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?