View Full Version : City leaders visit Denver

10-02-2007, 07:55 AM
City leaders hope to learn from Denver

By Steve Lackmeyer
Business Writer

If you're looking for some of the most powerful and influential people in Oklahoma City today, you might want to hop a flight to Denver.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber organized a trip for the city's elite to look at what can be learned in the Mile-High City. The two-day trip was scheduled to include top executives Clay Bennett, Burns Hargis, Larry Nichols, Meg Salyer, David Rainbolt, Brad Krieger, David Thompson, Mark Funke, and Lance Benham. Major downtown developers and real estate brokers were to be represented as well, including William Canfield, Anthony McDermid and Gerald Gamble. Don Porter, the superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools was scheduled for the trip, as was Councilman Larry McAtee and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber president Roy Williams. And I'm thinking it would be fun to listen in to the in-flight conversations between Williams, City Manager Jim Couch, Mayor Mick Cornett, and SMG's Gary Desjardins. All four are heavy hitters in the city's convention business.

While I'm at it, wouldn't it be great to also be a silent witness to any potential tour of Pepsi Center the Denver arena that is said to be the sort of venue that Bennett would love to see built for his Seattle SuperSonics. Alas, I wasn't invited. But it's on this sort of trip that ideas are hatched and visions take shape. So what ideas might we see brought back to Oklahoma City? Having visited Denver two years ago, I was amazed to see such a clean, orderly downtown in one of the nation's major cities. We already know why folks like Bennett and Cornett might be interested in visiting Pepsi Center.

And Denver's hosting of the 2008 Democratic National Convention makes for an interesting case study in making it to the big leagues for the folks interested in advancing Oklahoma City from a tier three to a tier two convention city. Hopefully our hometown delegation got to visit 16{+t}{+h} Street both early and late in the day. Wake up early enough and one can witness downtown Denver's business improvement district at work, cleaning sidewalks, immediately removing graffiti and gently urging vagrants to find other shelter. The same street is home to an intriguing shuttle operation that links downtown Denver's hotels, convention center, and Larimer Square and LoDo entertainment districts. The shuttles operate like an elevator that is always moving no matter where you are along 16{+t}{+h}, you are assured of getting a quick ride along a free shuttle that will take you in either direction. Compare that operation to downtown Oklahoma City's Oklahoma Spirit trolleys, which charge 25 cents a passenger and go nowhere fast in the name of trying to hit every corner of downtown. Imagine instead a shuttle operation like the one in Denver that would take over Sheridan Avenue and travel back and forth between Stage Center and the east fringe of Bricktown.

More than 20 years ago, a similar trip to San Antonio resulted in civic leaders bringing back dreams of a downtown Oklahoma City "riverwalk. And history was made when former Mayor Ron Norick toured Indianapolis 17 years ago seeking to discover why the city beat his hometown in the battle to land a new United Airlines maintenance plant.

Will anything be learned from Denver?

Maybe we'll find out a decade from now.

Oh GAWD the Smell!
10-02-2007, 08:47 AM
Bricktown could use a lesson or two from LoDo. That is one happenin' place (I lived in Denver for a few years).

10-03-2007, 12:59 AM
I hope they give Denver's light rail system a try. Also look at the Fastracks plan!

10-03-2007, 01:52 AM
I lived in Denver also, when LoDo was just starting out (mid 1990s).

I sent an email to city leaders and suggested OKC model itself after successful mid-sized cities like Denver and Portland (similar population to OKC but a bit more progressive/successful). I wonder if my suggestion caused them to consider this trip?? :)

Irregardless, I am happy to hear about the trip and hope that the take-aways that they gain will add to the continued Renaissance of Downtown OKC and the inner city.

Who knows, we might just have that Frontier City/White Water combined park somewhere along the OK River (for those who dont know, Elitch's Gardens was relocated to downtown Denver near the Auraria area after being constricted in the suburb of Arvada).

but yes, 16th Street is O.K., downtown itself is nice, the neighbourhoods that feed from downtown are awesome (I lived in Uptown/17th Street myself), LoDo is a jewel - especially with Coors Field as the centerpiece [I was there during construction and completion, LoDo was JUST getting momentum].

Lots of lessons OKC can learn about mass transit also. Denver started with a one line light rail (around early 1990s). They had this one line for years, but expanded a bit and another bit until around 2000 it went almost the entire length of the city and now into the southern suburb of Littleton. the city recently completed another line which follows I-225 and they have other lines going everywhere! Denver prevailed because they owned the right-of-way, which Im sure OKC should be similar.

Lest I forget, DIA. I was there when it was being turned-up. I was one of the managers responsible for the telecommunications/fiber at the time. What we can learn from that is - we need to finish the WRWA East Concourse. We need to turn the airport into an asset, complete with shopping and 'more' OKC food options, and not JUST a 'nice' drop-off point or city entry base that it is today. although I think DIA was a bit overboard (like that had to scale back the concessions because it was WAY TOO MUCH), Denver built an expandable airport which is the primary showcase of the city (if not state).

In general, to me - Denver thinks BIG. Denver doesn't care that it isnt Chicago or SF, Denver will still get it. Why do you think Denver is the smallest city to have all major-league sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS) and state-of-the-art facilities for each? It does help to have little competition in the Rocky Mountain region - true, but I hope if nothing else OKC leaders learn how to THINK BIG when take away lessons from Denver.

In many ways, Denver is BIGGER and has MORE than Seattle does - although Seattle/Tacoma is a significantly larger metropolis. ...

Oh GAWD the Smell!
10-03-2007, 09:22 AM
I was there from '98 to '01, and it had all come together nicely Hot Rod. LoDo was NUTS on the weekends. Baseball games were great at Coors Field. I even got to go to the MLB All Star Game there (I was on the field doing the colorguard)...That was insanity at it's finest. Sold my Beanie Baby for $600 within 5 minutes of leaving the stadium too.

Lots of people fighting over every inch of real estate (residential AND commercial) that popped up for sale too. From what I hear from my friends that still live there, it's more of the same still happening.

10-03-2007, 10:01 AM
Denver is probably the best possible example for us to follow.

Not only have they been extremely successful in developing their core properly but the people and way of living is not very different from those in Oklahoma.

10-03-2007, 11:34 AM
Whatever OGtS.

You were a flag boy with the marching band.

Oh GAWD the Smell!
10-03-2007, 12:53 PM
No, I was doing the colorguard.

Those sailors sure are cute!

10-03-2007, 01:10 PM
You were doing the colorguard? Is this an adult forum?