The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

19 May 2007

Saturday spottings (discontinuity)

Once again, Beverly Bryant has an interesting cover story in the Oklahoman's real-estate section, and once again, I go check it out. Here's the premise:

Las Rosas is breathing life into a part of the inner city that has struggled for years. Long-neglected, overgrown property near SE 25 and Lindsay is now a housing addition that is adding to the sense of renewed vitality just southeast of downtown Oklahoma City. There were no sewers, water lines, roads or streetlights in the 50-acre parcel across the street south of Schilling Park and Wheeler Elementary School when the project was conceived.

As it happens, I'd mentioned Las Rosas in Vent #518, back in January:

[I]t's reportedly quite nice, especially considering where it's located, but not everyone is in a position to buy a new home for even as little as $100,000. I'm starting to think that the city should buy up a bunch of fairly dilapidated structures, such as the ones that were presumably bulldozed to make room for Las Rosas, and sell them off for next to nothing to people who are willing to fix them up and live in them. There's plenty of housing stock in this town, and some of it is even affordable; we'll do our lower-income households far more good by giving them a chance to own something than by issuing them a stack of Section 8 vouchers.

What was bulldozed for Las Rosas, in fact, was a refinery: no residential units had ever been developed on that tract. (That'll teach me to presume.) Aside from that, we're talking serious contrast here. To the left, something "fairly dilapidated" with a For Sale sign out front; to the right, a new home in Las Rosas. Distance between the two: about 2000 feet, and an eternity.

Two homes

By the current standards of Oklahoma City development, the Las Rosas home is "affordable"; at $140k, it's a good $40-$60k below a typical new home in the city. On the other hand, if you can afford it, you can afford three of those things on the left.

I like the idea of building in areas that most people wouldn't give a second thought to, especially if they're fairly convenient (downtown is a straight two-mile shot up Shields) and if there's a serious effort being made to tap an underserved market (as you might infer from the name, Las Rosas is largely being pitched to Latinos). But my larger point remains: ultimately, fixing up the best of the left-behind homes may be a better deal in the long run. And no, the loss of that refinery had nothing to do with the fact that I had to pay $3.469 a gallon last night, my first forty-dollar tankful ever; it's been closed a long time.

Of course, that was for premium, as Gwendolyn's high-powered (for 2000, anyway) engine demands. Still, there are plenty of cars out there with even more horsepower, and I find it somewhat baffling that people will pay for it and then not use it. Coming up the Lake Hefner Parkway this afternoon, I was not exactly zipping along at slightly below the speed limit when I spotted a very long line of cars starting down the onramp from the Northwest Distressway. My first instinct, of course, was to get the hell out of the way, but wait just a moment here: shadowing my every move in the center lane was a spiffy new Lincoln MKZ, 265 ponies under its shiny nose, poking along just fast enough to keep me from easing in front of it in time to avoid causing grief for the first of the onramp arrivals. I didn't have time to perform my usual perfunctory check to see if the driver was in fact awake and not on the phone; instead, I blipped Gwendolyn up to 5500 rpm (from 2500, including a 4-2 downshift) and pulled in front of the hot-rod Lincoln just in time for folks to merge. No harm done, but would it have killed the guy to speed up enough to open up a hole? You'd almost think he'd just been handed a ticket two miles back.

Elsewhere: once Famous Footwear's store-closing sale is done, the only retailer remaining west of center court in Heritage Park Mall is EyeMasters. Everything else is gone. There's still activity along the north-south axis there: both jewelers are open, as is the salon; the game shop had Wiis in stock; El Chico is still serving. But hang a left at the ATM, and you enter the Dead Zone. And there was a weird little contretemps in the parking lot: a couple of folks were busy sticking handbills under people's wipers, and a young lady, cell-phone glued to her ear, approached the area where I was parking. Then from out of nowhere appeared a Security Dude, a sort of seven-eighths-scale Fred Thompson, complete with sequoia-sized cigar, who gave the girl the Evil Eye. She quickly changed direction. When I returned to my car 40 minutes later: no handbill. I suppose I should have swiped one to see what it was about.

Posted at 7:39 PM to City Scene