The Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer fielded reader questions Friday during his weekly OKC Central Live Chat. Each week, Steve hosts a live chat, giving readers a chance to ask questions about Oklahoma City development and growth as well as an opportunity to ask direct questions of OKC newsmakers like Mayor David Holt and Dan Straughan, the executive director of the Homeless Alliance. You can join Steve most Fridays at 10 a.m. to add your comments and questions about downtown development.
To be able to ask questions and interact with Steve or special guests, you must have a digital subscription to The Oklahoman and you must be logged in. Right now, you can get unlimited digital access to all of our content for $1 for three months.
Developers failing to maintain new landscaping can be reported to city
Q: A lot of developers put in trees as required by the city, but then promptly let them die without ever replacing them. Doesn’t someone from the city go around and monitor this? It seems if beautification of the city is a priority, this would be important to do.
A: The city currently is still pretty much in reactive mode when it comes to code complaints. But what you’re seeing is something you can call into the city’s Action Line at (405) 297-2535. Commercial developments are subject to a minimum landscaping requirement and are required to maintain plantings and trees. I agree, all too often developers grudgingly follow the landscaping requirements and then do nothing to keep the plantings alive. I do admire OnCue as an example of a company that cares about community appearance and puts great effort into maintaining trees, landscaping and plantings that I suspect often go above and beyond the city’s requirements.
More:A new Oklahoma City OnCue could be built at this public housing complex
Sidewalk construction ongoing
Q: Has the city stopped installing sidewalks in places other than new construction? We have been promised one on NW 30 between Pennsylvania and May for years and it has never happened.
A: I have some good news for you. The stretch of NW 30 between Pennsylvania and May Avenues was not selected for a sidewalk as part of the Better Streets Safer City bond issue, but I’m told by the city NW 30 between Pennsylvania and Villa Avenues will receive sidewalks through ARPA (pandemic recovery) funding. This doesn’t cover the gap between May and Villa, but I can tell you another bond issue is likely to be put together soon for a vote in the next couple of years.
To find out if your neighborhood is on the list for new sidewalks, visit www.okc.gov/pw for sidewalk project updates. The city is still building sidewalks as part of Better Streets Safer City and I suspect support for adding sidewalks will continue in the future.
More:In OKC there are some awful sidewalks. But the city won’t fix many of them, and here’s why
City is revising plans to expand where new sidewalks will be built
Q: I’m curious why they didn’t extend this sidewalk all the way to May since that would give complete walkability to Northwest Classen High School, Taft Stadium and Middle School, Eley’s Market, etc. Any clue as to why they stopped at Villa?
A: I got this answer from Max Harris, a senior planner with the city, after the chat ended on Friday:
“That is an issue we’ve discussed with the council member and neighborhood residents. The sidewalk project was taken from the 2018 bikewalkokc plan’s Pedestrian Priority Area (PPA) projects, specifically from the NW 23rd and Classen PPA (see attached). Unfortunately, Villa is the western edge of this PPA, but the bikewalkokc plan update is expected to expand this PPA boundary west to I-44.
“This update will encompass, among many other things, sidewalks along NW 30 from Villa to May. In the updated plan, which is scheduled to have a completed draft this summer, there will be an emphasis on prioritizing sidewalks on major streets that are the most dangerous for pedestrians, followed by local connectors streets that will create better access to local destinations like schools, parks, transit stops and commercial areas.”
Quail Creek a unique representation of mid-century architecture, worthy of historic preservation
Q: What neighborhoods do you think should be given historic status before their character is changed forever, and which ones do you think it is too late to save?
A: Quail Creek is my quick answer. I love this neighborhood and know it well. I grew up in the “poor” south side of Quail Creek on Rock Creek Road. The neighborhood is a great example of mid-century architecture. It’s a neighborhood with character, where the homes are all different and not the sort of cookie-cutter houses we’re seeing built by the hundreds in the ever-expanding suburbs. I’ve noticed one or two homes torn down already for some of these less remarkable houses, but not to the extent where demolition and construction is ruining the entire character and soul like we’re seeing in Nichols Hills.
I really hope folks in Quail Creek come to appreciate what they have before it’s too late.
Jimmy’s Egg rebuild of original restaurant stalled?
Q: At the former Jimmy’s Egg at NW 16 and May, the fence is down and the weeds are up. Any news on the site?
A: Sadly, no. The restaurant at NW 16 and May Avenue was the original Jimmy’s Egg and one of the last reminders of Beverly’s, a chain of chicken restaurants based in Oklahoma City that spread across the country during and after the Great Depression. The chain was the first franchise operation in the United States and it once boasted about 300 locations.
Only one Beverly’s remains at Northwest Expressway and Independence. That, however, is not one of the original restaurants that were often models of mid-century modern design (one still standing is home to 1492 at 1207 N Walker in Midtown). I loved the building at 1616 N May Ave. because it was a great example of mid-century modern architecture and retained the look and feel of an old school diner. Now it’s gone. Last year the owners reported they were delayed by a rezoning request. But I’m seeing no hint of any work proceeding.
Dirt and cellular antennas all that remains of landmark church
Q: Any news about how the old Christian Church property up at NW 36 and Walker will be developed?
A: No. They tore it all down and they might be waiting for people to forget what happened so a developer can come along and build something and claim they had no involvement in the destruction. The only remnant still standing is a ornamental post topped with cellular antennas.
Call council representative when unable to get response to potential code violations
Q: We have a house in our neighborhood that has eight cars that are always lined up and parked in the street. They are never moved, other than one of them. This has been reported to the action center so many times that there are eight pages of online reports on it. They always have the same response: officers will monitor. Yet the years go by, and the problem persists.
Why doesn’t OKC have a law like so many other cities limiting how long you can keep a car parked on the street? One thing great about Nichols Hills is that cars can’t be left on the street overnight. Why doesn’t OKC have a similar law? Or at least a permit to park on the street law like other cities have where you are limited to the number of cars you can park on the street? It’s frustrating, a blight on our neighborhood, and an encouragement to these companies that buy houses to rent them to far too many people to inhabit a single-family dwelling.
A: I’m not sure you’ve been properly informed. If vehicles are left unmoved and are shown to be inoperable, the owners can be cited. If you’re not getting a satisfactory response from city staff, you do have the option to call your city council representative. Such calls can prompt further action.
More:OKC survey of city services: Residents love the city; hate the streets
Jewel Theatre’s potential ranges gamut of community and entertainment uses
Q: Given that they were able to expand to the adjoining property to provide bar service, do you think the Jewel Theatre would have a better chance as a live venue for comedy and music or as a movie theatre? Or would some combination of the two be ideal?
A: I suspect it will be a multi-purpose venue, but I truly hope it retains the ability to show movies. I would love to see a theater that showcases Black cinema ranging from classic movies to documentaries and modern films. Where can we see films featuring legends like Paul Robeson, Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge? As someone who enjoys old classic films, I am stumped as to where to find movies starring African American legends. I’d pay for a ticket.
Classen emerging as a rare example of a “complete street”
Q: I attended a presentation of work from OU architecture students a few years ago and remember looking at one project which proposed a bike lane along Classen Blvd. “That’ll never happen, I thought. Where did you come up with that idea?” And…here it is. I’m impressed and hope it’s used. What do you think? I know, in Tulsa, there have been many complaints about some major streets being narrowed to support bike lanes.
A: I look forward to seeing the project completed. The transformation so far is pretty dramatic, with adjustments for bus rapid transit and a dedicated lane for bicyclists. This is especially meaningful in light of the tragic deaths we’ve seen in past years of bicyclists killed along the corridor. Classen was built out for six lanes at a time when it was the only major north-south corridor in north Oklahoma City (before I-235 and the Lake Hefner Parkway).
Traffic counts along Classen hover at 13,000 between Sheridan Avenue and NW 13 and then go up to 27,000 as it goes north to NW 23. The section of Classen between Sheridan and NW 13 is absolutely a candidate for a road diet and transformation like the one underway. The transformation of the boulevard into a corridor that accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit makes it a rare example of a “complete street” in Oklahoma City.
Building permits indicate work continuing on Canoo electric vehicle assembly plant
Q: Anything new on the Canoo venture to take over the old Terex plant out on I-40 west?
A: When I first reported on the acquisition of the plant, I was told by brokers it was being bought by Canoo. The transaction, however, was with AFV Partners, led by Tony Aquila, who is also CEO of Canoo. Canoo, in turn, reports it has a long-term lease with AFV for the former Terex plant at 9528 W Interstate 40 Service Rd.
Canoo reported in April it will initially occupy close to 500,000 square feet, with the ability to expand. In phase 1, Canoo expects to employ more than 500 people, ramping teams over the coming months. Canoo seems to be following through on ramping up the electric vehicle plant with records showing several building permits submitted and reviewed in May.
Historic church building awaits a visionary who can bring it back to life
Q: Sometimes when I’m in a city like St. Louis, looking at their vast array of beautiful, old and vacant buildings, I think to myself that, if it was in Oklahoma City, someone would immediately appreciate its value and rehabilitate it, EXCEPT, I remember there IS that one on NW 11th and Robinson that is so neglected and so deserving of attention. I know you spoken about this building before but I’m wondering if you have any updates.
A: I believe you are talking about First Church of Christ, Scientist, which was built in 1921. Local architects acquired the building in the late 1990s and tried to turn it into a design and arts center. Their plan didn’t work out, but they did get the building added to the National Register of Historic Places and more importantly, they added a covenant into the title prohibiting its destruction. Travis W. Watkins Tax Resolution and Accounting bought the building in 1918 with plans to make the firm’s new headquarters.
I do know the firm was initially sincere in its effort to start a renovation. Everything came to a halt when the project was submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office for approval for tax credits.
Unfortunately, the person tasked with such reviews at the time gained a reputation for being anti-developer and demanding to the point of killing projects. She is gone now, but some of the projects that came to a halt during her tenure, including this church, remain stalled with no sign of being restarted.
No plans yet for car wash purchased by OAK developers
Q: Any updates on the OAK? Also, what are their plans for the Red Carpet Car Wash which they purchased across the street?
A: Anyone driving past OAK has to be impressed by the size and scale of the development, which currently includes apartments, a hotel, restaurants and retail with names like Capital Grille, RH (Restoration Hardware) and Arhaus. I’m told by the OAK folks they do not have a plan yet for the car wash but will begin that discussion soon. The car wash has a lease that continues for the next couple of years.