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Plans for Bricktown Garage Await Review

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer fielded reader questions Friday during his weekly OKC Central Live Chat. You can join Steve online most Fridays at 9:30 a.m. to add your comments and questions about downtown development.

Q: Why does BancFirst need a new parking garage? Don't they already own the Santa Fe garage? Surely we have enough parking spaces downtown without having to build another garage. Can the city put a moratorium on parking garages?

A: First, remember that the Cox Convention Center and its 947 spaces will likely to go away in the next few years as the new Oklahoma City Convention Center opens up. The Santa Fe garage is owned and used by Continental Resources and BancFirst.

I spoke to Don Karchmer, who is building the new garage for BancFirst just east of the BNSF Railway viaduct and north of Main Street. The size of the structure is still in flux, but he is moving ahead and just waiting for the Bricktown Urban Design Committee to meet and vote on the application.

The plans, as submitted, call for an eight-story, 799-space garage. The garage is part of BancFirst's move to the former Liberty Bank Tower, most recently known as Cotter Ranch Tower. 

BancFirst is moving more employees downtown from other locations. So while you may be right that the city may have too much parking in some parts of downtown, it may not have enough in other areas. We also have 400 Heartland employees set to move into the nearby Mideke building at Oklahoma Avenue and Main Street.

Q: I'm starting to see some small scale development here and there in the older, decaying neighborhoods immediately surrounding Oklahoma City University (between 23rd and 30th, Classen and Penn). Is this an up and coming area? After all, it connects to Putnam Heights on the North, Shepherd Hills on the West, Uptown on the East, and Classen 10-Penn on the South, with some already nice neighborhoods mixed into that area as well.

A: The revival of Uptown, Plaza District and Classen have made this area a prime candidate for a resurgence. It's got good historic housing stock and access to retail and a grocery store. The one nagging issue is the ongoing struggle with crime at NW 23 and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Q: Steve, you mentioned that the Skirvin would reopen sometime later this month. To what extent will they open up? Rooms, bar, restaurant, social distancing practices?

A: That report is from Mike Carrier, president of the CVB. I've not been able to reach the folks at Marcus Hotels & Resorts and I'm not aware of any manager having been named to lead the hotel following the death of Gerald Rappaport the week before the Skirvin Hilton was closed.

The hotel market is still very soft.

Q: How could we capitalize on this time to pursue out of state businesses to relocate to Oklahoma? Businesses with headquarters in places like California, New York, etc. are having a terrible time getting back up and going. We need to be pursuing these as well as those who can now permanently work from home to promote our cheap cost of living.

A: I know you mean well, but there's something about purposely going out and trying to take jobs away from places that are dealing with death and suffering that doesn't sit well with me. These are people we're talking about. We are going to see jobs coming in from other states. And that is to be valued and even celebrated. But it's not without a cost, so let's be sensitive to that.

Q: Are you hearing of any significant layoffs looming with Devon Energy or Continental Resources?

A: Jack Money, our energy reporter, reports oil prices are rebounding and are up to $29 a barrel.

"It's been trending up throughout this week. Of course, we need to see what happens. But the price at the pump is going up."

More: Continental Resources historically has not engaged in layoffs. And as Jack reported this last week, Chesapeake Energy has top executives and board members taking pay cuts. They also have started quarterly bonuses to rank and file employees to keep them motivated.

Jack said Devon Energy has been periodically trimming staff to meet its changing operational needs, but not due to COVID-19.

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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 ›