Posts about downtown

Postcard Tells Story

November 20th, 2009

1915_okc_birdseye

This is probably the coolest Oklahoma City postcard I have ever come across. Isn’t it incredible to consider the number of buildings, the amount of density, and potential RETAIL, that could be developed on the Cox Convention Center block? It was there before, and with a new MAPS 3 convention center coming there is no reason (at least, no good reason) we shouldn’t demolish that monster and put buildings there again.  What do you think?

Oh yeh, if you want the postcard you are going to have to cough-up $19.95 (click here). Might be worth it to somebody, but as much as I love this one, that is a little steep.

November 20th, 2009

This is great news for downtown, particularly Film Row and west Main Street.

ULI hosts a “Back Room” Discussion on OKC – Tuesday, Oct 13 at 5:30pm

October 12th, 2009

PEOPLE WHO SHOULD COME

If you enjoy the content of this blog and want to join me, some of Oklahoma City’s top real estate and planning professional, and two of my favorite fellow bloggers for a night of candid discussion on all things OKC, then this is the even for you.  I have had the pleasure of being involved with the ULI organization over the years.  Initially in Oklahoma City as part of an effort to found the Oklahoma District Council and since as a student involved in the annual urban design competitions.  I think highly of the organization, especially the group we have working locally, and have high hopes for the impact ULI can have on the land use and development practices in our city.  So it was truly an honor to be asked to sit on the next ULI panel this Tuesday night at the Midtown Deli…

ABOUT THE EVENT

Okay, enough with the fluffy intro.  This event is billed as a “candid ‘back room’” event and I am going to try to make sure we deliver (though I would request that if I do get run out of town, someone will at least drop me off at the airport).   Here is the event description from ULI:

Some of the best insights about OKC Real Estate and Urban Planning are found on the web! Now three very popular BLOGGERS join us up-close and in-person! This will be a candid “back room” event — not the usual Yada Yada. 20 bucks buys you drinks, eats, and some stuff money generally cannot buy. If you come, bring a business card.

What will we talk about?  A lot of that is up to you.  Bring a business card so that we can put you on the “Roulette Wheel”. If the wheel lands on your name, you get to ask any question you want. Obviously, we will probably have to talk about MAPS 3.  Hopefully we can offer a multifaceted view of the program.  Even as an admitted fan of MAPS 3 and someone who plans to vote yes, it definitely isn’t perfect.  We can also talk Devon Tower, Downtown Streetscapes, and the future of Bricktown, Automobile Alley, and the burgeoning Midtown district that is hosting the event  Finally, while we have a suburban developer downtown, we should venture into some of the more technical aspects of development and the differences between urban and suburban development models – this might actually be a very beneficial discussion that we don’t have often enough.

ABOUT THE PANELIST

I can’t explain how I am qualified to be on the panel with Jeff and Steve, so I won’t try.  I like and admire both of them, but we definitely view the city from varied perspective.

Jeff Click
Blogger at ModernLandRun, President of the Central Oklahoma Homebuilders, and  also authors the funniest tweets on the web about the hilarious remarks of his 4 yr old daughter.

Steve Lackmeyer
Reporter for The Oklahoman, literally wrote the book on downtown development in OKC, is always blogging away at OKC Central

SEE YOU THERE

Register in advance or just come on by Midtown Deli on Tuesday at 5:30pm.


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OETA Core to Shore Feature3

September 25th, 2009

Just took the time to watch this OETA video on Core to Shore all the way through.  Great production with a lot of people I respect and admire – basically every voice you hear speaking.  Gets you excited about the possibilities for the future of Oklahoma City!   There are still a number of details that need to be worked out with the Core to Shore plan and some “interesting” premises that need prodding, but we can save those conversations for 2010 following the passing of MAPS3 and a lovely Christmas holiday with the family.  Enjoy!

Picture 6

Click above image to go to the OETA site to watch video.

(via lasomeday at okctalk)

Just a comment on MAPS 3 and the Canal Extension

July 11th, 2009

This is, or at least was intended to be, just a comment on MAPS 3 and the canal extension.  In fact, it wasn’t supposed to be posted here, but was originally going to be a quick three sentence contribution to a sinuous discussion over at OKC Central.  For better or for worse,  I am really amped up about all things OKC and MAPS 3.  I actually laid awake in bed last night thinking through it all until the sun came up this morning.  Though this post started as a response to NaptownEd’s  comment below, the combination of a lot of thinking, sincere passion, and nervous enthusiasm spilled over into something much longer than intended…

NaptownEd said:

Here is an example that OKC can possibly replicate. Click on link to the Indy canal that is align with various development: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=874282

Here are a few of the pictures to give you a sense of the Indy Canal Walk that Ed is referencing:


indy_canal_01

indy_canal_02



MY COMMENT(ARY):

That is a very nice canal. I like the variation in form and scale.

However, the execution of the urban fabric that borders the canal is very poor. Heavy facades, a lack of transparency on sides and entrances of buildings, concrete retaining walls, and vastly over-sized setbacks, create a place that is ill suited for an urban environment and offers very little utility for anything other than glorified recreational paths.  I think the results speak for themselves.

Indianapolis Canal

Downtown Oklahoma City’s two most glaring weaknesses are the lack of pedestrians and lack of retail storefronts. The two go hand-in-hand; you cannot sustain one without the other. The City does not manage retail stores, but it has the power and the obligation when it comes to providing a public realm that attracts pedestrians.

canal_extension_concept

A canal connection is a sad substitute for a well-designed street. I don’t mean this as a rebuke of the proposed canal extension, but am, affably I hope, calling into question the process(es) and underlying logic of many proposed MAPS 3 projects.  In fact, as we move down the list you see that pedestrian concerns continue to take a back burner.  A convention center will certainly detract from the pedestrian’s experience of the Central Park.  This super-block structure will significantly damage the pedestrian realm, so it very important that it is placed accordingly.  The boulevard, as designed, will, ironically enough, actually hinder pedestrian’s ability to walk from the Core to the Shore.  Further, all boulevards, especially wide boulevards, are not well suited for retail and can can only hope to sustain retail in the very densest cities that have the ability to fill wider than average sidewalks with pedestrians.* These projects are not strategically focused on enhancing Oklahoma City’s quality of life.

But what if we wanted to strike at the heart of Downtown and Bricktown’s problems? MAPS 3 could employ a thoughtful strategy of interventions ALL intended to improve the pedestrian experience: adding streetcars, improving public spaces, planting street trees, widening sidewalks, and more.   MAPS 3  could boost both Downtown and Bricktown by increasing the number of pedestrians and unleash a number of opportunities for retail currently lying dormant within the fabric of the city.  Joining with the MAPS 3 investments, we could step up efforts to build out undeveloped and surface parking lots, which would contribute greatly to the pedestrian experience while increasing density.  Activating the city we have today with people and retail would do more to enhance the city than any project or combination of projects that has been proposed to date.

*This is due to the fact that a narrower street allows for shoppers to connect visually with stores on both sides of the street, and cross back and forth relatively quickly.  The distance and visual disconnectedness of a wide boulevard makes it necessary for stores to rely on the foot traffic supplied by only one side of the street, possible only if the sidewalks carry substantial pedestrian traffic.

Oklahoma City (Metro) in Miniature

March 4th, 2009

What happens when you get 24 pieces of colored cardboard, model glue, a resin molder, laser cutter and someone who has a passion for miniature models together for the entire weekend?…hmm, I have no idea.  In fact, that sounds like a complete waste of time.  But you can pull off a pretty good “miniature model look” by tilt-shifting the image, and now you don’t have to buy an expensive lens to make it happen.  Tiltshiftmaker.com allows you to upload photos to which you can then apply a digital tilt-shift effect.  I snagged some birds-eyes from maps.live.com and am pretty impressed with the results.  Take a look and then try it out for yourself.

If you come up with something cool, email it to me and I will post it for the world to see.










The Flatiron

February 27th, 2009

Thought you might enjoy seeing the new video of The Flatiron project being developed by Humphreys Company.  In case you didn’t already know, the Humphreys Company is headed up by my brother Grant and father Kirk.  They are working on some really exciting developments including the adaptive re-use of this historic flatiron building.  I have also posted an email sent out by Grant (with his permission) letting you know how the economy is affecting the development schedule and how you can help get this project going.  Check it out and if you are interested then follow the link to their site and find out more.

Have a great weekend!



VIDEO


The Flatiron: Oklahoma City, OK from imagiNATIVEamerica on Vimeo.


FLATIRON FACT SHEET



A NOTE FROM THE DEVELOPER



From: Grant Humphreys
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 5:03 PM
Subject: THE FLATIRON – A SYMBOL OF RESILIENCE – of our downtown, of our city, of our Oklahoma spirit

Across the nation, the economic crisis has forced many development projects to be put on hold or brought to an end. Yet Oklahoma City, despite some very real economic downturns, continues to prove itself as one of the most resilient markets in America.

After almost three years of design and due diligence, our project known as ‘The Flatiron’ is poised to become a reality. When the construction of this project begins at the gateway of downtown OKC, The Flatiron will deliver the message that Oklahoma City is still in the game. Watching this new 5-story mixed-use project be built will boost confidence in our market and help maintain or increase property values as well. No doubt the Devon Tower will deliver this same message around the world, but we’re the small business version that is ready to go. But we need YOUR help.

We need YOUR help to meet our pre-leasing hurdle. The Flatiron will create more than 73,000 RSF of Class ‘A’ office and retail space ideally located at the gateway to downtown, Bricktown and the Oklahoma Health Center. Our asking rates are $22/RSF (gross) for loft office and $22/RSF (net) for street level retail (with CPI bumps). We need credit tenants willing to sign a 5-year lease. Local tenants are great. Once we’ve pre-leased 50% of this space, we will move towards an exciting groundbreaking event. We want to work with brokers. So bring me a deal. With your help, we can meet this goal . . . and you’ll be the first invited to the party!

All the information you need is available online at www.flatironokc.com. You can find floor plans, marketing brochures and a video of the project. Make a point to watch the video. It’s awesome.

Dave Ortloff, our Director of Marketing, is handling the broker relations. He’s here for you. If you’d like to arrange a tour or receive more information about this exciting project, just call Dave at (405) 228-1000 (ext 4). His contact information is also on the website referenced above.

Let’s work together to show everyone that, despite the rest of the nation, the real estate market in Oklahoma City is alive and well. I appreciate your help!

Thanks,

Grant



Find out more by visiting their website at: FlatironOkc.com!

Improving Public Participation: Thank you Mr. Claus!

February 25th, 2009

A while back we discussed some ways to improve public participation in Oklahoma City.  I think some good ideas came out of the discussion and have been hoping that the ideas would be considered at City Hall.  Still, often it is hard to tell whether the decision-makers take note of this blog, or anything else posted on the internet for that matter (except you Steve, we know they read OKCCentral).   I have often wondered if time spent writing formal letters and making phone calls would be more effective at getting things done, but abandoned this course of action because 1. it is boring 2. lacks transparency and 3. feel that the web is a superior medium for communicating ideas.  Ultimately, it will have to be the decision-makers that adapt to the new ways of communicating with constituents that are made possible by the web.  And some of OKC’s decision-makers are already ahead of the game!  I must say that I was quite pleased when Russell Claus, Director of the Oklahoma City Planning Department, dropped by the site to contribute to the discussion with the following comment:

Duly noted. ensuring a better web site is a high priority of mine, and a lot of your suggestions coincide with my own ideas for improvement. But, as you would appreciate, spare staff time to manage this is at an extreme premium. I’m trying to rectify this with the addition of an outreach position, something I’ve included in my last 3 years budget requests. I consider an effective citizen communications program an essential for any planning department and hopefully, I can make that happen soon. I apologize for the deficiencies in the interim. Thanks for everyone’s input

I consider Russell a good friend.  I had the pleasure of interning under him in the Planning Department’s Urban Redevelopment Division and think the city did well to promote him to Director.  I believe him when he says that these things are a priority and look forward to seeing public participation improve during his tenure.  With the challenges of implementing new systems and hiring new people at a time when the economy is hurting and municipalities are having to shrink budgets, we may have to wait a while to see all of this come about.

In the meantime, I will again offer to map the agenda items for free (as I did in the comments on 1/15):

I will definitely pledge to make a Google map of every agenda from this point forward in 2009 if the city will give me the information in a spreadsheet format I can use…

I think this single change could make for a significant improvement and lead to a number of new participants in the public process.  Though admittedly, depending on how the information is currently formatted, preparing the information in the spreadsheet may require city staff time that is just not available.

Either way, when city leaders enter into a dialagoue with consituents – be it in person or online – public participation can only be improved.  So thank you Mr. Claus!

Analyzing Pedestrian Movement in the Public Realm

February 24th, 2009

Pedestrian path movement can be analyzed using video reworked with computer animation software.

More often than not, cars follow the paths prescribed by traffic engineers but pedestrians are a different story.  Many pedestrians venture outside the lines, whether to save time, energy, or take a route for which a path is not provided.  In some cases, these improvised pedestrian routes can be identified by the dirt path that develops through repeated use – this usually a clear sign that there is a problem with the form and paths provided.  But in most cases, we fail to sufficiently understand pedestrian behavior and design in ways that exhibit this lack of understanding.

That said, there are a number of ways in which this gap in the analysis can be filled.  I previously mentioned the possibilities of new gps-enabled handheld phones, which would be suitable for a downtown scale route and origin-destination analysis.  Also, Jan Gehl has a done a lot of work studying pedestrian behavior and developed a process that utilizes teams manually recording a number of important behavior factors.  And here (above image) is one method of tracking pedestrian movement – from pedestrianlevitation.net – that uses video reworked with computer animation software.

It is hard to study pedestrian behavior in cities without an ample supply of pedestrians.  But it is a historic lack of understanding and adequate attention that has created this dilemma.  The more attention we give to an analysis of pedestrians and the way they interact with the city, the more appropriate our design solutions will be, resulting in an increase in pedestrian users over time.

Right now there is very little (i.e. zero) analysis of this type taking place in Oklahoma City.  This is unfortunate but expected from a city that long ago decided to focus only on mobility as it relates to automobiles.  Hopefully, public works will begin to treat pedestrian issues like they matter, developing a process for analyzing circulation at least within active areas where pedestrian-friendliness is a stated priority (e.g. Downtown and Bricktown).  It might even be interesting to do “traffic counts” in the Underground to see how many pedestrians we are keeping off the streets.

But until that happens we can do some rudimentary analysis by identifying where pedestrian circulation problems are shown to exists – dirt paths.  So does anyone know of any dirt paths in Downtown or Bricktown?  I can think of a few, but am hoping you all can chime in with some examples I don’t know.

Re-visioning the Chamber: Defining Objectives

February 13th, 2009

Okay, lets get down to it. In the first post I argued that the current Chamber building proposal is flawed and requires a new approach. Part II laid out some basic information on the site and hopefully convinced you of its importance to downtown as the nexus between multiple urban districts.

Now, lets establish what the Chamber site should be; laying out what the plan for the site needs to accomplish and what elements must be incorporated into this plan.



WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH

It is impossible to plan the site without a clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve. Here, two things matter. First, there are the objectives of the Chamber, made up of their needs and desires for the building and site. But these objectives cannot be established in isolation; they must relate to the broader goals we are pursuing within downtown and the areas surrounding the site. An understanding of these broader goals combined with the requirements of the Chamber should give us the information needed to put forth a realistic proposal that meets the objectives of all parties.


One element the Chamber hopes to incorporate into their plan is a public space to honor OKC business leaders.

CHAMBER BUILDING OBJECTIVES

The Chamber has expressed a number of goals for the project that are specific to their needs, mission and prominent role in Oklahoma City. Based on the information about the project that has appeared thus far, I have created this list of objectives and requirements:

  • building of approx. 50,000 square feet
  • maintain views of historic Oklahoman Building
  • create a “front door” for the community
  • allow people to walk from convention center
  • an iconic design
  • includes a public space/plaza to honor business leaders
  • convenient parking



BROADER DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES

It requires a lengthy process, collaborating with multiple stakeholder groups, to establish a set of broader goals for a community, a process that this blog has neither the time nor capacity to take on. Thankfully though, such a process has already taken place and provides an acceptable framework to guide the broader objectives of our plan.


One of the most repeated goals stated by leaders of the OKC community is to make Downtown more pedestrian-friendly.

The Downtown Design District (§ 59-7200) guidelines have these five stated objectives:

(1) promote the development and redevelopment of the downtown area in a manner consistent with the unique and diverse design elements of downtown;

(2) ensure that a DBD use is compatible with the commercial, cultural, historical, and governmental significance of downtown;

(3) promote the downtown area as a vital mixed-use area;

(4) create a network of pleasant public spaces and pedestrian amenities in the downtown area, and;

(5) enhance existing structures, preserve and restore historic features, and circulation patterns in the downtown area.

It is probably not fair to judge by legal language alone. However, the message from the downtown community has been very consistent in supporting these goals across the board. For instance, a quick scan of the internet found quotes from city leaders, real estate professionals, planners and more; all reaffirming that #4 – making the city more “pedestrian-friendly” – is not only one of the codified objectives, but a genuine goal of people from across the downtown community.

Here are a range of quotes from across the city that echo the priorities of the Downtown Design guidelines:

…The city is trying to change into a city that is less sprawling, has more density and is more pedestrian friendly…

- Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City

Pedestrian traffic has to be addressed. For two years, I have been a downtown walker from West Main to Midtown to Bricktown all the way to the river. We need to improve our core to make it more pedestrian friendly. This also includes bicycles now. The new bike rack plan for Bricktown is a step in the right direction…I am a proponent of walking outside. I think it creates energy on the streets. Although the Underground is a nice alternative for very windy or cold or rainy days, I like to see people on the streets. This is also good for our tourism. We need to encourage people to walk … might help their health, too….improving our pedestrian traffic needs to be on the agenda for further discussion including input from urban neighbors and downtown workers.

- Judy Hatfield, Downtown Developer

Pedestrian issues are very big on our priority list.

- Jeff Bezdek, Urban Neighbors (Downtown’s Neighborhood Association)

Pedestrian flow is the real key to the overall success of not only Core to Shore, but also the sustained viability of the other points of interest our city has to offer to locals and out-of-towners as well. We have the ability in Oklahoma City to mitigate a lot of the horror stories other markets have seen by learning from their mistakes and being proactive. Our CBD is small enough that if you’re a tourist and coming into town for an NBA game, or an NCAA event, you could conceivably take in everything from Bricktown to Midtown to Core to Shore on foot over the course of a weekend.

- Brent Conway, CB Richard Ellis

We want to create more of an urban feeling. – Framing the streets and providing for a more secure sense of a pedestrian life. It’s not suburban in style.

- Terry Taylor, formerly of the Oklahoma City Planning Department



ELEMENTS OF THE PLAN

Reading through the objectives of both the Chamber and the broader downtown community, you see that at a base-level there is not much conflict. The requirements for the building do not indicate that it would have to, in anyway, detract from the type of downtown we desire. In fact, the Chamber is more or less the ideal partner, hoping to create a high quality building, include public space, provide for pedestrian connectivity, and preserve historic assets. The only element that there is not a conclusive agreement on is the mixture of uses within the building. The city rightly encourages “mixed-use” because it contributes to a thriving downtown and creates opportunities for urban retail. However, the Chamber building is in some ways a true civic building – not dissimilar from a courthouse or city hall. So perhaps the absence of a mixture of uses in the Chamber building is not only acceptable, but appropriate.

Now that we have identified the objectives of all parties and established that there are no conflicts to resolve, it is fairly simple to construct a list of what the Chamber site plan should include.


Designed by Layton & Smith and constructed in 1909, the Oklahoman Building remains one of OKC’s most beautiful buildings.

THE CHAMBER SITE PLAN SHOULD:

(1) Provide for a prominently positioned “iconic” building – 50,000 sf in size – welcoming visitors to the city

(2) Preserve views of the historic Oklahoman Building on the northeast corner of 4th and Broadway

(3) Create suitable pedestrian connections, especially along Broadway between the CBD/Bricktown areas and the Automobile Alley/Memorial area, and between the residential neighborhoods east of the site and the rest of downtown, along 3rd and/or 4th street

(4) Serve as the impetus for additional development adjacent to the Site to create a vital mixed-use area. Opportunities include the redevelopment of the drive-thru bank south of the site, the development of the parking lot northwest of the site, and the potential enhancement of Automobile Alley as a retail/mixed-use corridor.

(5) Provide convenient parking that is appropriate within the urban context of the site

(6) Allow room for a great public space that not only provides an opportunity to honor Oklahoma City’s business leaders, but significantly enhances the civic quality of life for the entire community. Its a place to congregate, to celebrate, to relax, or to play. It should be a great urban public space – an outdoor community living room!

Oddly enough, Oklahoma City once had just such a public space – our first downtown park – and it was located at 4th and Broadway.

Continue reading: Oklahoman Park: OKC’s First Great Public Space!

For more on the planning of the Chamber site:

1. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal
2. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II
3. Re-visioning the Chamber: Defining Objectives
4. Oklahoman Park: OKC’s First Great Public Space