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  1. #1
    jbrown84's Avatar
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    Default Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Above first floor, buildings in Bricktown remain vacant
    BY STEVE LACKMEYER
    Published: January 15, 2009

    When Spaghetti Warehouse opened 20 years ago in Bricktown, it set forth a development trend that saw restaurants and shops open on the first-floor level of old warehouses while upstairs went vacant.

    A wave of new development has longtime observers like Jim Cowan, director of the Bricktown Association, hoping those days may be over.

    "It’s been a big problem; most of these buildings are vacant above the first floor,” Cowan said of the trend. "I think that’s the least desirable space in the way that Bricktown has been developed.”

    Cowan suspects costs associated with renovating the upper floors of warehouses built prior to World War II and difficulties complying with modern codes are to blame. But he thinks the biggest source of hesitation for upstairs development — parking — may finally be fading.

    "One of the slowest times for Bricktown parking is during the day,” Cowan said. "Many of the tenants of these upper floors are offices with daytime businesses.”

    Chuck Ainsworth, a developer in Bricktown the past dozen years, is busy wrapping up renovation of the seven-story Candy Factory building, 1 E Sheridan. He points to the Spaghetti Warehouse as an unfortunate trend-setter when it kicked off the emergence of Bricktown as an entertainment district.

    "I think they were inhibited from developing upper floors because they weren’t confident of their parking situation,” Ainsworth said.

    Ainsworth thinks those woes have been answered with the addition of hundreds of parking spaces a block north along Main Street. Karchmer, who owns and operates the north lots, has deals pending or signed with Allen Contracting and a Tulsa architectural firm that is going to open offices in a recently renovated building along the 200 block of Main Street.

    "If you have a building on the National Register of Historic Places, it significantly impacts the costs,” Ainsworth said. "You can also sell the tax credits — it’s tricky, but you can sell them.”

    Such assistance, Ainsworth said, was critical in covering the expense of constructing a $450,000 elevator tower on the north side of the Candy Factory and spending $500,000 on new windows.

    Karchmer is weighing all of the same considerations for 4 E Sheridan. He can provide parking in an adjoining lot for office tenants but is reluctant to pursue tax credits because of worries about bureaucratic delays and other restrictions.

    "Steel costs are down,” Karchmer said. "I think we can get a better price right now than seven or eight months ago. But the con is there are not as many cats out there looking for space. To make it, you’ve got to see what kind of investment you’re looking at. If we can get a decent bid, we’ll probably do it with or without a tenant. I think we can get the tenants with what will be the slickest space in Bricktown.”

    Upper floors get attention
    Jim Cowan, director of the Bricktown Association, is looking forward to more upstairs windows lighting up in the district’s old warehouses. Wednesday the Bricktown Urban Design Committee reviewed plans for four projects that involve improvements to long-vacant upper floors:

    • Interior demolition is under way in the upper floors at 2 E California and 12 E California as the owners, oilmen John Shelton and Charles Harding, prepare to convert the empty space into offices overlooking the Bricktown Canal.

    • Veteran Bricktown developer Don Karchmer is weighing cost estimates for a four-story addition at 4 E Sheridan that would allow for addition of stairways and construction of offices in the top three floors. The building’s only current occupant is the Melting Pot located on the first floor.

    • Allen Contracting is looking at renovating both floors of a long-vacant warehouse at 129 E Main and adding a third story. Company owner Jeff Allen said he plans to move his offices into the property, which first caught his attention while his company was refurbishing the adjoining Walnut Avenue Bridge.

    • The white and yellow facade at 27 E Sheridan will be repainted red as a new restaurant, Brix, prepares to open. Building owner Jeff Moore is looking at a $20,000 estimate provided by Brix operators to restore windows that are covered with plywood.

  2. #2
    BDP
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Parking: OKC's most detrimental non-existent problem.

    I just wonder what downtown and bricktown would be like if it actually had all of this additional parking these people seem to think it needs to make it viable. I mean, I eat down there at least twice a week on average and go out in bricktown and to games about 3-4 times a month and NEVER pay for parking. I just can't even wrap my head around there being more parking in a city center...

    I mean, most places you go to you're going to park twice as far, if at all, and pay twice as much. Even where there is public transit, you often have to walk farther than it would take you to walk across our entire downtown area. I read stuff like this and the corresponding comments and I sometimes wonder if these people are from Mars. I try and understand. I just can't.

  3. #3
    OKCMallen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    It's a cultural thing. People think that they should be able to park right in front of where they're going. They want all the cool parts of urban density without having any density. And to those people I say- feel free to stay out in Yukon.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Quote Originally Posted by OKCMallen View Post
    It's a cultural thing. People think that they should be able to park right in front of where they're going.
    No, it's a laziness thing.

  5. #5
    BDP
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    It's a cultural thing.
    No doubt. But we're not talking about that much space really. Do we really not have enough people in Oklahoma City that value the experience of living or working in an area with dozens of nearby services and amenities to choose from more than making sure they don't walk 300 feet more every day? How do we even know that the entire culture is against this when developers haven't really given people in Oklahoma City a choice? It seems to me that it is a constant scapegoat for developers to justify leaving this stuff vacant.

    The reality is that we really don't know how many Oklahomans might choose a real urban setting to live and work in because they don't have much choice. The fact that we can get it at all given the lack of amenities downtown should indicate to at least some of these developers and tennants that there would be even more demand if the area actually offered a complete urban option, where not having immediate parking every second of the day is more than made up for by the amount of services offered within walking distance.

    It could certainly be that working in an office park surrounded by a large moat of black top, parking half a dozen times instead of once to run errands, and putting as much space between each other is simply the culture of Oklahoma, but I just can't wrap my head around the idea that a metro area of 1.2 million can't support at least one vibrant, fully occupied, and fully serviced urban district.

    The thing is that the parking problem will not be solved by adding more parking as much as it will be solved by making the area more desirable than front door parking. You really have to make it so that the choice is 1) working in a wasteland with no walkable services, but front door parking or 2) working in a vibrant community where, after you park once for the day, you never need your car again. So, really, the way to get over the parking problem, imo, is to fully develop the area to maximize its density potential and mitigate any parking concerns by offering an experience unavailable anywhere else in the city.

    The area can not compete by simply converting to the sprawl model that guides development across the rest of the city. It needs to find a way to actually deliver what it promises and it will never do that until it gets over the parking obsession. Anyone who is even considering moving to the area obviously does not put the same priority on front door parking as someone who finds it better to build a campus on memorial or nichols hills. They want more, yet, ironically, it's this obsessive over emphasis on parking that is keeping our city from offering it to them.

  6. #6
    Urbanized's Avatar
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Hear, hear.

  7. #7
    danielf1935 is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Talk about being "Clueless in Bricktown"

  8. #8
    metro is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Lets just hope this is more than a hope, and life actually comes to the upper floors. I'll believe it when I see it.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Quote Originally Posted by southernskye View Post
    No, it's a laziness thing.
    You are so contrary sometimes. We're saying the same thing.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Quote Originally Posted by BDP View Post
    The thing is that the parking problem will not be solved by adding more parking as much as it will be solved by making the area more desirable than front door parking.
    I totally agree with this statement, both from a retail and from a living standpoint. About once a year I consider moving down there and look into it a bit, and decide against it. I want to live in "Manhattan," not "the Bronx." There is a serious lack of unique and livable amenities down there. It does get better every year though, which is encouraging. Unfortunately it has been moving at a slow trickle for more than a decade now.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    ^^ Dismayed, I agree with you and about once a year I too consider moving downtown and I decide against it. Eventually I think I will, but the snail pace at the development is what bothers me.

    Makes you wonder how many people are in the same situation?

  12. #12
    metro is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    I think if enough of the fence riders took the plunge, it would help speed up development downtown and make it more attractive for the potential businesses also riding the fence. If there were enough residents, they wouldn't have to hesitate if they had the money to jump in the market.

  13. #13
    okclee is offline Participating Member
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Agreed and I do feel the same way, but I will wait until there are a few more that take the plunge.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    The title of this thread almost had me convinced that Life church was franchising above Spaghetti Warehouse! Haha

  15. #15
    okclee is offline Participating Member
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Definitely something that Bricktown doesn't have, a church, great idea. Give it time and I could see "Life church on the Bricktown Canal".

  16. #16
    metro is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Quote Originally Posted by okclee View Post
    Definitely something that Bricktown doesn't have, a church, great idea. Give it time and I could see "Life church on the Bricktown Canal".
    Already done, the church used to have a branch called Oasis in the club on Sundays next to the now defunct Lit.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Quote Originally Posted by metro View Post
    Already done, the church used to have a branch called Oasis in the club on Sundays next to the now defunct Lit.
    I believe Oasis still meets there.

  18. #18
    metro is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    maybe, i dunno, haven't gone to a service at that location in years.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Quote Originally Posted by okclee View Post
    Definitely something that Bricktown doesn't have, a church, great idea. Give it time and I could see "Life church on the Bricktown Canal".
    Only if you can move one of the churches down there from my neighborhood.
    OKC already has way too many churches.

  20. #20
    Mr. T in OKC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Quote Originally Posted by southernskye View Post
    Only if you can move one of the churches down there from my neighborhood.
    OKC already has way too many churches.
    Although this statement sounds evil, I agree completely. Driving around the other day, I thought "Damn, there sure are a lot of churches around here." I would like to see more people giving 10% of there income to a taxable venture.

  21. #21
    Doug Loudenback's Avatar
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Steve has some nice photos of the upper floors of the Mideke Supply Building being lit up at night ... see Fun New View of the Mideke Supply Building ... and a story to go along with them.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Doug, I asked this on Steve's blog and haven't gotten an answer yet, but hopefully someone can help me. Are the upper floors going to be office, residential or both?

  23. #23
    Doug Loudenback's Avatar
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    I have no clue, Warreng88. Sorry.

  24. #24
    Steve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    I've answered... on blog

  25. #25
    warreng88 is offline Participating Member
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    Default Re: Life coming to upper floors in Bricktown

    Posting it here right after I posted there. Thanks for the answer Steve.

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