Sunday, June 24, 2012

Now for good news!

Yes, this is a post about a parking garage. How on EARTH could a post reflecting a more positive shift on this blog (after the last several posts, all challenging leaders to embrace the community's passion for downtown, for a change) be based on a parking garage? Well, it's simple - the people behind this parking garage are going to take advantage of an excellent development opportunity. Those people are Cathy O'Conner (The Alliance) and Anthony McDermid (TAP).

Lackmeyer's recent article outlines the project parameters, needing 700 spaces on 7 stories, for $20 million. Then there's the idea to build housing on top of it, possibly around 5 floors, and I understand street-level retail/cafe/whatever they can lease will also be in the picture. In the article, McDermid says he is committed to fitting the historic context of the site (pictured below) - however considering McDermid's excellent architectural track record, I would still anticipate something fairly modern. I'm convinced that modern can quite often nicely compliment historic - such was the case with David Bardwell's 18th Street Studios near Classen SAS, which can possibly provide inspiration on how to fit a modern structure into a historic setting.

Cathy O'Conner also talks about unique opportunities for night-time demand, including for the OKCMOA and Downtown Library - but the main problem is that they over-booked COTPA's parking garages, particularly the Santa Fe Garage, with the addition of Enogex and Continental Resources to downtown. This presents an even bigger conundrum as the Alliance is looking to lure new companies downtown to fill Devon's vacated Chase Tower space, but can't provide parking due to downtown's growth.

However, the even bigger opportunity, bigger even than the parking conundrum in attracting new companies, is the development opportunity that this site presents. It is absolutely imperative to get this site right, and I think that the Alliance and COTPA will.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Even if we had brought the NBA championship home...

There was a reason that I did the two Thunder polls for the last month. You guys overwhelmingly stated that Thunder Alley should have continued. It should have. Not only was it a great success until it spilled over into Bricktown, which has a motley horde every weekend night anyway at bars like ROK Bar and Coyote Ugly that I'd honestly like to see shut down, but it was also promised to voters. That's right, the arena penny tax extension stipulated the inclusion of video boards to be used during the Playoffs.

Why does the City not feel an absolute responsibility to deliver capital tax projects as promised? Why is the City so quick to accept shorting the public, so often?

Nonetheless, Thunder Alley aside, this got me wondering: Even if we had won it all, would a Thunder Championship Parade even have been worth attending? Before anyone mistakes my motives, I was there on Friday, at the airport, to welcome the team back home and show my support for all they've done for our city. However, when the city gets involved in public events now, let's just say I have lost my confidence in their ability to throw a public event worth my attendance. Especially with how they let the gangs (and heat-packing Laker fans) win with Thunder Alley, over the community's overwhelming desire to see Thunder Alley remain..

I went down to City Hall the week after that happened and I was pleasantly surprised to see three members of the public actually stay till the end and speak their mind on how disappointed they were over Thunder Alley. Keep in mind, City Council is held Tuesday mornings, you must sign up at 8:30 a.m., then wait several hours (no way to tell how long) until everyone else is done until you can have your 2 minute say, and if you go over, Mick will send you home. It's an absolute affront to the public how this City conducts business, and if someone cares enough to even show up and try to be involved, that shows serious dedication. I'm not convinced Thunder Alley and not delivering the video boards as promised, won't leave a bad taste with voters. I myself consider it a scandal if my taxes go toward building something for the public, and then instead of featuring ANY meaningful programming for the public, it only features ads. That is an insult, and at the very least, they should lose the right to show ads if they are violating the other public stipulations behind the arena tax that paid for this.

That said, in my mind I envision a huge, raucous, joyous championship rally going along Sheridan, from the new Devon complex, into Bricktown. Families could set up lounge chairs in the park and watch the team go by, they could re-screen Space Jam or old Finals games on the park's great lawn, Generation Y would feel welcome to line the street in Bricktown where they could hang out before and after, and there would be something for everyone and the community could reacquaint itself with Sheridan after it has been closed through so many major changes. For those who forgot, Sheridan is one of the best cross-sections of downtown, in my opinion at least.

But just as none of it happened as the team dropped 4-straight, none of it would have happened with a City paranoid about anytime thousands of basketball fans (gasp) get together on the streets. Lame. Bush league, not Big League.

P.S. I voted Westbrook, I've always loved Russ' spunk and athleticism. But I was also fascinated by the broad support for Harden, who may get traded. I seriously hope not. I think Sam Presti's first priority should (and probably will) be to keep everyone in tact, especially Harden and Brooks. Well, except maybe Perkins...sigh

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Western Avenue gridlock

Stuck in traffic for a good 20 minutes on that half-mile stretch of Western Avenue between Sheridan and the new I-40, I made a mental note to myself to revisit a post that I made a while ago. Western is routinely gridlocked during this half-mile stretch, and I myself was surprised that the new I-40 project's completion has actually finally given OKC the "big league city" rush hour that we all craved. Ok, or not..

However I think that this is an opportunity, not a problem (although trying a different synchronization pattern with the lights along Western may be a good idea to ease traffic circulation). It's an opportunity because these kinds of traffic counts don't exist anywhere else downtown, and even though Western is definitely the blighted back entrance to downtown, at least with this kind of bumper-to-bumper congestion and the corridor's newfound prominence, that lends a majority opportunity for the Market Circle proposal to take advantage of.

I happen to believe (call me crazy) that development should follow traffic counts, rather than try to magically manufacture them. Western must be redeveloped, the gridlocked rush hour traffic that only exists here is screaming for it. Imagine the exposure that a business would get if somebody is stuck sitting in their car for 5 minutes just in front of that business alone. Then gets to crawl up another hundred yards after a few lights turn green, and gets stuck for another 5 minutes staring at a different business. I think this is the kind of traffic that could actually make downtown destination retail (ie., another subject we've talked to death on here and around town) very viable, although as far as that goes I am still bullish on North Broadway and the A-Alley area, especially if they can get a public parking solution.

Here's the photo from NewsOK that shows you what Western becomes every single weekday between 4:30 and 6.

I think at a certain point, you have to stop basing your planning on how you understood downtown in 1990. Downtown has changed and evolved since then; downtown is dynamic. The new reality in 2012 is this. Take advantage of that new reality.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Market Circle renderings are IN!

Without saying a lot (I'll let the renderings, just completed by OKC Talk's CuatrodeMayo aka young architect Andrew Stewart, do the talking), I will just say that I think this marks the evolution of Friends for a Better Boulevard as one of the most dynamic local movements in recent history, perhaps second to only the Modern Transit Project. Could Andrew be the traffic circle's Jeff Bezdek? I doubt he wants that kind of commitment, I know I would be freaked out, but I also know that Andrew is very committed to seeing OKC evolve into the kind of community he and his young family can prosper in.

Please, click on these renderings to enlarge to full-screen, they're worth it:

Thank you, Aubrey

I'm going to get something off my shoulders, that will probably ruffle some feathers among my base of civic, urbanist, and progressive activists - I grieve each time I read a news article about Aubrey K. McClendon, former CEO and Chairman of Chesapeake Energy Corp. Now he is no longer Chairman, and it's expected that his replacement in that capacity will be named this week. Breaking news: It was announced Thursday 6/21 it will be Archie Dunham, formerly CEO of ConocoPhillips. 

I understand that CHK is a publicly traded company, so the shareholders have a right to go on a mutiny against the company's leadership if they so chose to be that destructive, but that doesn't mean it's in the best interest of the company. Nobody understands natural gas like Aubrey does, and sure he had some excesses and needed to be reigned in, but I like what T. Boone said that if you're betting against Aubrey, you're betting against a winner. CHK needs Aubrey; he was their secret weapon against the competition. In this grotesquely-fascinating Reuters special on "the lavish and leveraged lifestyle," it gets one major point right - he is obsessed.

"He's also a micro-manager -- not necessarily meddlesome, employees and business associates say, but obsessed. No aspect of a project is too granular. He helped pick the kind of peanuts served at a restaurant he owns. He inserts commas into press releases and measures the distance between Redbud trees near his office."

It's pretty obvious to all of us that this level of obsession is not personally healthy, and for Aubrey's own good, he probably should have learned the power of delegation. However, here's a common sense Oklahoma guy who isn't going to sit around and notice something that's not right and say, "Well, I pay people to do this, so they need to do it," when he can just as easily make a decision himself or fix something himself. I will agree with others that it is very untrue that he has this "rags to riches" story of working his tail off while he was young - he was an heir to the enormous Kerr fortune, the K in AKM stands for Kerr, afterall. However, to say he didn't work his tail off despite everything he inherited, is blatantly wrong. And why would somebody work their tail off after they have already inherited so much? Almost every second-party source that even Reuters used in the scathing expose confirms that he is obsessed with competition, and in a capitalist society, who better to lead? Aubrey is NOT part of the downtown good ole boy club - here is a person who strove to be different from the rest, better than the rest, and more innovative than the rest. Hardly an outsider, hardly an insider. He's just different than the others.

So now, having addressed Aubrey's latest trouble in terms of his corporation that he founded, I want to move on to looking at this in a civic light. Aubrey is a Hometown Hero in my book, and this WSJ piece examining his role in OKC even says as much. Or, if you're more of a picture reader, here are some illustrations from the Journal Record. The point is that if you are looking for one individual to credit the entire turned fortune of OKC in the last decade, I would truly suggest looking no further than Aubrey K. McClendon, more than any political leader, more than any other business leader, and so on.

OntheRange readers are sharks for veracity, and want concrete specifics before they'll believe something. So, to get you to love Aubrey and defend him however your capacity may allow, here are just 5 simple, concrete things (I could come up with several others, too) that Aubrey arguably deserves all the credit for:

1. The OKC Thunder, NBA championship or not (it's looking more and more like the latter, sadly), are arguably the centerpiece of OKC's renaissance. The young guns are electrifying, and one thing that the sorry officials (heat of the moment, my apologies) can't take away is that America loves them and they have electrified a community's civic pride. However, the Thunder is often credited as a political success of Mayor Mick Cornett - proper credit does seem to have been taken away from where it belongs in this case. How much money did Mick put up for the Sonics franchise? In case you didn't know, McClendon is the lead investor in that group, despite that Clay Bennett is the spokesman (Bennett has significant NBA experience as an owner of the Spurs).

2. Oklahoma River. Mike Knopp just hoped he could get funding for a log cabin boathouse along the river - the potential donor he courted, however, had some different ideas: Chesapeake Boathose, CHK Finish Line Tower, countless other facilities, not to mention having Aubrey's personal architect (Rand Elliott) design it all. Nobody should get more credit for the Oklahoma River, and recognizing potential greatness along a river that used to be mowed twice a year, than Aubrey. It's often said that some of these wildcatters' innate sense of where oil and gas is located displays great visionary capacity, however, finding this diamond in the rough that was here all along, perhaps that is on another level altogether.

3. Whole Foods. Oklahoma City was trying to get Whole Foods to come here forever, at the annual retail convention in Las Vegas, the Chamber delegation always spent significant time pestering the upscale grocer. I simply can not fathom why they routinely passed us up for markets like Omaha, Tulsa, Richmond, Birmingham ALABAMA, and so on, but they did. Now they can't even explain it, as the OKC location has out-performed projections in a huge way and now Whole Foods is looking at a second OKC store already despite scaling down their national expansion footprint. It's not just that Aubrey lured Whole Foods by personally offering incentives to locate in Classen Curve, arguing (correctly) to his board that these kinds of amenities are necessary for CHK to attract the best and brightest. The addition of Whole Foods to OKC completely revolutionized the OKC grocery market in just two years, completely turning it on its head. Crest sensed the move, and also sensed a major market gap in South OKC, and invested in a grand location at SW 104th and May. Then the metro-based  Buy For Less invested in the incredible "Uptown Grocers" in Edmond. Sunflower Farmer's Market, a business very similar to Whole Foods, added a location in OKC. There are other such new grocers, and Aubrey/CHK is adding another in Nichols Hills Plaza which is under major renovations right now. Walmart used to have a 40% market share on the OKC grocery market, which didn't just eliminate our local options, but it prevented new options from taking a risk on OKC. Now that market share has plummeted and OKC's grocery market is robust and healthy, including several competitive local options, and this is all because Aubrey ponied up the cash to get Whole Foods to stop writing OKC off.

4. Western Avenue. This is another one of those quiet urban transformations, because many of you have not noticed all of the new businesses along Western in the last ten years - probably because Western has been a cool restaurant row for a long time, and was never really blighted. However, it is now cooler than ever, busier than ever, and less blighted than ever, all because of Aubrey. In addition to new businesses as well as the Classen Curve and Whole Foods projects, Aubrey is building a grand new Oncue called "The Peake" at 50th and Western (pictured) and has been instrumental in getting the city to spring for a major streetscape project all the way from 63rd down to 36th (unfortunately this stops just north of the mile stretch that IS blighted and desperately needs a streetscape). This streetscape includes roundabouts, such as the one proposed at Western and Grand. The convergence of these Aubrey projects, city investment, an entrepreneurs getting in on the area's prosperity, has led to a resurgence of Western Avenue like no other - a seriously underreported story.

5. 5,000 jobs and a ton of cool modern, and traditional architecture. I think that the presence of CHK Energy Corp. speaks for itself. In case anyone thought Devon was OKC's largest private employer, that is incorrect (they just have the more productive facility) - CHK is actually quite a bit larger. They also employ more interns from OU and especially OSU than anyone else. While I think the campus format is less conducive to productivity than having everyone in one tower, you can't deny that OKC goes as CHK goes, and if CHK leaves town or goes bankrupt, OKC is back in instant depression, not just recession. It's also not just the thousands of jobs, and growing - it's the millions of volunteer hours, it's the local advertising that Aubrey takes out for each of his new hires, and that brings me to the biggest point - CHK and Devon are together the sole reason that young people are staying in OKC. It has nothing to do with anything that the Chamber or City Hall have came up with. The overwhelming majority of CHK's new hires (and Devon's too) are young college graduates FROM Oklahoma. That's not to say they aren't drawing a ton of other state's college grads. But that is to say that they have single-handedly stemmed the brain drain that used to be such a prominent funnel on Oklahoma's economy.

These are all 5 things that Aubrey has worked harder than anyone to achieve for OKC, and these are all major ingredients in OKC's turnaround. The going has gotten rough for him, and I personally hope he can bounce back and get redemption with CHK and continue doing what he is so good at - competing and cornering the natural gas industry. However, if things don't work out with CHK, and I'm honestly just not sure what continued leadership role is left for him after these scandals, I really think he needs to follow his real passion and go into local politics if he can't rescue his role at CHK. Maybe become a developer and live that second life he's always wanted to be able to focus on OKC as his monopoly board. However, I think in addition to that, he ought to consider getting into local politics. I would NOT suggest running for Senate like his uncle, Robert S. Kerr did (Aubrey is brilliant, just not his politics LOL) - I would suggest that he take his unique visionary and innovative abilities to City Hall where they are so desperately needed right now. City Hall is grid locked and is going to take OKC down the cliff if we can't get a new bold, enigmatic leader to force this city to embrace innovation and new ideas. Kick the engineers running the show to the curb. An example of how long it takes the City to make the wrong decision, Wenger was recently quoted in the Gazette saying that making some changes to the Boulevard plan would add 6 months or so and they will need several more months to decide if they want to do that. Aubrey makes decisions in nano-seconds, and as he says, he usually gets them right 90% of the time. That's the guy I want running this city.

So give it some thought Aubrey, run for mayor. OKC needs you. And if you like sports, food, jobs, urban planning, architecture, the river, Western Avenue, and living somewhere that is finally considered cool - I think you guys owe AKM a collective thank you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Northwest Expressway & May dysfunction

This is an interchange I was never particularly fond of, even when I knew nothing about urban planning and that highways and byways were just cool. Even in terms of accomplishing every traffic engineer's wet dream of getting CAR from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, I think it falls short. First of all, you can't go northbound on May from eastbound on the NW Expressway. Second of all, cloverleaf ramps are dangerous, especially with next to zero merging room.

Throwing the traffic engineer hat in the garbage where it belongs, and looking at this from an urban planning perspective, this intersection is just horrendous. Oh my, the wasted space. There's actually quite a bit of dense development around here. Oh my, the wasted opportunities. It's almost as if the planners of this interchange were attempting to prevent connectivity at all costs. (You can click on the image above to see the lay of the land close-up.)

Why does this even matter? Because now May & NWX is seeing a ton of development. First it was the new Super Target. Then, it was the new Dave & Buster's and other adjoining cluster of businesses across May. Now, further west just behind the new D&B, the Tiffany Apartments are getting a total makeover. New glass cladding will give a butt ugly, aging residential high-rise that was fast falling on tenement status a new lease on its own life. The $32 million redevelopment project will revitalize this complex and bring back high-rent capacity.

What if we could get a do-over and have this intersection at-grade, complete with a streetscape project, pedestrian crossings, etc. Right now, THERE'S NOT EVEN A SIDEWALK ON THE NORTHWEST EXPRESSWAY (Voice of Zeus)!!! Every time I drive down the Expressway I see several sad souls drudging it out on the grass beside the ROW, some of them even waiting for the bus to come, despite NO sidewalk. It's insane.

I'd say the Northwest Expressway could easily have been our Peachtree Boulevard. But instead, we just had to let engineers near the plans for it. Peachtree Boulevard in Atlanta:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Urbanology" film series at the OKCMOA

The Urban Land Institute of Central OK chapter is sponsoring a film series at the OKCMOA in the coming week that will feature 6 screenings of 5 different films from June 21 to June 23. On the 21st is a showing of Urbanized, after which will be a panel with Rickard McKown, Leslie Batchelor, Blair Humphreys, and Russell Claus - Urbanized will be re-shown on 24th. The 22nd will feature Surviving Progress (which is actually not about P180 shockingly), and the Battle for Brooklyn (which is about an eminent domain battle). On Saturday the 23rd they are showing the Pruitt-Igoe Myth (which I've already seen, and may go see again) and then the City Dark. Between the Saturday films they're advertising an intermission event with free beer (I'm guessing Stella, bah) but cool nonetheless.

So come and get sloshed and watch some good "Urbanology" films at the OKCMOA. Here's the link to the film schedule. Oh, and good luck finding the front door through the construction mess. It's better to come in from the north along Hudson and avoid the front altogether, unless they're going to dig up Hudson in the next few days. Then I would try parachuting down, or the floo network.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why don't conservative cities walk?

Interesting article on Slate that directly references OKC walkability problem in a political light, but be warned there may be a whiff or two of the expected Slate bias toward the left, if that's going to rankle you the wrong way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The stakes

Higher than any poker game we've played lately..

So you've heard..

Great mention for the traffic circle movement on Kurt Hochenauers Okie Funk blog (Kurt used to write for the Gazette, idk if he still does) today - really summarizing what a movement this has become, with MAPS3 transit subcommittee members lending their support and enthusiasm for this city, myself, former ODOT engineer and consultant Bob Kemper really leading the charge, Councilman Shadid getting behind the idea in a big way, OKC Talk is buzzing about the idea, and so many more people. This is truly evolving into an organic preemptive strike against a huge blunder that is about to be made.

What really needs to happen is ODOT needs to wash their hands of this project and just give the funding over to the city and let the city do whatever it wants. I don't think ODOT is actually on a mission to screw up downtown OKC - Bob thinks they are concerned about going over budget and the city not wanting to maintain something. The solution here is easy, there is significant extra funding that the city has from the 2007 GO Bond Issue, and ODOT can just give the $80 million for the boulevard to the city and not worry about any more cost overruns (although that clearly wasn't a problem for them with the new I-40, which ran 3 times over budget and still isn't a depressed roadbed, just as they knew it would all along). There is also an extra $30 million in MAPS3, in addition to contingency funding there (that will likely go to the convention center when it comes in way over budget).

Anyway, here's the latest illustration that I have come up with for how this roundabout could potentially fit into a grander scheme.

I'll just add that this is also a work in progress, and definitely stay tuned. There's something else that we're going to roll out here in a few days, and we're hoping that we have a proposal that the entire community can really get behind, regardless of whether you want a premier center city or not. I've always believed that OKC can so easily be a first-rate center city, the bones are there, it just takes everybody realizing it and getting on the same page - which unfortunately is so much easier said than done.

And yes, my "grand scheme" for a better boulevard definitely involves moving the convention center to a location that is better for everyone, but that's not what this is about. This is about the roundabout, I just happen to take a holistic approach involving the entire boulevard. What happens west of Lee Avenue, in my mind, affects everything to the east.

Let me close by saying that I absolutely believe that everything in my illustration above can be accomplished with funding already committed - including MAPS3 funding, including 2007 GO Bond funding, including ODOT's committed funding, and including private funds that people have proposed going toward cultural institutions and private development. For those who don't know, the Kirkpatrick Foundation is moving the City Arts Center downtown, just not anywhere near the Arts District which I think is an unfortunate oversight of synergy, which is so important for the arts - and Fred Hall among others did talk about a major private development replete with mixed-use and high-rise residential (possibly the largest mixed-use project in state history) on the site that is now taken by the convention center.

Why can't we piece these things together from the perspective of what creates the most impressive, healthiest boulevard corridor, rather than what creates the best convention center? There are more important things than just a convention center, in the grand scheme of city planning. This boulevard, if we do it right, has the potential to pay dividends for OKC in terms of postcards, private development opportunities, and civic pride. Let's do this the right way.

Friday, June 8, 2012

ODOT's legacy in DT OKC

This, the decimation of the real Deep Deuce neighborhood (not just the YP housing that has exploded in recent years), is the legacy of ODOT in downtown Oklahoma City. These are the people who are designing the Boulevard, erm, I mean I-40 Business Route.

Remember that. And to hades with ODOT and their proposal to re-construct bridges over Western, Classen, Reno, and probably Exchange. If you are outraged by ODOT's latest cluster, this Facebook group, Friends for a Better Boulevard, is led by a group of activists who are organizing to save this Boulevard, erm I mean I-40 Business Route project, from epic disaster - the kind of disaster that one of us will have to write a book about in 30 years.

And next time you drive I-235 through downtown, consider the wide-sloping grassy depression that decimated dozens of blocks of Deep Deuce urban fabric that would be infinitely cooler and better than Bricktown today. That legacy could only be brought to you by ODOT - not even OKC's epic urban renewal failures can approach the level of atrocity that has been ODOT's highway planning.

There are a lot of issues constantly facing downtown. I believe that this boulevard, and the advocacy behind a proposed traffic circle instead of ODOT's horrible proposal to build an earthen ramp for a boulevard that effectively only lasts 5 blocks between there and when it goes under ramps at the BNSF tracks, has risen to the forefront as the #1 issue facing downtown right now. And City Hall and Eric Wenger are making excuses and arguing on behalf of ODOT instead of embracing a plan generated by broad-based citizen advocacy.

The traffic circle:

More on this to come in the future, as this story evolves. I'll leave you with this final thought, that for me, is the most influential reason why we need the citizen-driven traffic circle proposal over ODOT's failed highway planning: Think of the infill development that could be created around a grand traffic circle like this, wasn't this the point of having this "boulevard" in the first place?

Council, city staff, developers, activists, and citizens.. I know you're lurking on this post. At least check out the Facebook group and take it upon yourself to learn more about the effort to avert this fiasco simply out of being good, informed citizens.

Cityshot 6-8-12

N. Walker in Midtown is certainly shaping up.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Better Block pics

HERE at long last are the photos I took from the Better Block Project.

An outdoor viewing area along NW7th for the Thunder game that night.

The view looking west along NW7th - SoSA resident/advocate and local architect Dennis Wells has been arguing that NW7 needs to be extended across the federal building site. Not a bad idea.

This is the hanging garden on the side of Ludivine - theoretically they would grow herbs for their cooking.

Lackmeyer shepherded me into the tour group, for which I am thankful Steve! By the way, aren't the painted tire bump-outs awesome? They remind me of something I recommended from St. Louis a while ago (see: Streetscapes) with make-shift planter bump-outs.

Temporary Full Circle location. Sadly, only temporary.

This outdoor deck area was added in place of two street parking spots - the wooden floor for the deck actually features recycled planks from the basketball court of UNC's famed Dean Smith Center, which I view as important proof that OKC is a college town, not exclusively for OU/OSU, but with large alumni groups from all over.

Board games set up along the south side of 7th (keep in mind these pics were mostly taken before the events officially began, while folks were setting up)

Is the potential of this emerging area not palpable? Here's what I see: Bikes, colorful and attractive streetscape with human interaction, an attractive storefront, modern architecture across Hudson which is tree-lined, with a residential skyscraper in the background.

The crowds getting going with the H&7 food market getting underway. The italian ice was good, and worth being overpriced ($4 for a med??)

One word: YES.

Thunder Alley moves north

Thunder Alley will be migrating north tonight, for anyone who is interested in the video board experience (and in getting very, very wet). It will be at NW 44th and Western Avenue - I imagine the classy surroundings of Western Avenue will attract a much different crowd than Icktown.

This is right by the Harden Beard on Western Avenue.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

$384,227,000 down the drain

If you screw the park over for the convention center, that is the total dollar figure that city governance has flushed down the drain just to follow their convention center wet dreams. There is a reason that economic development is commonly abbreviated as E.D.

$384 million is actually just combining the revised CC budget and the park budget - two wrongs (two badly located projects) does not make a right, so with one project ruining the other (CC separating the Myriad Gardens from MAPS3 Park and effectively eliminating the C2S Harvey green spine) we can ostensibly conclude that these projects are together a waste of money and resources. A convention center on its own, and a new central park on its own would still be worthwhile projects. But back to my point, the $384 million does not include the $30 million for substation relocation that may likely end up going toward the CC hotel unfunded mandate.

$384 million is more than the entire MAPS1. Even the way-over-budget, in-the-end MAPS1 (and then consider the irony of current Public Works Director Eric Wenger being promoted every step along the way of our municipal "renaissance" despite every one of his projects coming in millions and millions over budget). Furthermore, $384 million could buy a lot of streetcar, or could pay for commuter possibly even light rail from Norman to Edmond. $384 million could pump a lot of energy into tech or make a lot of neighborhoods safer. But instead $384 million is going to be flushed down the drain because we think a convention center is the absolute highest use of the city's most important development site.

And about that "renaissance" - rumors are going around now that Chesapeake is selling Nichols Hills Plaza, which I first heard over lunch today with some friends (after City Council) and then saw again on OKC Talk. American Fidelity is vacating the center city for Britton & Broadway. The city was attracting younger, affluent demographics that went to work for Devon & CHK, but not much else, and could still do so much better in that department. It's easy to pat yourself on the back when you're riding a wave of prosperity (in this town, that means oil & gas doing well). But when oil is dropping and Chesapeake (the city's largest private employer) is in dire straits, and times could potentially get hard, who is going to lead??

Not this City Council, and not this Mayor. When the good times are over, and hard economic times are never that far away when you have STILL failed to diversify your economy just as has always been the case in OKC's history, leadership will have to come from this city's fledgling creative class. The people who have created prosperity where there was blight in places like NW9th or the Plaza District, or those doing it now in several other areas, have shown a level of visionary leadership not exhibited on the Horseshoe and what's more is they have done it without real backing from the city. deadCENTER is this week and is a perfect example of how the new creative class, while still small and fledgling, has thrived in OKC. 

That means that we may need a generation change in city leadership if nothing else works, particularly if public pressure can not work. How can you trust people who all seem to be patting each other on the back, refusing to face economic and planning realities, and are oblivious to the fact that this situation is fragile? As a child of the 90s I wasn't alive and aware for the preceding decade, but can anyone say this isn't the 80s all over again? I feel like the biggest disappointment in this city leadership is that they have either not studied city history or they have filed away the bad memories and won't go there again. The problem is those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

Extremely disrespectful, mayor

I went and made the mistake of speaking at City Council today, as if any of those guys care about the gross mis-management of P180 and MAPS3 projects. As I made the mistake of using "and now half-way through my list of concerns" as a rhetorical device, the mayor seized his chance and said this: "Oh you're going to have to be a lot more than half-way through. Could you give us a synopsis of this? Or you can come back again next week."

I was floored, on two counts: The first being that I clearly knew what I was talking about and had several councilmen leaning forward listening with heightened interest and yet he was going to give me the treatment that he only reserves for people who go on racist diatribes on the mic, leading me to the second concern, that it is extremely rare for him to cut someone off when they're not speaking for very long and especially after they've patiently waited through the entire meeting for hours and hours just for their 3-4 minutes of talk time. That is a slap in the face to anyone who has a concern about the gross mismanagement of downtown projects to not extend the courtesy of going a little over on time that is routine practice, and to be smarmy while he's at it. I am so offended by his offer to waste another 3 hours of my life that I will never get back that I may just take him up on the offer.

They're going to put that damn convention center exactly where they want it, and they especially don't want anyone to come and express some common sense urban planning.

Friday, June 1, 2012

ODOT frightens me

It also bothers me that ODOT's failure bouleveard is being accepted to easily, and the city is making excuses for them.