. Immediately rising to the top of the list are the two proposed sites that bookend the streetcar system (1 & 2), for strategic purposes. These sites (SW corner of Bricktown and 10th and Robinson), rise above the fray for a multitude of reasons.

Mixed-use: Both of these sites serve mixed-use areas that have a strong need for a parking solution, which I'll talk about more. But I do believe that serving the mixed-use areas, and just developing mixed-use in general, needs to be a higher priority. We have office towers. We have office space. Available office space. Garages that serve office workers. And so on. As far as mixed-use goes, well, it's another situation altogether. We know that this needs to be a priority. We also know that most of the downtown "renaissance" has been spearheaded by adding some mixed-use development.

Parking need: A year ago we did not think there would be any parking need for the office core. Today, it looks like there is a need that exists. But we have known that Bricktown needed a parking solution for a LONG time. That parking crunch could be solved by adding more street parking, like is going to be done along N. Broadway. Speaking of Automobile Alley, we know that there is a strong need for parking around NW 9th, where retail has a foothold downtown. These small businesses and trendy restaurants don't have the resources to deal with parking on their own. However, a block or two away, parking can be easily found. Bricktown obviously has the strongest need.

Transit synergy: It would be vital for a new downtown parking masterplan to take advantage of the new streetcar system, which will serve as a walkability extender (extending the length of "walkable trips" across downtown). So any proposed site that isn't right on the tram route should be thrown away automatically. Furthermore, the Bricktown site happens to be right where there is a proposed garage to serve the OKC Transit Hub, which will be developed out of the old Santa Fe Depot facility. The parking garage would be needed for commuter rail and Amtrak rail, and would be connected via underground tunnels. We would need to talk about how to fund that if that site isn't chosen as the next public parking garage that we now have funds to build.

Contributing to infill: Downtown needs infill. This is another established goal that public actions NEED to be contributing to solving. One of the proposed sites, the one at W. Main and Dewey-to-Shartel, would involve a number of building demolitions on a block with enormous preservation potential. W. Main is another one of those incredible old streetwalls that remain on the edge of downtown's office core. Let's preserve the density we have, and build density where we don't have it, and the CITY shouldn't be doing anything to contradict those goals at the very least. Sites that have the potential to support future development should be given priority as well.

The garages closer to the center fail to do this, although to this end, I would also not write off the site across from City Hall. I think that the Arts District, particularly the Preftakes-owned buildings, could become the next hotspot downtown. This garage could support that and also prevent other building demolitions for parking, which have been rumored from Preftakes for a while. Also as far as future development goes, we know that NW 10th is becoming a vital corridor, so I'd consider that a worthwhile site, and there is also a lot of development left to be done in Bricktown up against the tracks (including a site that Hogan is rumored to be developing soon south of Reno).

Accessibility: Access to the most efficient traffic flow will obviously be another important consideration. One thing I would remind people of is the pending demolition of the Crosstown Expressway land bridge--the replacement at-grade expressway will be right up against the proposed Bricktown garage. You don't get better access to traffic flow in and out of downtown than that. This also has the potential to serve proposed mixed-use sites along the "boulevard," provided that any of these blocks are left untouched once this convention complex gets built. This could be good and bad. If this "boulevard" is an auto highway like planned, a parking garage would just make that even worse. Instead of "Champs d'Elysses" you have essentially..E.K. Gaylord deux. NW 10th, being that emerging vital corridor, is also great from an accessibility standpoint. The other sites mostly involve a great deal of zig-zagging and circling construction sites to get to.

We will just have to watch the Alliance closely (or as close as possible) and see which direction they're thinking about going in. But while Couch is right that theoretically there are many different needs to serve in terms of parking, there aren't just all right answers--it may seem this way when you live your life in a vacuum of power and cronyism like Couch. There are wrong answers and right answers, even if only because we have office and don't have mixed-use. I would say though that it goes beyond that. Downtowns across the nation, no world, have identified the need for as much mixed-use as possible. Mixed-use is potentially going strong 24/7. When your downtown caters to office needs, it rolls up its sidewalks and closes all of its doors at 5. That's what kind of downtown we HAVE.

And here, we start looking at the differences in leadership styles. The more progressive, proactive cities are being led by transformational leaders. A transformational leader is somebody who ignores the status quo and says, "Yeah, that's how things are, but this is how things could be. This is the goal to be working toward." Meanwhile, a caretaker leader just covers their bases and propagates the status quo. These people shy away from visionary ideas. A caretaker leader would prefer to keep doing what we've been doing with parking (obviously with much success - not) whereas a transformational leader would explore the potential for a parking solution to continue turning the land use dilemma around.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bulldozer-happy morons strike again

This building was targeted by demolition earlier because the convention center super-block was going there. Instead, that convention center super-block got moved to just about the only potentially worse site they could have come up with.

So why is the International Harvesters building still on for demolition? This is yet just another great old building coming down. This city is becoming demo-happy as it was in the 1970s. Deja vu. Anyone who claims to be pro-preservation is just offering up lip service.

I'm just not sure this city is interested in historic preservation, urban design, sustainable development, and quality environments. And the means in which this city throws slings at those things are ridiculously over-funded (convention center) and the means in which they claim to care about those things (streetcar, parks, streetscapes, etc) are ridiculously under-funded by comparison.

This building is in the C2S region. There is also a very good corridor of historic buildings along SW 3rd with great potential. It will also likely be leveled if certain folks have their way. I'm beginning to think C2S is a disastrous undertaking that should have never even begun, not for the bad it looks like it is going to do, and not even for the supposed good we were told would come out of it.

C2S is nothing but an urban planning folly and a sham at that.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Incredible incompetency downs Automobile Alley project

Read more in Steve Lackmeyer's recent article about the stunning City Hall incompetency and misplaced priorities that downed what would have been a major development deal at Broadway and 13th. A large Houston-based development company that has had successful urban developments in Tulsa wanted to invest $38 million in Automobile Alley, giving it the jolt of mixed-use development it needs to continue growing.

The city shifted funds for a needed railroad quiet zone for land acquisition in Core2Shore. No wonder they started making progress on C2S so soon. We are now truly prioritizing this nonexistent area of the city AND convention centers above things that people actually want like TRANSIT and improvement to existing neighborhoods of downtown first.

This Cornett City Hall is loosing its luster every week. What it needs more than anything is for someone else to have another major success that they can take credit for again in order to retain popularity.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Here's a new culprit for you

Here's the thing that frustrated me about Bricktown: The amount of taxpayer dollars we have pumped into this tiny little district and the miniscule ROI that we have seen following that.

Basically it follows the exact same narrative of other public economic incentives that never work. Hey developers, we're going to throw an insane amount of cash your way by investing in this district so that your land values rise. Oh, but then we're not going to come in and direct development in ANY meaningful way at all. Corporate welfare + deregulation.

Nevermind that the PUBLIC made Bricktown, and now it has totally lost control over how that district develops. Quality standards have spiraled down hill. The Bricktown Suburban Design committee is a laughing stock. We can't even use the argument of "protecting the public investment (ie: the canal)" any long at this point. Bricktown developers and parking lords are out of control.

So there you have it, the concept of Bricktown as a failed Reaganomic dream. But why would we expect anything else? That's what the people of this city believe in. Furthermore, the woman that we put in charge of the Bricktown Suburban Design Committee is in the Bricktown parking business herself! She's also in the Bricktown land values squatting business herself.

This is the Rock Island Plow Building, at the corner of Reno and Oklahoma Avenue, overlooking the canal as well. This building, owned by Bricktown Suburban Design Committee Chairwoman Avis Scaramucci, is falling down on itself and is one of Bricktown's largest eyesores. Years have passed since Scaramucci bought this building. At the time we all hoped that she would renovate it, but I think we gave Avis too much credit at the time, and in reality she's probably just waiting to get a pay day from another interested buyer.

Does a single successful restaurant make someone the "Queen of Bricktown?" So far Avis has done nothing to prove that she wasn't one and done in terms of Bricktown development, and how did this get to be the person chairing the Bricktown Suburban Design Committee?

The problem with Bricktown is that we (the public, the city, MAPS, etc) probably invested TOO much in the district all at once. Districts don't develop instantly, yet Bricktown's land values skyrocketed as much as 300%--instantly. The development could never have kept up with that kind of a spike in land values. Therefor the people who benefited the most weren't developers that couldn't keep up, but rather property owners who could sit on properties--especially if they had enough in the bank that they could absorb the cost of long-term ownership, which sometimes included doing bare minimum improvements just to keep these buildings standing. Sometimes the bare minimum improvements actually do more harm than good in the long run, structurally and especially aesthetically.

Avis Scaramucci has embodied these problems and more, all the while getting credit as the "Queen of Bricktown" as though her leadership is all that's keeping the district together or something. Another common complaint with the district is that it is too bogged down with restaurants. Score another for Avis. Perhaps the biggest indictment is all this chumminess and lack of accountability. Maybe that's what there should be, after all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Really, Dowell?

I am beginning to question Rick Dowell's sense of taste. Apparently he finds the absolutely hideous Sheraton colors to be inspirational?? I don't know what else to say.

SandRidge's architects like to bulldoze a quarter of downtown but at least their new structures are architecturally acceptable, granted, the Dowell Center is a tough one to remake. The whole thing needs to be recladded, truthfully. It can be done. Look at this Indy skyscraper (One Indiana Place) as an example:

I really don't mean to be piling onto Dowell, who has done excellent work in the past. However, he doesn't understand the value of working with the community (which goes beyond just being stubborn), and this is just plain ugly. He was in cahoots with SR over the sinister demo plan for this??

My third-straight post under the label of "bad projects." But trust me, there ARE good projects out there.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Worse than West End, more like off the deep end

Watch my years. Ten years from now, Bricktown will be nothing more than the redneck hub of downtown OKC. Mickey Mantle's and very few other upscale eateries will survive, yet they will be outposts of culture in a district dominated by metal green roofs, Bass Pro fishin shops, Toby Keith's crappy restaurant, more chains galore, House of Bedlam, and a BUNCH of highly-lucrative parking lots. The parking lots will unfortunately remain lucrative because rednecks will still be fooled into thinking Bricktown is somehow "classy" but nobody else will be fooled. The crowd at Mickey Mantle's will remain the "old days" when Bricktown was still only marginally tacky (ie., now).

The only good things that will give it a glimmer of hope (to transform into a real urban district) going forward is its proximity to Deep Deuce and the ACM. Did ACM make a bad decision in choosing Bricktown over Film Row or other downtown districts? How do they and other people TRYING to improve Bricktown feel about the grip of the parking mafia?

I think in a decade we'll see a Bricktown that, while not much different from today, is remarkably different in that it has chosen its path--that ambiguity of the district that led to constant debate/questions/hope about its future (what will it be? where will it go? etc) will be gone. It will be officially the red-headed step child of downtown OKC, but I hardly doubt it will matter. Why would OKCers miss the opportunity we HAD there when I envision Deep Deuce, Midtown, Film Row, and others will all outperform our wildest expectations.

Oh and hey, at least there might be hope for a real C2S district as well, after all.

BUDC votes in favor of aspiring parking overlord Chris Johnson

The Bricktown Suburban Design Committee is absolutely pathetic. Not a whole lot that's new there, but it is what it is. The bar is now officially set so low it's even lower than Lower Bricktown.

We now have a parking "garage" (basically one elevated level of parking) overlooking people and canal taxis as they pass the canal. A surface parking lot would be better. This "garage" will essentially be a surface parking lot raised above the canal.

Does anyone even take pride in this city even more? This spot of land possibly had more potential than any other plot in downtown. Since when did we just start passing sub-par suburban developments in BRICKTOWN, surface parking and all? Pathetic.

Bob Bright is a joke. Someone who has to ask whether Wanda Jackson Way is an alley or a road is a joke, especially if they were somehow appointed to serve on the committee overseeing urban design in BRICKTOWN. The others who approved this development (ALL except Tom Wilson) are also just as pathetic as this development, except also spineless.

Stay tuned and I'll tell you how I really feel at a later date.
Avis Scaramucci and Phil Miller, where were you guys, why didn't you vote? Do you all care to prevent what is happening to Bricktown, or is urban design (the name of the committee you sit on) not important after all for an "urban" district?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Not all empty-handed

I was able to accomplish one of my goals for the blog this semester, which is to create a BIG downtown map. This will enable me to illustrate downtown-wide concepts. Has anyone ever seen a single map that encompasses all of the exciting projects, all the way from the river up to 23rd Street? Of course not, I imagine because of the sheer geographic vastness of OKC's center city.

We don't realize it, but downtown sprawls just as much as this city does. So, when people talk about "turning this city around" just by turning downtown around, they're talking about some very substantial progress across an area that is far more significant than locals realize. Downtown is compact and uber centralized, but the whole area actually encompasses a couple square miles and could easily create more new rooftops than Edmond or Moore...just as it has been one of the metro's fastest-growing areas in the last few years.

I'm looking forward to being able to do some big mapping projects.

Dusting off the blog

My apologies to anyone who's been checking this and expecting a post at some point. I've been a terrible blogger lately. However, I still care tremendously. I'm not giving up! Yes, the pending demise of the Stage Center makes me want to just give up on OKC, but we all know I'm way too stubborn for that. I've just been extremely busy finishing up my degree lately, and I've never been so overwhelmed in my life before.

In the meantime, I need some content to put up in here. I really should be writing about the Stage Center, I mean wow. I should be covering this "House of Bedlam" brouhaha as well, calling out Chris Johnson for the shoddy businessman he seems to be. There is also a major Bricktown masterplan effort underway, a long-awaited move by the City to show that they actually care about Bricktown.

I should be ratcheting up the pressure on these convention center and boulevard pending failures. There's a lot of exciting progress happening with the transit subcommittee as well that should be covered. SO MUCH new development in the pipeline, too.

I even took a ton of pics of construction progress before I left OKC earlier this fall. I didn't get very far away from the intersection of NW 9th and Broadway when it comes to posting those pics. Now it might be too late? What I really need is a co-writer on this blog, if anyone was interested in helping out. Or maybe I could just ask one of these protesters to "occupy" my blog while I'm too busy...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Update from Lisbon Lofts

The Mode Homes people, developers of the Lisbon Lofts at NW 9th and Shartel, posted an update to their facebook about their progress. They are in the final stages of obtaining financing, which has been dragged out not surprisingly, but what did surprise me was when I had heard from a friend that they have backing from a very legitimate downtown anchor.

These renderings are a thing of beauty:

A-Alley: A distinct vibe emerges

I want to take the time to post some more photos I took last week that I think demonstrate how a very distinct vibe is developing along North Broadway. Can Automobile Alley become a "landmark" corridor for us? Admittedly, it has a ways to go, but the potential is there. It's really coming along, and it's hard NOT to speculate about how North Broadway is booming.

1100 N. Broadway continues improvements. I get the impression that Howard and Clagg and Co. are a little hesitant about finding a tenant for it, since they have been finding temporary uses for this space for the last while. OKC Cityscape was really fantastic there, and I already kind of miss the bright LEGO blocks that were affixed to the front of the building. I wonder if there is a way that they can make OKC Cityscape work as a year-round thing in this space, should it ever be able to cover its own rent. It was way more successful there than in Penn Square, where rent is quite expensive.

It's hard to not love the view down Broadway.

1101 N. Broadway is also starting to come around, I have noticed drastic improvement recently so it appears that renovations are now fully underway. This building has an interesting recent history, as I remember in '06 or '07 there was a deal to turn it into the "Chandelier Lofts" and construct a glass annex next door, to the north. When they instead just sold it off to Greg Banta, who was on a Mid-town buying rampage at the time, it was assumed it would still get developed quickly. Here's hoping that the building eventually becomes lofts, which it seems very well-suited for.

I think we can also look back on the OKC Community Foundation as a very good project, also. At the time I was annoyed that it was developed by a non-profit agency, as there WAS a report out at the time that proved 10th and Broadway was the best fit for a "major development" and I thought with the land being donated either way, it would have been a great opportunity to try for a development home run. That was before 2008 and any major development play would have at least been complicated by the economy anyway. This is a decent, quality project. I feel like the design is very conducive to the neighborhood, I just wish the Community Foundation hadn't demo'd more buildings for unneeded parking.

This sculpture, very tame and conservative in its motif, also went up at the same time as The Womb (in the background) came about. Whether this is the Community Foundation's attempt to "cover up" that loud building in the background, or compliment it with its own artistic touch, is anyone's guess. But what I do know is that when it comes to public art, the more the merrier!

Of course, how could anyone not be enamored with the loud mural covering the new art gallery called The Womb? I think everything about this gallery is brilliant, and I think it's about time we have a "big-city" gallery that seeks to push the envelope, in many different ways! This adds many new dimensions, and talk about a potential neighborhood asset. I anxiously await to see how The Womb will fit into the strong synergy budding amongst the other attractions around 9th and Broadway, such as Shop Good, Coffee Slingers, The Iguana, Sara Sara, Pachinko Parlor, et al.

What is so special about this A-Alley vibe is that it has such a great mix of locally-owned EVERYTHING. Art and culture courtesy of the Flaming Lips, awesome restaurants, a cool local coffee shop, and -GASP- actual retail (Shop Good, Sara Sara Cupcakes, Rawhide furniture, and the newly relocated antique/vintage furniture business). But another great asset will be the new Hideaway. Oklahoma family like Hideaway, and while it's image isn't exactly conservative (so it won't buck the vibe on N. Broadway), it's fairly tame and "family-safe" thus it will be a predictable draw for the mainstream.

To top it off, another nod to Steve Mason's rooftop garden. Every building in this district needs to have a rooftop deck like this, for soaking in the action from above on perfect sultry summer evenings.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tomorrow night!

Just a reminder that Dr. Shadid's sprawl townhall will be TOMORROW night! All director-level department heads will be on hand to discuss how sprawl hampers their department's operations and the community meeting will seek to discuss honestly the cost of this sprawl and solutions to mitigate those costs. If you believe in urbanism and sustainability and you're not doing anything tomorrow night, you need to be there. I wish I could be.

6:30 - 8:30 PM
OKC Marriott Grand Ballroom
3233 NW Expressway

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The truth about the "Chamber junta"

I want to start revving up my reaction against the convention center site location again. I have a feeling the location debate was blown wide open by the council standing firm against a $30 million budget increase for the project. Obviously it won't affect anything. Anything that anyone, or however MANY people say, even if they are echoed by a councilman sitting on the horseshoe--won't have any chance in effecting a change in course on this convention center.

Explaining this absolutely ridiculous CC subcommittee, who do they think they are?
A lot of attention around the rogue MAPS 3 Convention Center Subcommittee, that so-called "Chamber junta" as they have been aptly labeled by all of the alternative media, has focused on the role of Larry Nichols. Nichols is a local civic warrior who is pushing relentless for what he sees as OKC's best interest, and his influence and power is surging. As he minimized his day-to-day role in running Devon to focus more on his civic ambitions, he has taken the bull by the horns when it comes to this city (I think a very apropos analogy), and I suppose one could say that the arrival of his influence in the last year or so has been felt with the subtlety of a steer mounting a comely heifer. Every conspiracy theorist in town is wanting to blame anything that smells fishy on him, and every respectable leader in town is too afraid to even set the record straight because they don't want to mis-speak when it comes to Nichols. But Nichols is not a corrupt overlord, and I like to believe his interests are mostly above-board. There, I said it, sue me.

This whole "let's lynch Larry Nichols" thing has been a distraction from what I think is the real problem with this "Chamber junta." There are a lot of hotel owners and operators and assorted interests aligned with them that are on this subcommittee. I mean existing hotels, like the Skirvin, Colcord, Renaissance, Courtyard, Sheraton, and so on. The hotel operators that have the most local influence are immediately around the Cox Center, not by virtue of their Broadway or Robinson address, but by virtue of their working relationship with the CVB. The CVB wants to maintain those relationships, for right or for wrong, in spite of what we obviously know that these hotels are amazingly inadequate for handling the convention needs of a "Tier 2" city. We need to start from scratch because a scattering of around 800 rooms over 4-5 separate hotels is a joke and is not going to impress anyone.

In fact, we were going to locate this thing across from the current I-40, and the proximity concern raised by planners had nothing to do with THESE hotels but rather to Bricktown. We have known, mostly all along, that we will have to start over on the hotel front. But we also didn't think we would have to start over on the entertainment and restaurant front, we expected to keep using Bricktown for that, and we also knew that would be a lot harder to recreate in Core2Shore than the hotels would be.

Basically our hotel picture is a small scattering of rooms around the Cox, and probably an equally sized (albeit getting larger with the aLoft) cluster of rooms around Bricktown. Why is ONE of these clusters, particularly the one that is going to be smaller soon, more important to stay close to than the other? Ask that question. The answer is that this has everything to do with these hotels exerting local influence on the convention and hospitality industry, which is running this convention center subcommittee. Obviously, these hotels are at capacity with their current monopoly on the hotel market. More hotels means they will take a hit and may-gasp-only be fairly profitable. (Let's not understate the booming state of the downtown hotels, which are all benefiting from increasing demand and abnormally low supply for a city our size) These guys aren't going to go out of business by bringing in more hotels or starting over with the convention-front, but they won't enjoy being booked solid anymore.

And I've been told by a past president of the Bricktown Association in person that they feel helpless in advancing their cause for anything against these bigger interests because they already have the Ballpark and the Canal. They wish they could pick up "that damn ballpark" and move it to Core2Shore if it's the reason their concerns don't get heard. It may seem insane to outsiders to say that Bricktown interests are being trumped by hotel operators, but it's just the truth that I see.

Can urbanism stand on its own as an agenda?
The interesting thing about OKC's activist circles is that all of the progressives have traditionally been tied to the economic development agenda for the sake of survival. Without the economic development agenda or dare I say "momentum," there is no push for a progressive agenda either. The Chamber can at least make token progress on the issues that progressives care about.

I want to pose a big question. Can a progressive agenda for urbanism and sustainability stand on its own, and take on competing factions on its own? I see MAPS 3 as resembling a bond between progressives and juntas, both attracting voter support from different ends, and I see the last few months as this show of bait-and-switch. Progressive votes were baited with certain items, and then the switch came when the convention center nobody wanted became the new priority, at the expense of other projects. Did progressives really get a bad deal? The streetcar and park might not even be happening without the convention center. We know that voters overwhelmingly took sides with the progressive items and did not like that convention center at all, but--do we have anything else resembling real proof that a progressive agenda can stand on its own and not depend on whoring itself out to the convention center interests?

This past marriage of convenience of progressive issues and the chamber junta makes for odd bed fellows indeed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tom Elmore responds

In hindsight I had a somewhat negative tone in a previous post regarding Tom Elmore, the fervent rail advocate himself. I've met Tom and chatted with him on the City Hall steps a few years ago, and he seemed like a nice guy, and his vision is admirable although I personally support the consensus of the MAPS3 subcommittee and its advocates, but again, that's just my personal opinion. I didn't want to slight Tom at all--I saw where he left a comment defending himself, so in the interest of fairness I thought I'd post it up here.

Howdy. Tom Elmore here (see above). Despite my appreciation for the good words (the part about "knowing my stuff"), I'd question your conclusion that "even the most ardent train enthusiasts" in OKC have "distanced themselves" from Tom Elmore (me) -- as, according to "the state's largest newspaper" Tom Elmore IS the most ardent, etc., etc. (Well, actually the description its editorial writers employed was "rail zealot" -- which is not only shorter, but would likely buy roughly the same cup of coffee...) Further, for the record, it was actually two hard-headed Normanites who persuaded the Norman Council to consider a resolution asking then-Governor Henry to appoint an independent committee to revisit ODOT's disastrous plan for the destruction of the OKC Union Station rail plant. Unfortunately, this resolution failed by one vote, apparently via some of the same influence that arguably sent Oklahoma-derived transit funding to Utah in the late 1990s.

I have a Tulsa counterpart now

Came across a new blog that tracks Tulsa urban development. I've promoted a Tulsa counterpart before and then been disappointed when they end up a flash in the pan, so I wish Kyle, the blogger of Come on Tulsa, the best of luck--and a lot of energy and gusto!

This reminds me, I myself have a few Tulsa construction update pics that I took recently... just more pics that I'm backed up with!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm argued out

For the last few weeks, things have been slow on here just because I have a lot of pics I took around town, construction progress related for the most part, and now I just can't even find the energy lately to get them off my phone and onto this blog. I am just all argued out. There is not much left after 3 years of advocating for urbanism in OKC.

Now I look around and I see what it's mostly come to. The Stage Center, one of Oklahoma's very few pieces of "starchitecture," is probably at the end, and the council is moving forward with this idiotic location for the convention center, and so on. You just can't win. These people look at the Stage Center and do not see architecture, but rather prime real estate that is worth a lot of money. They see the Myriad Gardens and the new planned MAPS 3 park and think dividing these with a convention center is a good idea. That last one is especially moronic.

Idiots. People are IDIOTS. And I have nothing else to say right now, I'm truly just at a loss. But not for long...just give me a week to take a deep breath.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sept 6 @ 6.30: Be there or be a square (621 of them)

Dr. Shadid is doing another town hall, and for those who haven't heard of the Good Doctor's town halls, people actually show up, and they get stuff done. There will be one on September 6th at 6:30, at OCU, that could go down in history quite possibly. I myself am trying to move up a Fall Break vacation when I would have been in OKC so that I can be in attendance, but I need a department clearance since I'd have to make up a lot of studio hours, so it seems unlikely.

The problem is that Dr. Shadid can actually shake things up and represent everyone in the city who yearns for urbanism, only as long as they make their voice heard. If people stay quiet, just mumble their complaints to themselves, and expect things to change on their own, nothing will ever happen and Dr. Shadid won't have the actual citizens backing him up that he needs in order to make a real difference. So as it stands, the least I can do is get the word out and try and get as many other people there as possible. On facebook, evidently 110 are "attending," however many that actually ends up being. The reason the venue is TBA, as I understand it, is because they can easily move this into the Bass Center if it turns out to be hundreds.

I told Dr. Shadid that he should have named the thing "Dr. Shadid's OKC Sprawl Clinic" just out of whimsy, but as it stands, he has a great name for the event already. Sprawl: OKC's Unique 621 Sq.Mi. Permutation. The premise being that all big cities have sprawl, however, OKC takes it to the N'th degree. This we know is true.

The facebook link:

Stockholm Syndrome

Questor on OKC Talk asked for more Stockholm pictures, so here they are. Now with captions!

Bustling Drottninggatan street in Central Stockholm, a pedestrian shopping mall

A typical side street in Gamla Stan (Old Town)

Inside the Sveriges Riksdag (Swedish Parliament)

Standing in front of the Nobel Institute in Gamla Stan (Old Town)

Busy Hornsgatan street in Sodermalm

Gotgatan street in Sodermalm

Overlooking Gamla Stan (Old Town) from Sodermalm

Skeppsbron Street in Gamla Stan (Old Town)

The view from the top

For those who don't know, the rooftop deck above Rawhide is a work of art. Jeff Bezdek was showing it to me the other week and it was just as cool as I had always heard it was. Talking to Steve Mason about it later, evidently he was actually inspired in part by the High Line in NY. Steve romanticized how cool it would be if something like that could be accomplished with the old Crosstown, an idea I've heard echoed by Sid Burgess and a few others.

The really cool thing about what Steve has done is that he wasn't answering a need, per se, as far as I know. He just thought it was cool, he was inspired, and he wanted to create such a space. As the head of Cardinal Engineering, there probably weren't too many bids for urban rooftop green spaces on the market, so he brought the concept to OKC himself. The interesting thing is that he is now much more likely to get to work on another such project now that he's brought the concept to OKC, kind of like how Boldt uses their Broadway Extension headquarters as a design showcase. Anyone else interested in a rooftop deck like this? Here's a cool website about rooftop gardens, with a few examples of "greening the urban jungle."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hideaway opening

Don't forget, the new Hideaway is opening on Automobile Alley today (8th and Broadway) and ALL of their sales from today (not just profits) will be donated to Eugene Fields Elementary, a nearby OCPS school.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The game of downtown retail

I did a very, very bad thing. I sent an email many months ago to Alison Oshel, who is the wonderful Director of Community Redevelopment at the Greater OKC Chamber and did not read that she got back with me until just now. This is an especially egregious accident on my part, considering that I wrote a pretty negative appraisal of the job she is doing. She responded, basically informing me of what she does, as if she needs to. I then apologized and asked her if I could ask a few questions, which I'd put up as an "interview" on here. It probably looks like I ignored her and disrespected her, but sometimes you lose track of emails, and I feel very bad about this.

But here is the interview, and you can compare/contrast this with a rather negative post that I wrote back in 2009.

Q: How does the Chamber, or you specifically, go about recruiting retail for OKC?
A: We provide market research and site analysis. The research is assembled into marketing materials that are disseminated to our area brokers and developers for use in their recruitment efforts. We provide site analysis as needed and we update our market research continually. I have attached some samples of the marketing materials we compiled this year.

Q: What are some specific examples of this process at work?
A: We target retailers not yet in our market and meet with them. We have met with Whole Foods, COSTCO, REI, California Pizza Kitchen, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Paper Source, Free People and at least a dozen others and most have indicated an initial interest in our market after we were able to demonstrate to them that OKC is a large market with high disposable income. Several of these prospects have been here for multiple site visits and at least two have requested site analyses for locations that they have zeroed in on. I believe we will see 1 or 2 of those listed above in our market within 18-24 months. We have NOT met with Nordstrom’s because they notoriously expect a giant public incentive (I heard in one case $40 million!) to come to any new market.

Q: What kind of efforts are made at conventions and on the road to meet with retailers?
A: We lease space at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) convention and build a booth with meeting rooms and a reception area. We offer our meeting rooms and brochure racks to any OKC broker or developer to use during the convention. This is the largest outlay of cash from our retail program but, in the good years, more than 55,000 retailers and developers attend this convention so it is a must for anyone trying to promote retail. Because space at the show is expensive, some of our area brokers/developers are extremely appreciative of having the ability to host their meetings in our space. This is not a trade show—it is a place to have meetings and to make deals. Both Jane Jenkins and Jim Cowan were our guests at this convention this past April.

Q: Every area of the metro, except downtown, was recently in store for a lifestyle center (most of these are now stalled)--how does downtown compete, and what is the plan for making downtown stand on its own as a feasible retail market?
A: We target national retail developers who have downtown development experience. We have met with a number of these firms to talk with them about and invite them to consider developing in Core to Shore. There are opportunities which exist in Core to Shore for concentrated retail which do not exist anywhere else in downtown. We have hosted site visits for a number of national developers. I am hosting a group from Atlanta today and tomorrow, in fact.

It’s not, by any stretch, an easy game and the fruits of our efforts which began in 2007 are just now starting to yield results. Whole Foods, and other retailers like them, already had their 2010 store openings announced when we first met with them in 2007—so if we don’t get a Whole Foods in 2010, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. But if we do get a Whole Foods in 2010, I believe the Chamber’s retail program can claim some credit. The Chamber lays the groundwork with our marketing materials and research to help “make the sale” but we must have good retail shopping centers to offer retail prospects so our development and brokerage community is tasked with “closing the deal”. So, I guess I’m saying it takes a village and, thankfully, we do all seem to be working in concert.

Lastly, retail is the hardest type of real estate development to get financed right now so as much as you may not like hearing it, the national economy has slowed or stopped much of the progress that was being made. A number of the developments that you mentioned are back to the drawing board, changing their mix of retail, housing, office and hotel space in order to get their projects financed. I am hopeful that the strong will survive and we will see some quality developments when the cloud lifts.

/end response

I think that is very interesting, and extremely true, that you can have the best retail development task force in the world, and if you don't have any decent developments for retailers to lease space in, you won't get the retailers. I think since this email, some of those retail development goals HAVE been met with success. We now have Whole Foods, Anthropologie, and an outlet mall--major kudos to Ms. Oshel.

I think the answer to this dilemma is obvious. We need more space, and if downtown had desirable retail space, Oshel, Jane Jenkins, and others, would work hard to get it filled with great tenants. But all of these very-capable professionals can't make banks loosen financing, and can't make developers come up with resources to put into a project featuring downtown retail. And it won't happen until there is a large, desirable, contiguous development for retail to go in--one storefront here and there won't do it, these prestigious retailers like to locate together.

OKC Business newspaper agrees, as the subtitle on an article from yesterday reads: "Despite interest from national high-end retailers, until a suitable lifestyle center is built, they won’t come"

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cityshot..lost track

This is the new Womb Gallery, a project of Wayne Coyne's (Flaming Lips), just off North Broadway. This is cool.

How on earth was this allowed?

Tom McDaniel is a class act

I was just going over some of the footage of me speaking yesterday (wish I could somehow cut a video out of here) to the MAPS3 Oversight Committee, and aside from the usual cringing at an occasional awkward word, I was really struck by how gracious and nice the chairman of that board, Tom McDaniel, is. There's just somehow that he really makes people feel nice, and even though the comments I had were somewhat critical and urging a point of view, he makes you feel very appreciated just for taking your time to voice your opinion.

That's cool. I wonder why more people don't do that? Speak your mind, even if you are critical, and then get verbally rewarded by Tom McDaniel. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Transit Subcommittee Mtg

My apologies for how posting has slowed down so much, basically I am still adjusting to coming back from Europe, and I am also waiting on my camera to arrive by post (I left my nice camera over there). But I did manage to make it to the MAPS3 Transit/Streetcar subcommittee meeting today.

I can't say it was all that eventful of a meeting, honestly. They did accept a report, rather than receive it. Apparently there is a very important distinction here. This is the kind of mundane, mind-scraping technicalities that the real public servants have to go through. This is what makes it harder to really serve (effectively) on these committees rather than just sit on a blog and criticize every move.

Some details emerging so far:
The hub will be a 3-phase project, and in total, it will cost around $125 million. This is just for the hub facility alone. The building itself, the Santa Fe Depot, will cost $2.5 million, and then it will probably cost another $2 million to renovate, according to one of the consultants, when asked. The bulk of the cost is in Phase 2 which will ready the station for Amtrak and commuter rail service--Amtrak preparations will cost $50 million alone and it is unclear how much of this can be covered by other levels of government, but I would assume a lot of it.

Consultants also spoke of how keen Norman was on the idea of commuter rail. The thing is that Norman is perhaps the most progressive city in Central Oklahoma, and has been highly supportive of transit issues in the region for a long time. A few years ago they even wrote a resolution against the destruction of the Union Station railyard, and that was at the behest of Tom Elmore, who even OKC's most ardent transit enthusiasts have distanced themselves from--despite that he does know his stuff. Norman has its own nice downtown that transit can be a catalyst for.

Those who stuck around were shown a tour of the Santa Fe Depot after the meeting, which began right after most of the MAPS3 Transit Subcommittee had finished jay-walking across E.K. Gaylord. It goes without saying it is a beautiful old building. Jill Adler, one of the subcommittee members, had a really awesome idea of somehow commemorating the former black-only waiting room in a way that memorializes OKC's civil rights history. I hope that happens.

Friday, July 15, 2011

We are a state that leads in transportation

--According to Bobby Stern, the executive director of the Oklahoma Association of General Contractors. I kid you not, read his op-ed column published by the Oklahoman. Apparently Fallin, Inhofe, Langford, and Cole are leading our state in transportation similar to the 1992 USA Olympic team. I need to get in contact with him regarding whatever he is smoking.

FACT: Oklahoma has the 2nd-most miles of bad roads in the nation.
FACT: OKC has the worst public transit of any major U.S. city.
FACT: Oklahoma leads the nation in diverting transit funds to other places.
FACT: Oklahoma doesn't invest jack squat into public infrastructure.

Coming home.

Back in Sweden for a week before coming back to good ol' OKC. It will be interested to see how surprised I am by all the changes that have happened in OKC. Will definitely need to plan a day to spend in the new Myriad Gardens. But what I miss the most are the restaurants and diners that serve up that extremely greasy and fattening food that Okies are known for.

God I just want some good food. Hideaway Pizza with ranch sauce, a Nic's burger, a chicken fried steak from Anne's, some 'que from Iron Starr, and so on. This is what is on my mind. Can you blame me?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The news from where I am

Apologies to all who have been checking this blog expecting something new. Currently sailing the Mediterranean in all its glory. What a life, eh? Current location: Dubrovnik, Croatia. Lord Byron was right, it IS the most beautiful place on Earth.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Core2Shore is in need of changes

Core2Shore was a planning scheme developed in 2005, 6 years ago, before many things which have already become reality were even thought of back then. Back then the Myriad Gardens was a scraggly collection of rusty old botanical gardens surrounded by bad development on all sides. One of those main things that have become reality is a Myriad Gardens that is far better than anyone could have imagined, with Devon Tower on the north side of it, and land that is very much in play on the south side of it. So yes, things have changed regarding the park situation.

It seems like the C2S park should either be replanned or re-proposed somewhere else. But we're already committed to the current site, having acquired and razed almost all of it for the development of the new park. We have a mayor who is still very committed to it opening along with the new boulevard, but even if the boulevard isn't moved back (unlikely), even if we started the park right this moment, I still don't see how it could be finished properly by then. And then there would be sequencing issues that would make it impossible to find a winning strategy--this is because the downtown Ford dealership site was selected for the convention center. Do you start with the park first, then leave the future convention center site empty? Then you have a huge empty parking lot in between the two parks for a pretty long time (5-8 years probably). Or do you start with the convention center and just completely bump the park? That doesn't sound very good, and then you still have delayed how quickly private development can materialize in C2S, needing that park as a catalyst. And then no matter the timing, the two parks will be in competition with each other, at least directly for revenue stream opportunities.

So we do need to take a step back, but I am not going to advocate to move it to the end of the timeline (a spot that I still feel needs to be occupied by the convention center), but I do recommend taking a pause and coming to some quick and decisive conclusions. Yes, that is possible. Maybe the park needs a year or two to be reformulated, and should probably be moved behind a few other projects. Honestly, I didn't think the city knew what it was doing with this park in the first place. Allow me to make my point.


To a real park:

These are pics that I took last time I was in Chicago, at the amazing new Millennium Park. By comparison, I don't even know what OKC is trying to do with this park. What it seems like we're trying to do is a low-budget imitation that is basically a monument-free park. The funny thing though is that when it comes to parks like Central Park or Millennium Park, it's these monuments that amaze people and attract millions and millions of visitors a year. So why should we skip that part? If we're going to spend $120 million on a park it needs to get us more than some land, some flower gardens, and a lame ring-monument thing. There is zero wow-factor here whatsoever. The Myriad Gardens would make a stronger impression than this.

I also simply don't understand how MAPS3 and Core2Shore is starting to come together. A convention center in between two urban parks? Really? I think in 20 years we will be seriously scratching our heads about why we did that one. It makes so much more sense to connect the two parks somehow, and a convention center, while nice, is probably not the best way to do that. No joke.

The current plan:

This needs to be overhauled. I think it needs to be completely rearranged in a way that draws more on the new things that have been added. I'm not even talking about all of downtown, I mean just this small area centered around the proposed convention center site. New things that we know now are..

The downtown elementary school: We knew it would be the last MAPS for Kids project, but we didn't know where it would be. Turns out it will be closer to the rest of downtown than Core2Shore.

Devon Tower: Hard to not see how this one revolutionizes the game.

Film Row resurgence: Who would have ever thought Skid Row might come back? And there's another one along SW 3rd that could also have huge potential for historic preservation.

Cox Center: There appears to be a really strong consensus for tearing it down in the coming years and returning it to the street grid, "extending Bricktown" into downtown, and creating a new pocket district here.

Transit hub: We know this will tie the city's transit system together on the site or adjacent to the Santa Fe Depot.

Downtown boulevard: Right now we know it will be the width of NW Expressway at Council (insanely wide) BUT we also now know that the city can appeal this. It has to be done with the Federal level, but that's okay. The city will now do this.

Rest of downtown: We are now slowly realizing that we still have a LOT left north of the current I-40 that needs to be filled in first, and there is a strong consensus to try and get downtown areas like Deep Deuce and Bricktown "finished" before moving on to focus on another new area very removed from these areas.

Enter my proposal for the project:

The main change I am pushing for is swapping the park and convention center. IT makes more sense for the convention center to not be separating to distinct parks. Also, because the Myriad Gardens has really been revolutionized, it now makes a lot more sense to just focus on what we have right now. Even back during C2S v. 1.0 I didn't understand why the Myriad Gardens weren't just continued all the way down to the river. Now that we have the strategic opportunity to acquire the downtown Ford dealership site, we should consider what is its best use? Park, or convention center? It's hard to not bump the convention center in this case.

We can invest our resources into one super-awesome park that can truly put OKC's best foot forward in every respect. This creates potential landmark frontage to anchor the new boulevard as well, which I can't stress enough, CAN be changed if there is a will to really do it. There are also some awesome opportunities in this new super-park that wouldn't exist without just expanding the Myriad Gardens to the south and west. First of all, there is the opportunity to still have Reno and Hudson continue (just very narrowed) through the new park. Having a thoroughfare cut through a park can be a great way of creating sense of place. Then there is the Stage Center, which is now in need of being saved. Find some funds to restore the Stage Center, and that can now be included as an institution in this new super-park. Also, I would remind people that the Myriad Gardens were never finished in the first place, and there are many other things that could still go in (like that desert biome, for example). Then last but not least in this regard is the Arts Festival. We could have the opportunity to create special-tailored park areas to suit this incredible local asset, our annual arts festival, among the nation's largest arts festivals.

I also just like the way a park fits in here a lot better. On the NORTH side of the boulevard. The school is nearby. The new district where the Cox Center currently is, the new transit hub just on the other side of tihs. Major mixed-use retail development opportunities elsewhere along the boulevard. This is a MAPS3 impact area that totally revolutionizes the area is currently downtown's most under-performing.

I also agree totally with the idea that development still needs to stretch to the RIVER at some point soon. That does need to be connected. But I think we can do that better with a system of pocket parks and LIGHT RAIL to encourage development down there. If we chose to also use some of the M3 park funds for new "pocket parks" in addition to the new super-park, we can stretch more of this around to other areas of the urban core.