NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

OKC Central with Steve Lackmeyer: March 28 chat recap

NewsOK Sports 10:11 a.m. Good morning everybody!
Steve 10:11 a.m. Let's try that again.
Steve 10:12 a.m. I am at the new Ambassador Hotel in Midtown with owner Paul Coury, and we're ready to take questions and comments.
Bob 10:12 a.m. Good Morning, Steve. What a crazy week you have had. Lots of good stories.
Steve 10:12 a.m. Thanks!
Gary T 10:12 a.m. Good morning Steve, Paul and Jeff and Happy Friday to you all. You have hotels in Tulsa, KC, Wichita and now OKC. What made you all decide to stay and operate hotels here versus opening hotels in larger markets?
Steve 10:13 a.m. PAUL: We focus more on regional, second tier markets. Our goal is to expand into bigger cities over the next five years.
Gary T 10:13 a.m. What is one thing Midtown is lacking that you think would make a big impact on the area?
Steve 10:14 a.m. PAUL: A parking garage is the biggest thing. All the other things are in place; residential, bars, restaurants, retail. It's a good mix. It's a very charming area.
Gary T 10:14 a.m. What made you all decide on the Osler building in Midtown versus some of the other older buildings in other parts of the city?
Steve 10:14 a.m. PAUL: This building has always caught my eye. It looked like a hotel to me. It was a historical building, which is something I try to do. The area seemed ready for it.
Gary T 10:15 a.m. There is so much development going on in your immediate vicinity (Edge apartments, Fassler/Dust bowl, H&8th, Saints Anthony's, Food Truck court, etc). Which development are you most excited about?
Steve 10:16 a.m. PAUL: The Ambassador Hotel (laughs). I think the food trucks are fun. They've been very successful in Tulsa on Guthrie Greens. I think it will bring a whole other element of people. I'm seeing elsewhere they're doing retail trucks, where they have boutique clothing - it looks so cool. People were lined up. I think this will be the next wave. It's portable. You move it to the people.
Guest 10:17 a.m. Is there any reason this chat didn't open for questions until 10:09? This has been a problem two weeks in a row now.
Steve 10:17 a.m. STEVE: Last week I believe it started on time. This week, however, someone at NewsOK didn't flip all the switches. You don't really think I'm smart enough to pull all this off on my own, do you?
Gary T 10:18 a.m. A couple from out of town asks your recommendation for a restaurant outside of the hotel. You have Cafe do Brasil, McNellies, Irma's, Stella, 1492, Louie's, Waffle Champion, Kaiser's, GoGo Sushi and Saturn Grill all within a stones throw of your hotel. They don't have a preference to type of food or atmosphere. Which one do you send them to and why?
Steve 10:19 a.m. PAUL: The ones you listed would all be mentioned because they're all in walking distance. You also have Paseo Grill, Cheevers. I love Kitchen No. 324 - it's wonderful. They've got it going on.
Gary T 10:19 a.m. What were some of the challenges with the Osler building that you weren't expecting?
Steve 10:20 a.m. PAUL: It was tight - we didn't have a lot of space for mechanical and the floor plates were small. We had to add exceptionally large staircases on the back.
CeCe 10:20 a.m. To Paul, what made you choose the Ambassador Hotel specifically for your latest project
Steve 10:20 a.m. PAUL: It's a market we were familiar with and we wanted back in.
Guest 10:21 a.m. Great job assembling what is maybe the best bar staff in the city. when do you think food service will start in the O bar and what is the timeline for the pool and fire pit to be open?
Steve 10:23 a.m. (General Manager Jeff Erwin is joining us now)
JEFF: Food at O Bar will be in about two weeks. It will be late snacks in happy hour and we will transition into deserts late night. As soon as we get consistently warm weather the pool will open. The fire pit will be on the same timetable.
shawnw 10:24 a.m. Would you have chosen the First National Building instead if it had been available?
Steve 10:25 a.m. PAUL: No. It's too big. A boutique property is typically 50 to 100 rooms and First National wouldn't fit our nitch.
Gary T 10:25 a.m. What city are you wanting to move into next?
Steve 10:25 a.m. PAUL: We have no current plans though we are always looking at projects in other cities.
Guest 10:26 a.m. Is Midtown poised to get a parking garage anytime soon?
Steve 10:26 a.m. STEVE: I think it's safe to say that Midtown Renaissance Group will look at a garage when they decide it's needed and can sustain itself.
Bob 10:27 a.m. Obviously the street car project will be a nice addition for your guests. Would you like to share your thoughts on the proposed convention center?
Steve 10:29 a.m. PAUL: I think it helps any business. Compression on the market helps everybody.
Dan 10:30 a.m. What would've been your second choice for an Ambassador Hotel, if you couldn't get the Osler building?
Steve 10:31 a.m. PAUL: To be honest, we looked. We looked at several other buildings. But we came back to this when the state upheld the state historic tax credits. That was critical. We were looking at this building and then put it on hold when the state (legislature) put a moratorium on (tax credits).
Gary T 10:31 a.m. What are some things the Ambassador Hotel can offer that other boutique hotels in OKC can't or won't offer?
Steve 10:32 a.m. JEFF: We are most true to the definition of being a boutique hotel in Oklahoma City with car service, room service, the fact our rooms are very residential in feel.
Gary T 10:33 a.m. What are your thoughts on different style of hotels like 21c museum hotel moving into the metro?
Steve 10:34 a.m. PAUL: I think 21c is a very unique concept with a following of people who really appreciate art. I think they're going in several markets in the midwest and I think they will do fine here.
Gary T 10:36 a.m. Since your opening, what kinks have you had to work out?
Steve 10:36 a.m. JEFF: I'd say since the opening we've been very fortunate and the only issues we've had to face are small - tightening of screws and fixing up paint.
CeCe 10:37 a.m. What type of experience can your guests look forward to when visiting the Ambassador?
Steve 10:37 a.m. PAUL: You've got a very small charming restaurant and a rooftop bar that there is nothing like it. As a guest here, you can really stay on property and have an incredible evening.
Gary T 10:38 a.m. A few friends went to the Obar this past weekend for his birthday and said is was a great place to have a drink and just hang out with friends. Where was the rooftop bar on your list of things to have? Was there ever a thought of it being in the first floor lobby?
Steve 10:38 a.m. PAUL: A rooftop bar has always been my vision. I knew it could set this property apart from everything else.
shawnw 10:38 a.m. It seemed like you timed your opening to coincide with the NCAA Wrestling Champs. Was that as good kick-start to your opening as it seemed (I noticed lots of people walking from the arena to midtown)?
Steve 10:40 a.m. JEFF: Absolutely it was a goal to be open prior to the NCAA tournament to capture that great piece of business. This was a huge convention for Oklahoma City and the demand for downtown and suburban hotels during their last visit was huge. It made sense to try to take advantage of that. Trial by fire.
shawnw 10:40 a.m. So far, what's your occupancy rate like?
Steve 10:41 a.m. JEFF: We're very pleased with the initial occupancy. We've been working for about six months talking with local businesses and neighbors about corporate accounts, groups and meetings. We've been preparing to open with some business on the books.
shawnw 10:41 a.m. Are your guests having any parking problems in midtown?
Steve 10:42 a.m. JEFF: We have a lot where we park our guests. We own a 65-space lot.
Chris 10:42 a.m. I noticed that the Body Works Collision Center in Bricktown has closed. Do you know if this property will be put up for sale or what will be done with it? Always look forward to these chats each week and enjoy your articles. Keep up the good work!
Steve 10:43 a.m. STEVE: Good questions. I don't have answers for you yet.
Jake 10:46 a.m. I heard there was a tattoo shop going into Film Row. Is this true and do you think it changes the makeup of the area in either a good or bad way?
Steve 10:47 a.m. STEVE: I think it will be a fit. I can't see it being a negative.
Dan from Tulsa 10:47 a.m. Good morning Steve, I have been a major cheerleader for the progress OKC has made not only for itself, but for our state within the last decade. We have to continue to give credit where it's due, but I feel we are seeing a downturn overall of significant development with actual legs, not just speculation. You've hinted at some big developments and announcements coming soon, but, in all honesty, what are they? Perhaps we have become spoiled, but can you provide anything of substance that we can chew on? Stage Center Tower is not even 100% at this point. Thanks!
Steve 10:48 a.m. Stay tuned... fun stuff coming up over the next couple of weeks.
Guest 10:48 a.m. Do you see midtown becoming more and more of a destination draw for OKC locals?
Steve 10:49 a.m. JEFF: Absolutely. It will continue do so as more projects are completed.
Steve 10:49 a.m. PAUL: I think you're also looking at a lot of linkage where you'll have several blocks of development where you can walk from one place too another.
Jake 10:50 a.m. What is the status of completing the crosstown blvd as it relates to the Western/Classen area?
Steve 10:51 a.m. STEVE: We should be seeing an update on the various design options fairly soon.
Steve 10:52 a.m. PAUL. No. That area wasn't on my radar. It wasn't what I was prioritizing.
shawnw 10:53 a.m. Rock Island Plow seems like it might have been a nice alternate location. Was it on the list?
Mike 10:53 a.m. Is there a chance with all that is going on 23rd and in the Plaza/ Midtown the streetcar would be able to go by all these places and make it an actual usable function for all.
Steve 10:53 a.m. STEVE: Streetcar extensions are always a possibility.
Steve 10:54 a.m. Well folks, we're going to call it quits this morning. Have a great weekend!

Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›