The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

26 December 2004

You're going where?

Tom Lindley's column in The Oklahoman today touches on a phenomenon I've noticed myself: while Bricktown is now firmly established as a tourist destination, a surprising number of people who live here have never ventured into the district.

The powers that be at 42nd and Treadmill decreed that this year's Christmas party would be held at the Bricktown Brewery, at twelve years old one of the more established, um, establishments in the area, and I spent something like half a day explaining to coworkers where it was, how to get there, where to park, and other logistical details which I tend to take for granted. And it occurred to me after about the seventh or eighth iteration of these details that had someone asked me about them a couple of years ago, when I was living out in the 'burbs, I probably would have drawn a blank myself.

Our newbies, once arrived in Bricktown, all responded with variations on the same theme: "I had no idea we had something like this here." Oklahoma City has a forty-year history of people avoiding downtown, which, I suggest, began when the old Shepherd homestead west of Pennsylvania on NW 23rd was developed for retail in the early 1960s, with Sears, Roebuck moving out of downtown altogether to anchor the east end of the development.

By now, there's enough critical mass of activity in Bricktown to insure things will keep growing, at least for a while. And people will come downtown for some things — the Festival of the Arts, say, or Opening Night — which was one of the motivations for this year's Downtown in December promotion, which had events scheduled all through the month. I'm thinking, though, that while restaurants and watering holes are wonderful things, Bricktown — indeed, all of the downtown area — needs some form of retail beyond Bass Pro: not necessarily big box stores, not necessarily the return of Sears or its K mart overlords, but the kind of funky little shops that have started to take hold in some of the spiffier strip centers. Something like Two Sisters, over by my place, might do well in a Bricktown storefront, or along Automobile Alley. Events are events, and they are glorious to behold, but shopping is part of everyday life.

(Update, 9 pm: The Downtown Guy suggests: "At the very least, maybe we need to encourage more office Christmas parties in Bricktown." Maybe next year.)

Posted at 9:23 AM to City Scene