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OKC Central live chat recap: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, even in Oklahoma City

Drone image of Oklahoma City skyline with I-235 in the foreground. [Image by Dave Morris/The Oklahoman]
Drone image of Oklahoma City skyline with I-235 in the foreground. [Image by Dave Morris/The Oklahoman]

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer fielded questions from readers during this week's OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve most Fridays at 9:30 a.m. to add your questions and comments about ongoing developments around Oklahoma City.

A minor piece of MAPS 4 is beautification. I was thinking about this yesterday and couldn't come up with a great answer. What beautification project has been a signature success for OKC?

I'm not sure how you define "signature success" or even "beautification." I suspect everyone will see it from their own perspective.

But I think we could learn a lot from the entry into Automobile Alley from Interstate 235 at Sixth Street. It's a simple but beautiful park quality lawn and landscaping that forms a wheel around the intersection of Sixth, Harrison and Walnut. The area was paid for and maintained by the Automobile Alley association.

We could also look at streetscapes, with my favorite being along NW 16 in the Plaza District. I'm not sure we would have the Plaza District as successful as it is today without that investment made by the city 20 years ago.

We can also look at dozens of public art murals, sculptures and works funded through Downtown Initiatives, a program operated by Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership and funded through money raised by the annual Dean A. McGee Awards.

I remember an Oklahoma City that predated these efforts and I've loved watching the evolution since.

With the park open and the convention center, hotel, parking garage and attached apartments set to open middle of next year, when will we hear more about the Midtown Renaissance lots west of the arena? Are they just in a waiting pattern at this point?

Bob Howard, who has invested millions in Midtown, actually owns the former Fred Jones dealership property with his REHCO arm, not Midtown Renaissance. He is being smart not rushing into developing the lots and maintaining them as parking in the short term.

Yes, he's thinking about it, and he's not planning to leave it forever as parking. But we really don't know what is going to happen in terms of development of the overall area. There are no pedestrian and vehicular traffic patterns to really look at for how to best proceed. There isn't a clear view yet on what visitor traffic might be generated by the convention center or how it might reflect Scissortail Park as an adjoining attraction.

We don't know what the market will justify on the property once all of this opens. We're getting closer to getting those answers, however, and I suspect we'll hear more at that time.

Moving too quickly with development on these lots would have been foolish and Howard's patience is quite understandable. It's truly prime property being located between Scissortail Park, the Myriad Gardens and Chesapeake Arena while also fronting the Oklahoma City Boulevard.

Howard bought the property when dirt in the area was cheap. The potential for the three-block site is pretty amazing.

When will we see work on union station start?

Not anytime soon.

I saw Jack Money's article on the GE research facility being rebranded as Baker Hughes Energy Innovation Center. Really enjoyed the dive into the continued focus on tech startups in oil and gas. My question to you though, is do you think this will have any impact on the innovation district?

From all that I'm hearing the research center is still going strong and is still involved in efforts to advance the area as an innovation zone.

I stayed overnight in Bricktown two times in the past 45 days. While driving to appointments, I noticed the area is teeming with new hotels. The hotel options are great for the traveler/visitor; however, with all the new construction and announcements of historic properties being converted to inns — it is clear that OKC is overbuilding this segment of the economy. Do you share the same concern? (Why or why not?)

A lot of people have this concern and hotel development is slowing down quite a bit with several previously announced for Bricktown on hold or canceled altogether.

What's the hold up with Hacienda Tacos getting into the old Irma's in Midtown? I need them there pronto.

All good tacos will come to those who wait.

Capitol Hill seems like it has slowed down a bit. Anything exciting on this front?

The MAPS 4 beautification effort includes Capitol Hill and that should help.

When is the lower park expected to begin in south downtown? Their schedule shows this spring. Also, what should be included in this expansion?

This year. It is set to include various athletic and picnic amenities and a potential area dedicated to special needs children.

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 ›

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