Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our last remnants of Main Street

Do you believe that great, quality old buildings and shiny new buildings together compliment each other and build a great urban environment? If so, you just may appreciate these photos from Will Hider:

If you DON'T think these buildings contribute to each other, especially if the old buildings were renovated and filled with tenants, then you're in luck. They are likely to be demolished very soon.

Ever better than Muenster cheese...

I love this because it demonstrates that the main tenets of good planning, in this case multi-modal transportation, isn't just cool or trendy. It's strategic. It aims to create a better and more functional environment.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

You can sponsor another citizen reporter

Will Hider is another citizen reporter who has gained tremendous notoriety lately for his remarkable photography talent. He puts his work up online so that all of us may freely browse it, some of it certainly takes on more of a "reporting" task, whilst other works tend more on the "artistic" side.

Nonetheless, he is definitely a hard-working citizen reporter, and his medium is a little more expensive than blogging and activism. He has recently came out with a fundraising goal, and I certainly want to support his goal however I personally can. I think his quest to find micro donations within the community is a great idea. I might also mention he doesn't go out on controversial limbs like some people do...

Will has told me I could use his photos on this blog, and while they're all excellent, I just haven't gotten around to picking the ones I like best.

Citizen reporting is vital because we know that not only can we not rely on traditional media as our only news source, but we also know that citizens can do reporting better in some cases. They also lack the bias of traditional media outlets, and the need to CYA (cover your...) as well. Citizen reporters also harness social media and other trends far better than traditional journalists, and while I believe that the good journalists such as Lackmeyer need our support as well in these challenging times, I believe strongly in citizen reporting, obviously. That's the genre I consider myself to be in. Sometimes in order for citizen reporting to compete and grow into its own, they need access to the equipment that the traditional journalists are blessed to have. That's where Will's fundraising hopes come in to play, and that's why I want to help him out.

Way to go, SandRidge!

I just wanted to take a moment to personally thank and congratulate SandRidge Energy, and their CEO Tom Ward, for their sponsorship of the newly-announced Oklahoma River Youth Pavilion, which will be one of the coolest new additions to the river. The 16,000 sf facility will cost somewhere in between $5-7 million, a significant chunk of which I expect will be coming from SR.

By the way, as SandRidge continues to instill some good faith in the community, I do plan to take down the permanent "Stop SR" feature at the top-right of this blog. Actually--it's been a goal of mine to replace that thing with a listing of important posts so that this blog can become easier to use as an OKC resource, but that is just time dependent.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stage Center complexities

I just wanted to tease what I have coming up on the Stage Center, but perhaps it is time for redevelopment of the Stage Center site. You guys know how staunchly I believe that the Stage Center is a great piece of OKC. I truly do hope to see it preserved, but even I can sometimes see the writing on the wall.

Do I want to box-in developers, by adamantly demanding that this block be preserved at the expense of more traditionally urban blocks (such as directly north) having to be demolished instead? That's not my goal in any way. I will just say that I am beginning to see a somewhat tit-for-tat situation in which one of these blocks is probably going to be redeveloped from the ground up. When given a choice between the Stage Center or the Preftakes block, I suppose ultimately I will come down on the side of 7-8 historic buildings rather than just one landmark.

A reality that I am beginning to understand is that OKC is indeed in store for potentially 2-5 new skyscrapers in the next 5-10 years, but all at least announced in the next 5. These are all actively being thrown out there. We know that SandRidge will build if they can sustain their growth, we know that there will be a voter-subsidized convention hotel (albeit these are not normally high-rises), we know that Continental will need to expand beyond the Mid-America Tower at some point, and we know that in 5 years, Devon will be back to square one. Throw in some rumors that I'm beginning to hear not just on OKC Talk, or documented by Lackmeyer, but from other sources as well, and we could be in store for some residential towers as well.

Also, certain players are definitely working in conjunction with other players. No doubt in my mind about that, and more on that later. But essentially, what we need to do is go back to ground one and re-plan out all of downtown, in a process similar to the first Core2Shore process. We need to figure out the best sites for these new skyscrapers, not just in terms of building up density strategically, but also skyline placing, building shading, and other issues that come into play here.

These are issues that are further eroding the credibility of the convention center site selection process, which is about to go down as the ultimate travesty in all of this if it turns out that they can actually afford the site (which is questionable at this point).

Look at all of the tags below this post and think of how these things could possibly be interrelated. Stay tuned...

DDRC: Large surface parking lot approved yesterday

It's so hard sometimes to keep up with the incompetent planning organs of this city that things slip through the cracks. I first saw that a large new surface parking lot was approved at NW 6th and Walker, from developers claiming a "need" for parking in this area?? Wow, I have no idea what 6th and Walker they're talking about, but that's news to me.

Nonetheless, it also appears that the planning recommendation was faulty, overlooked some obvious things, and helped push this permit through the process with little actual scrutiny. Read again: Little actual scrutiny.

Here is a letter that was included in the information on this project (as are most letters forwarded to Scottye Montgomery, who is the clerk for the DDRC). This letter is written by Dr. Lovallo, who I believe resides in SoSA (someone correct me if I'm wrong), which is the new district of modernist abodes "South of Saint Anthony" or essentially directly behind this new massive surface parking lot. To say that he has a stake in the appearance and development of Walker would be an understatement, but without further ado, his letter which says it all:

Dear Scottye,

I am asking that my comments be placed in the record for the hearing on this case.

I examined the parcel in question using Google Street View.

I found that the staff report is inaccurate in at least three (3) respects:

1) I was surprised to discover that the borders of the parcel facing Walker and facing 6th Street are effectively level with those streets. The only significant grade is at the SE corner near the alley.

2) I also note that the parcel has been built on in the past, with what appears to have been a house, indicated by the presence of steps facing Walker and a disused driveway entrance off of 5th.. Since the parcel was once suitable for construction, it should still be suitable for future construction. As noted by Lee Peoples, there are several houses in the immediate area that are built on much more imposing slopes, often with striking designs.

3) The staff report statement that the parking lot would be "somewhat obscured from view of pedestrians and drivers along Walker Ave" is patently incorrect. A pedestrian viewing that parcel from Walker or 5th would have a clear view of any parking lot.

Therefore, I cannot concur with the City Planning report that this minor elevation change at the alley makes the parcel suitable for a parking lot and unsuitable for other development. In fact this is a prime site on Walker. The staff report is misleading as written.

I request that the Downtown Design Review Committee reject this application.

Best regards,


William R. Lovallo, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
VA Medical Center (151A)
921 NE 13th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73104

By the way, if you happen to come across our development standards on the ground there, could you please pick them up for us? Thanks.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The forgotten voter mandate

City Council, this is your mandate that you have forgotten (or done everything you can to try to forget). Don't forget, at any point, that usurping this pecking order in any way should be taken as direct infringement on the "will of the people" and all that jazz.

What's that project listed there at the bottom, very last? The one that nobody appears to have wanted. Oh yeah, the most expensive project, the convention center.

Divisiveness: A means to a convention

The convention center boondoggle has to come to an end, or be reigned-in somehow, yet how do you reign-in something that we have no control over? The committee structure of MAPS3 virtually guarantees that there is no way to hold their feet to the fire when a convention center takes over and orders the other projects around. The individual sub-committees are made up of members hand-picked by Mayor Cornett, who by and large, is a part of this convention center cartel.

Then city staff appears to have a major, major, major role in shaping the public discourse. It was the timeline drafted by them and their consultants that moved rocketed the convention center from being the last project, as was promised during the campaign by the mayor and all MAPS3 campaign literature. That is all orchestrated by City Manager Jim Couch, whom you’d better believe wants this convention palace built, come hell or high water.

Civic activism often takes on many different shapes and colors. Oftentimes, truthfully, it’s a mere means to an end. A group has a goal, and then accomplishes its goal by whatever means necessary. That’s not what urban activists normally do. The group that is displaying “means to an end” motives and actions is the convention crowd.

These are the exact same people who came out with this ridiculous boulevard to be named “Oklahoma City Boulevard,” following Mayor Cornett’s brilliant PR suggestion (that’s sarcasm). Behind the scenes, Couch’s planning department is pushing for streetcar to follow the new boulevard. These people genuinely want the landmark corridor to come to fruition, as they understand how it would boost sense of place in our community. They want to create an active, attractive downtown.

But they want this convention center even more, and that’s going to inevitably be self-destructive to all these other goals. Deep into their power binge, they saw the opposition to putting the convention center on a high-profile tract of land adjacent to the new park, and decided to show just how powerful they really are by moving it to an even more high-profile tract of land. Check-mate, they say. This is the essence of self-destruction and immaturity.

If urban activists wanted to be immature, for example, they could shun Heritage Hills residents for the recent to-do over the Mercy redevelopment site, in which Heritage Hills preservationists had some major egg on their face. Yet, those preservationists are generally great believers in OKC and excellent people to have on your side. Yet, I don’t believe the urban activists will be as rash and immature as these oil execs and big-time lawyers calling the shots on this convention center. This is the break-down of an “Us vs. Them” dichotomy, which we all wish wasn’t emerging in this city, but let’s face it—it is, due to the divisiveness of these convention center interests and the “Momentum” that they’re drunk on.

That community togetherness and that formerly united civic vision for rebuilding our inner city IS the collateral damage of the convention center assault. How else do you get a city to prioritize a project that very few people wanted to pass in the first place?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Top Ten Things of Two Thousand 11

Top 10 things that worked and did not work in 2011 (aside from timely blog posts)…
What better way to remember 2011 than examining what worked, and what didn’t work at all (that Top 10 will be coming later). At the same time we will be offering insights on what we should continue to go with for 2012, and at the same time recommending changes to make for an even better 2012. For downtown at least, it will be hard to top 2011, realistically-speaking. Oh, it was the best of worlds, and it was also the worst of worlds (yet not as often) as the excessive waste of tremendous resources is even more frustrating than not even having those resources or possibilities to begin with. This is our chance OKC, we have to capitalize!

This post is also dedicated to Frederick Law Olmsted, the world's greatest landscape architect of all time, or if you will, a "park-itect." Olmsted was the architect of NYC's Central Park, not to mention Yellowstone National Park, and hundreds of other landmarks. There were (or still are) a number in Buffalo, NY even, He was also the architect of one Boston's key links in the "Emerald Necklace" (the string of iconic parks that define Boston) which would later bear his name as Olmsted Park. It is impossible to talk about America's best parks without a discussion that begins and ends with the architect who was also a firm abolitionist, opposed to the very slave labor that states and cities used to build the parks he would design. Just as OKC today is a mixture of good and bad, here lies the crux of good urban design more often than not: It can come from the best of times, and it can come from the worst of times. But either way, it is true to form and true to heart. Nothing is more American than a good, well-designed city.

Top 10 Things That Worked

1. Construction workers, thousands of them, on the Devon, Chesapeake, and SandRidge campuses (campii?) definitely worked. They all worked overtime, around-the-clock, in fact. As the big 2 energy companies in OKC continued to expand, so did the scope of construction, and the pace. Devon Tower shot up like a weed to tower over the skyline, and Chesapeake’s retail development along Classen quickly became one of the city’s premier shopping developments. Chesapeake’s new office buildings east of Classen will break from the Georgian dormer-style buildings that the first 15 or so CHK buildings resemble. They will be ultra-modern and much, much larger in footprint as well. Could a tower be in the works? Devon-related construction may continue longer than any of us expect as credible rumors are surfacing that developer Nicholas Preftakes, who has bought up much of the Arts District, is working in concert with Devon to spur some development around the new Devon World Headquarters. A mixed-use response to CHK, perhaps? The SandRidge buildings also came down as work continued inside the old KMG tower.

2. NW 9th Street, still somewhat in its infancy, continued to work up a storm in 2011. Steve Mason, and we have to believe at this point that the district has worked up a good amount of synergy revolving around other players now (particularly the Flaming Lips), stayed true to what made 9th Street first blast onto the stage in 2008: Retaining and restoring battered, blighted warehouses, garages, and shacks—turning them into showcases of the eclectic and imposing monuments to the unimposing. In 2007, when Mason began his development push, 9th Street consisted of vacant land, an abandoned warehouse, a garage with cool old cars in it (Mel’s), an abandoned garage, and some wooden shacks further down the street. By simply repairing what was already there, today you have the Flaming Lips’ “The Womb,” S&B Burger Joint, The Iguana, Shop Good, Pachinko Parlor, and that’s just on 9th—on Broadway, Mason has added more retail along with what has become one of OKC’s most popular coffee shops, Coffee Slingers. Don’t look now, but NW 9th and NW 16th have quickly become the epicenter of LOCAL retail. What if the NW 9th approach was replicated say, in Core2Shore? Just saying…

3. Chesapeake worked wonders to bring top-flight retailers to OKC in 2011. They even offered an incentive out of their own pockets (without even asking for a TIF, which would have been controversial) for Whole Foods to open shop. Whole Foods, which went with a relatively small store footprint, was not expecting the OKC store to be a huge success. It was bigger than a huge success and now Whole Foods is reportedly eyeing locations for metro store #2. You really have to question that anti-Oklahoma bias down there in Austin if the Whole Foods corporate people had no idea that OKC would be a big success, but luckily now it appears they’re over that. Chesapeake also brought in another metro-first retailer in Anthropology, with undoubtedly more to come, including all of the local retailers that they lined their Classen Curve development with. It stands to reason that Whole Foods isn’t the only one receiving some kind of incentives from CHK—and it’s evident that CHK has big things up their sleeves, or else there is no way they would be going to the lengths they’ve gone to so far on this project. It just doesn’t make sense to hire Rand Elliott and pay off tenants for disparate parts of basically just a strip mall and a grocery store (yeeah—very nice ones, I admit). Rumors include housing being built between WF and NW 63rd and redevelopment of the old Nichols Hills Plaza, and the CHK Real Estate Binge goes much further than those properties, too. They're also behind an interesting LEED-certified "modern micro community" on NW 56th. I guess there goes the old Meadowbrook Acres 'hood...

4. OKC Talk worked (and likely prevented many people from working) in 2011. I understand the skeptics here, probably largely driven out of nervousness. OKC Talk has had a spotty past, to tell the truth, and in my opinion it used to be best to avoid. It was just typical of an online forum where sad people can hide behind anonymity and engage in flame wars, thus filling that void in their personal lives and taking it out on others without the time or patience to put up. It was a bit much to keep up with when I barely have the personal time to do right by this blog. However, OKC Talk’s Pete Brzycki has changed all that since he bought the site (for a large sum, reportedly) and maintained it to the highest level. Pete’s stewardship has turned OKC Talk, of all things, into a true force to be reckoned with in OKC politics. OKC Talk is the haven for mavens of OKC’s development and neighborhood news. Skeptical? Believe it. Big-time developers, like Bricktown’s Jim Pitman, big-time local journalists like the Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer, and big-time local volunteers and activists such as most of the M3 Streetcar Subcommittee, are all not just posters on the site, but major contributors for the most part. No doubt there exists innumerable others, and we know that the site is daily reading for all of OKC’s leaders. Comments and trends that begin to resonate on this site take hold out there in the real world, in the community meetings and committee proceedings that define downtown affairs. OKC Talk has emerged as a force not just to be reckoned with, but also a force with tremendous staying power. That is in no small part due to a passionate OKC expat for whom stewardship (and funding) of this tremendous online resource is a way to give back to his hometown. Just as OKC Talk, with millions of page hits (I don’t know, maybe daily??) has made a true impact (mostly as an ultimate democratization force), OKC owes Pete a true thank-you.

5. Downtown restaurants worked, as well. Downtown, and its many districts that form this part of the city, virtually became a huge restaurant district in 2011. Every district is now anchored by a restaurant that is either very popular, or has the potential to be. Perhaps one of the biggest restaurant openings was that of the new Hideaway Pizza on North Broadway in Automobile Alley. Another new restaurant, Joey’s Pizza (relocated from Classen), anchors the old Film Row district. NW 9th is anchored by Iguana, Mid-town is anchored by McNellie’s (still the biggest restaurant up there), Deep Deuce is anchored by the Deep Deuce Bar & Grill, and so on. More restaurants even opened up in Bricktown, including some chains like Texadelphia. Can all these restaurants be sustained, after there were already a great many going into last year, no doubt. There has never been a restaurant demand study done, so we will really begin to test that demand, I think. One positive will be a huge number of “rooftops” coming onto the market downtown, which will inject downtown with a local customer base for a change.

6. Ed Shadid definitely politicked in 2011. I was at first concerned by Ed’s rhetoric when he initially popped onto the scene during his campaign. After it became clear that Ed would be a true supporter of quality of life, there was a rally to get him elected over a well-proved economic development cartel called “OKC Momentum.” Ed handed them a landmark defeat and then continued to make splashes by taking on deals that sounded bad, and he embarrassed City Hall by shining light on decisions that made very little sense. He even accomplished a major civil rights landmark as he got sexual orientation added to the city’s non-discrimination policy. Still, anytime you embarrass high-ups in this city, there’s a chance of being counter-productive. The jury is out on the real progress Ed has made, but he has performed admirably in the role of Downtown Don Quixote, if you ask the Oklahoman at least.

7. TIF deals worked pretty well in 2011, except when they didn’t (in the case of Bomasada). The Alliance for Economic Development, led by former assistant City Manager Cathy O’Connor, was successful in leveraging major downtown developments with TIF deals to ensure fruition AND to ensure quality standards in development. In fact, all of the recipients of these TIFs have proven their commitment to the utmost building standards. Gary Brooks, who won the OCURA bid for the former Mercy Hospital site, later on announced (long after winning the bid) that the project would be the first LEED-certified mixed-use project in the state. Richard McKown (LEVEL developer) and Ron Bradshaw (Maywood Park developer) both pledged to use real stucco, instead of EIFS, with two enormous mixed-use developments that will go a long ways toward filling in Deep Deuce, along with an ultra-sleek Aloft Hotel being developed by hotelier and local architect Jim Thompson. Now the ultimate test to see just what kind of a miracle a Cathy O’Connor TIF deal can do will be to see what happens with the Judy Hatfield’s Carnegie project (pictured).

8. OKC Momentum worked hard in 2011 (but others worked harder). For better or for worse, there was an anonymous cartel of elite interests here in OKC (or perhaps Nichols Hills, rather) that attempted to buy Ward 2. The problem was that Ward 2 could not be bought because this ward is the best-organized, most-active, and boldest ward in the entire city. Ward 2 has a history of electing trendsetters and visionaries. Patience Latting, OKC’s first and only female mayor, cut her teeth politically in Ward 2. Many excellent statewide leaders (like Bob Anthony) got their start (well, politically at least) with some modest community organizing in Ward 2. Gazette Published Bill Bleakly wrote an admirable piece about the legacy of this tremendous ward, in which he mentions the names of many people you’ve either forgotten about or never heard of to begin with, but the point is that Ward 2 always sends somebody significant to the Horseshoe. The outgoing councilor, Sam Bowman, was a helluva councilman. Talk about a true civic dignitary and a class act. OKC Momentum through hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention primetime ad spots on local news, and still couldn’t win the hearts and souls of Ward 2. Dr. Shadid’s huge landslide victory, despite losing fundraising and spending by a landslide, didn’t just reaffirm Ward 2’s values. But it was earth-shattering for OKC because we’ve never had a council election like that before, and the good guy won. “Momentum” used to be a harmless cliché used ad nauseum around OKC, now it is a punch line and perhaps even a dirty word, which is also profound for two big reasons: Firstly, it was time to get a new word anyway, and secondly, good people are going to stand up to bulldozing anything and everything just for progress. No more progress for progress’ sake. Frederick Law Olmsted, the finest park-itect the world has ever known, once said: “The possession of arbitrary power has always, the world over, tended irresistibly to destroy humane sensibility, magnanimity, and truth.” That’s the way anonymous elite interests prefer to carry out the business of the people when the people, especially of Ward 2, clearly have other things in mind.

9. Quality of life improvements (including the Myriad Gardens) didn’t just work in 2011, they kicked ass. Project 180 is in deep trouble right now, they underestimated their expenses, overestimated tax revenue from Devon Tower (which was built for much, much cheaper than expected), and over-leveraged themselves on a bond deal with Devon (rather than waiting for the TIF money to accrue over time). But never mind that fiasco. I don’t care how angry you are about the cost overruns, even if we were $100 million over budget just on the Myriad Gardens alone, it would have been worth it. For me, the chance to get out and walk around and enjoy this park was elation beyond what I would have expected in my wildest dreams for 2011—you can’t help but feel like you are in Boston or Portland. This is a park for humans. It’s a beautiful park. It’s also a park that is clearly planned to make a visual impact. The old Myriad Gardens just weren’t that way. To put it in terms that everyone will understand, the trees weren’t lined up well, the paths made no sense, there was no visual definition that played off of anything. Myriad Gardens 2.0 would make Frederick Law Olmsted proud indeed. It will soon be the pride of Oklahoma when the Festival of the Arts rolls around this Spring, and 500,000+ people are instantly blown away. It doesn’t stop there. Actual (dedicated) bike lanes have been spotted on some downtown streets; I myself nearly had a heart attack when I first saw this. Also don’t forget the Oklahoma River, as Boathouse Row continued to finish impressive projects, break ground on other previously announced ones, and continue to roll out other impressive proposals (such as a new children’s building, that has been removed from their website since I last saw it??). We still have the MAPS3 Central Park and other features yet to come! Could it be that a city that lacked a single decent park could become a city chock-full of quality urban greenspaces? This in and of itself is all the difference in the world, and I believe the difference will manifest itself shortly not just with new development, but with tangible quality of life improvements. You can NEVER have too many good parks, especially when you used to have none, truthfully.

10. SkyDance Bridge worked in 2011, even if only for the last two weeks of the year. I was skeptical of this one. It looked like we were in for another wasteful and disappointing project. ODOT goofed and then demanded that the alignment be altered, negating what would have been an axis leading straight to the Devon atrium, and then cost overruns meant that a suspension bridge (where the scissor tail feature served a structural purpose) had to become a simple truss bridge, the cheaper option, rendering the scissor tail to look like a goofy cosmetic addition in depictions. Sometimes however, you can’t always judge a project by bad architectural renderings. In real life, this project is stunning, and perhaps the truss bridge feature is even an improvement. It has undoubtedly added more jagged edges as a defining element of this bridge, accentuating the “feathers” of the scissor tail piece. By the way, the entire bridge was lit-up with shifting LED lights on the very last evening of 2011, and it was truly breathtaking. It was mesmerizing even from as far away as the I-35 bridge. Can you imagine that very view in a year (to an out of-towner) with the new OKC skyline in full view, that bridge lit up, the bridges with their LED light panels, Boathouse Row finished, those boathouses lit-up impressively, and more trees planted along that river? I’m. Having. Trouble. Seeing. Straight. So. Excited. For. The. Future. Of this.

By the way, isn't Will Hider an incredible photographer? You can also thank OKC Talk for his talent being discovered.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Culture may lose afterall

This old news clipping (from the first closing in that building) was posted on OKC Talk today, and I thought it was extremely prophetic. Wow.

Those damn hippies and their monumental downtown performing arts venues...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Heritage Hills, a very special interest

Just a real quick observation: It seems as though the Heritage Hills fuss over The Edge @ Midtown has now gotten more legitimate attention and consideration than we poor, lowly SandRidge protesters ever got. And certainly more attention than the backlash against Chris Johnson's horrendous Bricktown Canal parking project (on that one, I admittedly did little because I couldn't even fathom the BUDC would approve it).

But let's get back to Heritage Hills. This is a neighborhood that has a history of meddling with the redevelopment of the Mercy Hospital site. Back before the 2008 bust, when OCURA went through its first round of RFPs for this site, it was once again Heritage Hills that some feel got to call the shots. Wiggin's ridiculous "Overholser Green" proposal beat out Marva Ellard's edgier "Mercy Park" proposal (to be fair, I believe Ellard resides in HH/MP) because of a concerted desire to go with the more subdued, traditional, all-residential development. As hard as it is to believe today, there was a legitimate backlash in that decision against mixed-use.

This was back when I was running, which I used to argue for Overholser Green even. I believe back then I had a certain admiration (and willingness to believe anything) for the elite residents of Heritage Hills. I think it's a fairly normal thought process in our society to think that, "Well these are successful people, so I'm going to side with them." It's as wrong as anything. It's wrong because you're letting someone else, and their interests, decide for you--needless to say I'm over that thought process, but let's just say I fully understand how pervasive it is, especially in Oklahoma.

Now it seems that the Heritage Hills folks are at it again in opposing this project due to concerns that it will weaken their water pressure. Here you have an organized group of neighbors, regardless of whatever level of involvement the actual neighborhood association has (and I understand that they do have an official stance against this development??), who are essentially opposed to the quality infill that OKC so desperately needs because they think it will affect their morning showers. I've heard it all when it comes to urban design and infill, but this is certainly a new one.

There have also been many complaints to the city (officially recorded) that accuse this development of being Section 8 housing (rents will start at $1,000 a month, sounds like Sec. 8 to me). You know it's bad when a group of elitists are playing so fast and furious with the facts that Steve Lackmeyer has to write a blog post titled, "When facts get in the way." They've raised a storm over the density, especially. Pete Brzycki pointed out that this development is essentially equally as dense as the hospital that was originally on this site.

I'll go one further though. The Heritage Hills elitists, and their admirers (which as I've already admitted, did include me at a time I was very young and malleable) got the Overholser Green project chosen earlier. That was going to be around a 10-story condo tower. This will be 5 stories.

Not to mention, that when you live on streets that are numbered as low as 14th, 15th, 16th, etc.--there's a good chance that you may have to endure the tortuous and horrific trauma of having some stylish infill development near you. This one isn't even on their side of NW 13th, the busy four-lane thoroughfare that separates Mid-town from Heritage Hills.

For anyone who is truly interested in learning the facts on this development, which may be one of the highest-quality developments this city has seen in a while, here is an excellent fount of information (the DDRC agenda item regarding this development).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bad elitists, bad

Go get 'em, Steve. Apparently a number of Heritage Hills residents are raising concerns about the quality of The Edge project by Gary Brooks.

Look, I didn't like the project BEST, but I can admit it's a good project. I moved on from arguing about OCURA/Alliance's flawed selection process, and if I can move on from something, that's probably saying a lot.

But for Heritage Hills residents, I guess paying a whopping $1,000/mo rent for a 1 br apartment will spoil the neighborhood. Are these people pretending there aren't still a few flophouses still in operation around Mid-town??

Brooks has done nothing but reassure skeptics of his development with moves like the recent announcement that they'll pursue LEED certification (silver, as I recall). This will be the first LEED certified mixed-use project in Oklahoma, a designation that was probably going to go to Grant Humphreys' Flatiron before that project died.

I am a critical guy, that secret is certainly out. I am also going to be pretty outspoken about my criticisms, as I was with this project for a while. What I love, and I mean really love (what keeps me going), is when I can admit I was wrong and I have to eat my own words. I'm happily eating my words so far on this project, but I don't want to knock on wood since The Edge only just got the building permit this month.

Perhaps some Heritage Hills residents will also enjoy eating their words once this project is a pleasant surprise to them. I think it will be an excellent contribution to Mid-town.

Everything you could possibly want in this project is there: They made site plan concessions to incorporate the streetcar curve, this will be very transit-oriented. They added ground floor retail when the city pressed them on it. And as I've repetitively mentioned, it will be LEED. I think that the targeted demographics (young professionals looking to pay $1,000/mo for 1 really nice bedroom) is also just perfect.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Downtown school design?

Well here's a sneak-peak at the site layout for the new downtown elementary school. TAP Architects put this image on their website. Very interesting that it designates which will be "urban corner" frontage for the school, and how in the back (basically toward the new "Oklahoma City Boulevard") it is gated-off presumably.

Is this school building perhaps oriented toward potential development that TAP is in the know about, or is the school building oriented toward a cultural institution (the Stage Center)?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cityshot(s): Merry belated Christmas

For those of you who have visited the blog lately and only seen a way-too-early New Years post and no mention of Christmas, yes we do in fact celebrate Christmas at this blog. I have just been inexcusably late at getting around to it because of getting busy with family and other stuff I do while I'm home for the holidays.

That said, what better (late) Christmas gift than downtown Christmas pics? Let's remain cognizant of what a great downtown Christmas scene we used to have, but to tell the truth, I don't think downtown has ever looked better during the holidays than now. Not even in the hey day was it as spectacular and unique as today, and that's largely in part due to the lights along Automobile Alley.

And of course, Bricktown was all decked out also: