Friday, September 9, 2011

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.


Erick said...

In your opinion, what is the number one component that Automobile Alley lacks to make it a true "landmark"? I think it's more residential development.

NR said...

That's hard. When I think of its biggest lack, I think of nightlife immediately. But more residential is probably more important simply because of the way in which it is going. It feels a LOT like Washington Avenue in STL, and that is an avenue completely plastered in lofts.

It's gotta get more residential. Right now it does have decent loft projects at 4th and Broadway and 13th and Robinson, and a handful of single residence lofts above the street level, such as Chris Salyer's new loft above Wine Merchants.

Or it could be retail. I think because of how desperate downtown retail is, that's the biggest absence all across downtown. A-Alley has the best collection of quirky locally-based retail, and since it's rather fledgling, it could also be very strategic to add onto that. Then you could eventually build up a mix more similar to M Street - DC rather than Wash Ave STL.

Erick said...

Thanks for the response. I always tend to not think of nightlife when I think of Midtown, Plaza, AA, etc... I guess because I just assume that Bricktown has a monopoly on it. I certainly agree that a lack of diverse retail options hold downtown as a whole back. It's slowly getting better the right way though, organically.

Ryan said...

I've often thought about bricktown as a problem, and here is why: I think it takes away from what a good walk able downtown can be for nightlife, because it puts a overwhelming concentration of bars, clubs, restaurants, in one area away from the true downtown. Take Fort Worth for example (a similar city in size, demographics, and economic situation). Their downtown is fantastic, with many bars, shops, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. spread out throughout downtown, which creates more nighttime foot traffic, which in turn helps support more of a mix in the true downtown.

I agree that Automobile Alley has the potential to become an incredible area, and to some extent already has. I agree with both of your opinions on residential needs, and also that of nightlife.