View Full Version : Wichita Looks to Downtown OKC

08-24-2005, 09:56 AM
Another nice article from a neighbor looking to revitalize its downtown. It features Mayor Cornett. I like the title and how it describes how OKC has maximized the benefits of the construction of the Ford Center.

Urban design
Wichita looks to other cities for arena ideas
Bill Wilson

Twelve years ago, Oklahoma City voters said yes to a sales tax hike to revitalize downtown through nine development projects, several in the city's traditional brick architecture.

The result, says Mayor Mick Cornett, was a publicly financed project that tied Oklahoma City's river, sports venues and downtown shops together into a thriving entertainment and retail area.

Wichita and Sedgwick County residents are weighing options for one of those downtown revitalization elements, a new arena, as plans move toward what Mayor Carlos Mayans calls a "destination downtown" including Old Town, the WaterWalk and the new arena.

Oklahoma City's downtown revitalization efforts mirror the plans being discussed by Wichita and Sedgwick County officials, including the new downtown arena.

All development ideas are on the table, says Assistant Sedgwick County Manager Ron Holt, a member of the redevelopment steering committee. City and county officials collected surveys at an Aug. 4 public meeting that offered up the first specific arena architectural styles for the public to consider. The arena types, outlined on page 31, include:

* Contemporary arenas, such as the Qwest Center in Omaha and the Iowa Special Events Center in Des Moines.
* Icon/Landmark arenas, such as the Pyramid in Memphis, Tenn., and the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
* Functional arenas, such as the United Center in Chicago and the Palace of Auburn Hills near Detroit.
* Traditional arenas, such as Madison Square Garden in New York City and Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

The public meeting surveys were "all over the place," Holt says, but with a key theme -- tie the arena and its look to Wichita's downtown and its history.

"Cowtown. Aviation. Use glass and brick. Lots of windows," Holt says. "A number of comments about the importance of the appearance of the facility from Kellogg. Not a lot of steel. No industrial. Blend it in with the rest of the city. Keep it like Old Town -- brick traditional, not contemporary."

Some of the Oklahoma City downtown revitalization took the "Bricktown," or brick traditional architecture form, Cornett says. The work was courtesy of a controversial sales tax issue -- a penny on the dollar sales tax for five years that funded a variety of sports and cultural improvements, including the SBC Bricktown Ballpark and the Ford Center sports arena.

The improvements were the catalyst for a variety of restaurants, shops and clubs around the Bricktown area.

"As a community, our economic development in the late 1980s was trying to pay a large company to come in and create jobs," Cornett says. "We came to the realization that you've got to create a city where these things can happen. One way is raising the quality of life you offer through sports, arts and tourism. You create a city where people want to live."
Stopping travelers

The Metropolitan Area Projects plan was completed on Aug. 17, 2004, with the dedication of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library.

"For generations, Oklahoma City had pass-through tourism," the mayor says. "We relied on our three interstates and had people spend the night here on the way to somewhere else."

The city had to find a way to "stop those travelers in town," Cornett says.

"We created a series of tourism-type attractions like you're discussing," he says. "The canal, the ballpark, the arena, the largest series of bronze statues in the world to depict the Oklahoma Land Run.

"What you get in downtown Oklahoma City is an experience. Retail with Bass Pro Shop, sports with the ballpark and the arena, a multi-screen movie theater, nightclubs, family-oriented restaurants, downtown housing. If you're going to create a destination downtown, you need a little bit of everything traditional to feed off each other."

There's a name for multi-function redeveloped downtowns, says John Niemuth, design director for the Kansas City, Mo., architecture firm Ellerbe Becket. It's the "urban design approach."

The approach blends major sports venues such as an arena into a larger area targeted for economic development, primarily restaurants, clubs, shops and housing.

"It's less about the arena and more about the larger development it fits into," Niemuth says.

Blending the arena architecture with surrounding development is an idea on the table at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Department, says Dave Barber, advanced plans manager.

And it's a concept that appeals to Mayans.

"I think many of us want something that would complement and tie in with the other venues we're developing," he says. "Part of that is the redevelopment around the new arena that will complement it, the WaterWalk and Old Town and give visitors one big venue with a little bit of everything."

08-25-2005, 10:38 AM
give visitors one big venue with a little bit of everything

Which is the true genius of MAPS. I'm critical of things I do not personally like (Toby Keith, Bass Pro), but at the end of the day there is a lot I do like and having all of these different attractions that pull from different demographics really creates a true city and a place where everyone from different parts of the city have a reason to come together in one place. It's not exclusive in any real way, which is a good characteristic of a comprehensive public works project. It's really hard to look at downtown OKC and not find something for everyone. I think once the Skirvin and the Colcord come online and the housing diversifies a bit, you'll be looking a very rich southwestern destination and a city no one imagined just 15 years ago.

08-26-2005, 10:33 AM
We also need to look to Wichita for advice on how to improve retail in the Bricktown area. Their old town area is pretty nice. We're really missing a downtown shopping district, common in so many cities and towns. If we don't develop this in the Bricktown area, we could consider converting Automobile Alley into dowtown's retail district.

08-26-2005, 10:38 AM
Wichita's old town retail is mostly local right? I wonder if the rents in bricktown have priced out a lot of local retail when compared to the rest of the city, except maybe high margin stuff. I would love to see a of unique local retail down there, but it may seem risky to them right now.. I don't know. Anyone know how Firefly is doing?

08-26-2005, 10:41 AM
Laughing Fish seems to do well, but they have to supplement their Bricktown operation with the store at Crossroads. They don't break even on the Bricktown location, but I think the owner is hoping that someday retail will come around in Bricktown.

08-26-2005, 10:54 AM
One thing I'm concerned about is that the women's clothing stores are so far apart. If they were closer together, the retail scene would be more competitive to the suburban malls.

But I must say, the current ladies' offerings -- Firefly, Miss Milan, the upcoming denim store, even Laughing Fish -- seem to be setting a good precedent for quality local retail in Bricktown.

08-26-2005, 11:07 AM
Personally, I think Hogan needs to consider building a shopping village on that land west of the theater. That would concentrate the retail in one area, and make it more profitable and marketable for the retail outlets there.

08-28-2005, 02:32 PM
a shopping village does seem like a good idea, but with hogan on the job we can be assured that it would look suburban. :(

08-29-2005, 01:58 PM
I think Hogan needs to consider building a shopping village on that land west of the theater.

I agree, but I don't think it's going to happen there. Eventually, for retail to take off, you will need some sort of village/plaza/promenade type development to establish the location synergy needed for retail. It would probably look less urban than a NYC, SF, Chicago type deal, but more urban than anything in OKC. I think LA's plazas like in the Beverly Collection in Beverly Hills, 3rd street Promenade in Santa Monica, or the Hollywood and Highland Center would be more like what would work here. Obviously, it wouldn't have to be on that scale (actually the Beverly Collection isn't that big), but just something with an open plaza in the middle and maybe 3 or 4 stories of retail space, maybe 30 or 40 shops.

Beverly Collection:

3rd Street Promenade:

Hollywood and Highland Center (

08-29-2005, 02:24 PM
That is gorgeous.. Hollywood.

I wonder though if we could attract tourists and more retail with some sort of outlet shopping area?

If we could have plenty of parking this could be such a tourist draw if we did it right - classy, not cheesy, well planned outlet center. We had a few in CA near my home and it was always packed with tourists and locals. In the center was a plaza with Starbucks and tables and it was always busy.

Here is an example of one in Texas...

Prime Outlets Mall

Prime Outlets Mall San Marcos - the largest factory outlet center in South Texas - is among the most popular travel destinations in Texas. Every year, more than six million shoppers visit the Prime Outlets Mall San Marcos, where they can go shopping for an endless array of factory outlet prices.

The 110-plus factory outlet stores at the Prime Outlets Mall shopping center offer everything from apparel and accessories to health and beauty items to home furnishings and housewares. Prime Outlets Mall San Marcos is home to a mouth-watering variety of stores, such as Dooney & Bourke, Zales, Gap Outlet, OshKosh B'Gosh, Jockey, London Fog, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store and Salvatore Ferragamo. Factory outlet stores at Prime Outlets Mall also include J. Crew, Jones New York, Perry Ellis, Nike Factory Store, Van Heusen, Casual Corner Annex, Talbots and the Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet. Among the other well-known names at Prime Outlets Mall San Marcos are Bath & Body Works, Crabtree & Evelyn, Lancome, Pottery Barn Furniture Outlet, Mikasa Factory Store, Springmaid, Sony and Wamsutta. A $20 million expansion project is bringing a 28,000-square-foot Neiman Marcus Last Call store to the Prime Outlets open-air mall.

Prime Outlets Mall San Marcos is also home to a food court, children's playground and ATMs. A customer service center at the food court can provide free strollers and wheelchairs, gift certificates, tourist information and more.

Prime Outlets Mall is located off of I-35 (exit 200), near San Marcos. It is less than an hour's drive from San Antonio and only about a half-hour outside of Austin. Another factory outlet mall, the Tanger Outlet Center, is next door to the Prime Outlets Mall San Marcos

08-29-2005, 02:32 PM
I'd like to see Walnut or Oklahoma avenues within the Triangle be that promenade, but I don't know if that's going to happen. A shopping destination like that would be great if it was on the Riverside neighborhood south of the proposed Crosstown, but I would rather see the area as a residential neighborhood with some retail and diversions. Great pics BDP.

08-30-2005, 12:13 AM
^ I totally agree about the "riverfront" area becoming an outdoor shopping mall of sorts. The area would be just south of the future Crosstown blvd. extending down to the banks of the river and westward across the railroad tracks. The whole district could be mixed-use with a variety of retail/restaurants and especially housing. Lots of potential in this very under-utilized area so close to downtown and the river...

08-30-2005, 09:09 AM
I still think Bricktown has the best potential to draw national retail stores. Sometimes we have trouble in OKC becuase of our lack of density, but as Bricktown's traffic grows, so does it's marketing strength. I'm not sure if moving out of the high traffic Bricktown district would improve our chances at expanding our retail offerings in OKC in terms of national retailers. It would take a very persuasive developer to intice them to locate in an unproven new development.

However, I think the triangle and riverside would be great for local and more unqie fair. They could benefit from Bricktown convention and tourist traffic, but with rents low enough for smaller retailers to offer originality in the product mix.

08-30-2005, 10:00 AM
I'll quote two contributors. First, as downtownguy has mentioned, we're seeing the expansion of downtown. Even as this will happen with the crosstown and the Triangle, I think we need to be careful. As metro likes to repeat, we don't want to create competition for core downtown. IMO, Riverside is outer downtown, so to speak. If we put heavy retail there, it will diffuse activity from core downtown. I consider the Triangle a more ideal situation; there will be more city synergy if heavy retail is located there than in Riverside. OKC is sprawled as it is; let's face it, if people aren't willing to walk from the CBD parking garages to Bricktown restaurants, they're not going to walk to Riverside for shopping. But perhaps I'm just being pessimistic.

Those are my thoughts at the present time. Maybe attitudes will change and people will evolve from drivers to pedestrians. If not, we can still have a Riverside shopping district that creates a vibrant downtown whole. But it would take exceptionally strong connections between Riverside and the CBD/Bricktown for it work. There would have to be people magnets for the area south of Reno to Union Station -- maybe that sports complex Roy Williams keeps hearing about, and/or dense housing. There should be an easily-identifiable trail with greenspace and sidewalks connecting the CBD to the river. There should be an extension of trolley service to the Riverside neighborhood. Walker and Robinson should be lined with attractive tenants and run south to the banks. That plaza/bridge above the Crosstown support should function like a park. If we had these type of connectors, then a Riverside shopping district like that Hollywood example would be a special place indeed and a creator of energy downtown.

08-30-2005, 10:12 AM
I still think Bricktown has the best potential to draw national retail stores. Sometimes we have trouble in OKC becuase of our lack of density, but as Bricktown's traffic grows, so does it's marketing strength. I'm not sure if moving out of the high traffic Bricktown district would improve our chances at expanding our retail offerings in OKC in terms of national retailers. It would take a very persuasive developer to intice them to locate in an unproven new development.

As much as I would like to see the retail in the Triangle, I think you're right. Bricktown is the best bet for national retail as of today. To get the size comparable to the Hollywood example, though, I think Bricktown would have to consume the producers cooperative cotton mill area, at the least.

08-30-2005, 12:02 PM
To get the size comparable to the Hollywood example, though, I think Bricktown would have to consume the producers cooperative cotton mill area, at the least.

Yeah, the land is being used up quickly (even though there is a lot of vacant property) and a multiple occupant development of this size may have to take the palce of something already there. I don't think it has to be the size of the Hollywood and Highland Center. That may be overreaching at this point. I really think something like the Beverly Collection would be appropriate. I think it has about 30 tenants or so. That picture isn't great. If you want a good look at it, take a look at the movie Body Double. There's a scene which features the plaza extensively.

I honestly think something could have been done with Hogan's lot NW of the theater, but I am not sure how much retail he is planning and I think he is planning to use most of the ground space for parking.