Archive for City Scene

Saturday spottings (I am a Tour-ist)

The Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects conducts Architecture Week every year about this time, and on Saturday it culminates with the Architecture Tour, a look at what’s being done around town, and occasionally a chance to talk to who’s doing it. I’ve attended every year since 2007, and plan to continue so long as I can still climb stairs. (Why haven’t I moved into one of those spiffy downtown lofts? Now you know.)

In the order visited:

1) 430 Northwest 12th Street

North side of 430

430 — that’s the name of it — was on last year’s Tour in the larval stage; it’s now complete and completely occupied. This former nondescript office block in the nascent Midtown area was turned into 26 residential units, none of which have windows to the west, important if you’ve ever endured an August afternoon in this town. Flats are at street level; upstairs you’ll find two-story units. I rather like the interplay of the diagonals and the trees. Brian Fitzsimmons was on hand to take questions, as he always is when one of his projects is on the Tour, as one seemingly always is.

2) 1117 North Robinson Avenue

Alley view from Guardian Lofts

Once upon a time, the Guardian was a warehouse; now it’s 37 apartments with that good old industrial feel and a fair amount of individual reconfigurability, by which is meant that, for instance, you can actually move the closets — they’re on wheels. If your lifestyle demands grittiness, and it would be great if there were a burgers-and-beer joint downstairs — this is where you might want to be. Brian Fitzsimmons (yes, him again) has an overview of the project for your inspection.

3) 300 North Walnut Avenue

Sanctuary of Calvary Baptist Church

Russell Benton Bingham’s Calvary Baptist Church has been a fixture in Deep Deuce since the 1920s; Martin Luther King Jr. came knocking on the door in 1954, looking for a preaching gig. (They sent him away: too young, they thought.) As Deep Deuce declined, so did Calvary; a couple of years ago, the building was acquired by Dan Davis, an attorney familiar to local TV viewers: he’s the one who has Robert Vaughn as a celebrity spokesface. Davis, however, did not plan to gut the place and turn it into a wonderland for lawyers in love: he wanted just enough room for his offices, and to leave the sanctuary more or less intact. MODA, architects on the project, are happy to show you more.

4) 726 West Sheridan Avenue

Signage at Hart Building

Many years ago, this was Hart Industrial Supply Company, vendor of, well, industrial supplies. I actually temped there, circa early 1990. Now part of the Film Row redevelopment, Hart houses several office tenants plus the Oklahoma City studio of KOSU-FM, the radio station of Oklahoma State University. I suspect that they know where this contraption came from:

Old RCA radio gear at Hart Building

5) 6219 Riviera Drive

Northeast corner of David Walters' house

David Walters, 24th governor of Oklahoma, lives here with his wife Rhonda and his memories. The 1963 house was originally the home of Robert A. Hefner III, founder of GHK Company and inventor of deep-gas exploration as we know it, and the courtyard shown here was intended to be its focal point. A fire in 2001 led to massive renovations and, in several rooms, ceilings raised to accommodate new skylights: the interior feels particularly airy despite the size and the convoluted floor plan. (And it’s for sale for $1.275 million, one of the pricier prices in my ZIP code.)

6) 108 South Broadway, Edmond

Conference table at Small Architects

“Mr. Small,” I said to the tour guide after looking at this conference table, “is obviously a whimsical sort of guy.” Thomas Small, AIA, seated off to the side, was amused by this remark. This old (1906) storefront in downtown Edmond, originally occupied by a jeweler and a funeral director — simultaneously, in fact — is in fact small, but it doesn’t seem so during a walk-through, and much of the original structure — tin ceiling, concrete foundation/floor — is still in place. As for whimsy, well, those are Matchbox cars embedded in that table. (If you’re interested, here are some other Small projects.)

7) 2801 Northeast 120th Street

Corner view of Kliewer home

Architect George Seminoff, back in the Sixties, built an 800-square-foot cabin out in the woods for himself; once married, he set about turning it into a suitable family residence, and there they remained — for a while, anyway. New owner Brent Kliewer, circa 2010, ordered renovations, and they wound up being substantial. (This is yet another reason to call Brian Fitzsimmons.) Oh, and there’s a cedar tree. Indoors. The old atrium had to be rebuilt, they planned to build around it, but instead incorporated it into the design. Seminoff died in 2013; I’m almost certain he would have approved.

8) 1721 Northeast 63rd Street

The edge of the Mass home

Up on Persimmon Hill you’ll find the National Cowboy Museum, Coles Garden, and this five-acre plot, which used to be occupied by a small 1920s cottage, expanded a few times, and then rebuilt following the December 2007 ice storm. Somehow the place looks both traditionally rural and up-to-date suburban, which I attribute to the fact that they didn’t raze the original storm-damaged structure, preferring to incorporate it into the new one. (Reuse, I always say.) Mass Architects have this to tell you.

This is the first Tour in several years I’ve had to undertake without Trini, who was busy with family matters; I missed her presence and her navigational skills. (Interestingly enough, at a couple of places on the Tour I was asked about her; apparently they’re used to seeing us as a unit.) And I think she would have appreciated the fact that this tour, unlike last year’s, fit into less than 55 miles.

(All pictures by me. Embiggened versions, plus some I didn’t include here, can be seen in this Flickr photoset.)

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Tour preparation

This year’s model of the AIA Architecture Tour is a week from Saturday. Barring catastrophe, I will be there, as I have been every year since 2007.

Ticket acquisition is a bit different this year. In the past, I’ve just gone to their site, invoked PayPal, and a couple of days later a letter would come back with a pair of tickets enclosed. This time, they sent encoded PDF files which I’m supposed to print out and then exchange at any tour stop for proper tickets. This presents no problem, really, but I’m wondering if this is simply a way to save money on postage, which isn’t at all a bad thing, or if there’s some other motivation at work.

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Now get down there and look busy

James Lileks contemplates life from the skyway above the street:

It’s a whole new world up there on the second floor — which annoys the planners, because they want everyone to be down on the street, for the sake of Vitality. This way you get more shops on the street level, and people are strolling and looking in the shop windows, something mentioned in each-and-every story I ever read about new urbanist ideas. Ideally people should live six blocks from work, walk on the sidewalk to work, pause twice en route to work and twice on the way back to examine the goods in the window, and then return to their home on the 23rd floor.

This will not happen downtown and it will never happen downtown, because there’s the skyway culture above. It will happen in outlying neighborhoods, where there aren’t skyways, and the residential complexes form actual neighborhoods. But the priests of The Street will continue to pound away against the skyway and for the model of Paris or New York. Which are wonderful: who doesn’t like window-shopping in New York? But that’s a city with the inherited density of a century and the population of the entire state of Minnesota.

The same is true here. They want New York, but in the convenient Home Version: open the box, put this over here, put that way back there, and garnish lovingly with pedestrians. This resembles the real New York hardly at all, but that doesn’t matter: the point is to be able to show off to people from Portland or Omaha or Charlotte.

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Four lanes to nowhere

Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman, drawing conclusions from the successful Open Streets gathering last weekend:

Baby Boomers, it’s time to give up your now obsolete model of city planning.

My generation, Gen X, has stood by and quietly waited for you to relinquish control.

But the Millennial generation isn’t wired like that. They’re not waiting. They’re taking over, and they’re not going to be told no.

They don’t like cars. Cars don’t define them. They are defined by access to cool urban gathering spots and public transit.

Um, it’s not my “model of city planning.”

Nor is it this guy’s:

This weekend I had to go pick up a script from Walgreens, but not the one I usually go to on 10th. No I had to go clear over to the one that is over by Kohl’s on Cornelius Pass. Okay, it’s not really a big deal, it’s only a couple of miles over there, and there are some other stores over there as well, so we can kill a couple of birds with this one stone. But I still didn’t like it because that area, newly built up, epitomizes everything I hate about suburbia: landscape trimmed to within an inch of its life, wide sidewalks that no one walks on, gently winding streets full of people who couldn’t get out of the way if their life depended on it (all charter members of the anti-destination league I’m sure), wide expanses of new asphalt paved parking lots with lots of free parking for places I have no desire to go, and lots of stores full of useless stuff that I neither want nor need. Tell me again why we are over here? The place is like the ultimate product of soulless corporate hucksters and government officials protecting you from yourself. I hate it.

Except for the sidewalks — ours are conspicuous by their absence — this could be almost any recently-developed square mile of Oklahoma City.

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Circulation beginning

Yours truly, from about this time last year:

One of the niftier ideas of recent years is the Little Free Library, bigger than a breadbox but just barely, located in urban neighborhoods and rural areas. And we’re about to get this one in our neck of the woods.

It’s now up and awaiting further stock:

Little Free Library in Mayfair Heights neighborhood

I dropped off a couple of books yesterday; if the neighborhood follows through, and they almost always do, it should be pretty well stuffed by this time next week.

(Photo by Taryn Evans, shot Wednesday. If you’re unclear on the concept, this is how it all started.)

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Saturday spottings (cluebat needed)

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the intersection of NW 50th and May: this stretch of May is five lanes — two northbound, two southbound, one center for left turns — just like scores of other arterials through this town. I was northbound on May this afternoon, in the center lane waiting to turn left on 50th, when a chap pulled up on my left. I had no idea what he was planning to do, but I was reasonably certain it was not good.

Which it wasn’t. Seeing what he thought was an opportunity, he vectored across the intersection in front of me, perhaps thinking he could beat the driver on my right who had just ventured into the intersection. He could not. The laws of physics prevailed — specifically, the one about two objects not occupying the same space — and the bending of fenders ensued.

As I made my left turn, I made a point of not thanking the resident deities for not making me that farging stupid, having long since learned that my own capacity for cluelessness is well-nigh boundless. For the past two weeks, I’ve been carrying around winter-weather debris on my car’s lower flanks, and the promise of rain today had stayed my hand at the car wash. With the rain having thus far failed to materialize, I decided that, inasmuch as I was on my way to Homeland, I would go ahead and use their car wash, and since I’d filled up only last Saturday and still had more than half a tank left, I wouldn’t bother to get gas; I’d pay the dollar extra, or whatever it was, and be done with it.

So I got out a $5 bill for the standard $4 wash, punched the button, and only then noticed that there was no slot to insert said bill or even a credit card: all transactions apparently had to be originated with either the cashier or at the pump. Okay, fine, I said, backing out of the car-wash entrance and looking, I presume, extremely foolish. I pulled up to a pump, slid the card, punched Yes when they offered me a wash, and waited about two minutes for the machine to tell me that we’re sorry, the wash is not available at this time, your card will not be charged for it.

And some time between my entry into the full-fledged store and my departure therefrom, an interval of roughly 15 minutes, a table full of Girl Scout Cookies appeared at the exit. I need these like I need a hole in the head, I thought, and wound up buying a box of Trefoils, my fifth (I think) box of the season. If there’s a School of Trepanning nearby, consider this my application to become a test subject.

Oh, and the rain started about an hour and a half later, but not in sufficient quantity to remove two-week-old grime.

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And unto dust

I suppose this sums it up as well as it can be summed up:

“Never liked” is putting it mildly: one of Draper’s dreams was to have the structure entirely hidden by foliage, if not actual camouflage.

But Stan, who died in 1976, would likely have been equally delighted to see what actually will happen to Stage Center, now that the Downtown Design Review Committee has decided it’s not worth saving.

Then again, Cash for Gold, west of May on 39th, is flourishing.

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Forget the Motor City

Let’s imagine that this fallen metropolis might be destined for a Higher Purpose:

Why don’t we just make Detroit a permanent Olympics zone? Level the whole thing and put in permanent hotels, permanent stadiums, permanent facilities, housing for event workers, etc. But no one lives there any other time. Install a huge, secure dome over it with an artificial snow generator for the winter Olympics (hey, they do it in Dubai — surely we can do it here).

Average snowfall in Detroit is about 44 inches a year, or about half what they’ve gotten this year. There will presumably have to be a skeleton crew on hand 24/7/1461, but not necessarily a large one.

Though that’s not the problem. This is:

[N]o one has to bribe the IOC, no one country or city would stand to make millions (or billions) in graft and corruption. Yeah, that right there is the main reason why it would never happen. Not enough of the usual suspects making obscene amounts of money off of something that should be about the athletes.

On the other hand, you have to figure that Detroit knows something about graft.

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Not so much interest

Apparently there’s less interest in the mayoral race than the vast quantity of hype suggested: I showed up at 4:58 and cast ballot #358. This is not a sign of heavy turnout. (Second in line at check-in is similar.)

Of course, the polls opened at 7 am, and roads were generally impassable at that hour. (I know. I was already at work.) Maybe it will pick up when the usual morning crowd gets off work.

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For the spot in the middle

Doctor Taco, a former Oregon grinder now living out here on the Plains, has a very long and detailed analysis of the Mayor’s race — at least, of the top two candidates — and he’s come out for the incumbent:

The only additional power that a mayor has above the council is to nominate citizens to serve on various boards and committees, and even then these nominees must be voted in by the full council. Beyond this nominating power, the Mayor is not much more than an ordinary city councilor with additional powers as a figurehead or a cheerleader.

Mick Cornett’s time as Mayor is a case study in how to use the soft powers of the office to build coalitions and be a champion for Oklahoma City.

The suggestion here appears to be that Ed Shadid, more the activist type by nature, is perhaps less well suited to a more-ceremonial job. I’m not so sure.

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Very expensive dust

With developers coming in like a wrecking ball — literally, perhaps — to dispose of Stage Center, Steve Lackmeyer has seen fit to list nine other downtown landmarks, scraped off the face of the earth because demolition was Part of the Plan.

One of the saddest such removals involved the old Biltmore Hotel. What did we lose?

The Oklahoma Biltmore was without a doubt one of the finest hotels in the post-oil boom days of Oklahoma City. There were 619 rooms, each offering free radio, circulating ice water, ceiling fans with up-and-down draft, and later, air conditioning. In 1936 the Biltmore was headquarters for 104 conventions, served 284,604 meals, and had 114,171 guests! H.P. “Johnnie” Johnson, manager, always said in the advertising, “On your next visit to the Oil Capital be sure to register at the Biltmore.”

On October 16, 1977 the Hotel Biltmore was demolished by a team of demolition specialists. Hundreds of low-yield explosives were planted throughout the building so that it would collapse and fall inward into an acceptable area only slightly larger than the hotel’s foundation. The purpose was both to break the materials into smaller pieces that would be easily transported away, and to contain the blast and debris within the area, in order to minimize damage to surrounding structures. The razing was recorded by hundreds of camera buffs.

[Edwards, Jim, and Hal Ottaway. The Vanished Splendor II: Postcard Views of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City: Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co., 1983]

And now, of course, we have to pony up zillions for a hotel more or less adjacent to the New Improved Convention Center. Your guess is as good as mine as to which of these elephants is whiter.

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There can be only one way

In retrospect, I suppose it was my fault for being on May Avenue on a Saturday in the first place, May Avenue being basically where strip malls go to die. (There’s exactly one stretch of May between 10th and 150th with no discernible commerce: east side between 43rd and 47th.)

6900 block of North MayThis strip mall at 6900 North May is largely indistinguishable from other strip malls: there are two entrances, one in front of the north building, the other in front of the south. (If you live in these parts, the north building is distinguished, if that’s the word, by the Honeybaked Ham Company; Ted’s Somewhat Mexican Restaurant Escondido Cafe is near the opposite corner.) I’m southbound on May at 4:00 or so when the lumbering SUV ahead of me pulls to a stop, just before the north entrance. There being no left-turn facilities between 69th and 65th, I figure someone a block or two ahead is making a left turn. The flow of northbound traffic ceased for a moment, and up ahead, barely, I could see someone indeed making a left turn.

We plow ahead, slowly, and then the SUV signals a left turn into the southern entrance. Now there was a window of about 30 seconds when the driver could have pulled into the northern entrance while that other character up the street was turning; but no, it’s got to be the southern entrance. This is the sign of a person who not only hasn’t developed Plan B, but who is several steps away from a workable Plan A.

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Making a fuss over the bus

The name is “EMBARK,” and it’s the name I’ve seen painted on exactly one city bus so far. (Most of them, in fact, seem to have full-length exaltations of oil, courtesy of Harold Hamm and Continental Resources.) The city sent a bookmark with this month’s water bill, detailing the following changes:

Re-aligned for optimum connectivity and efficiency, the redesigned bus routes provide a solid foundation for future transit enhancements.

Pending further announcements, I assume this means “We get near the streetcar routes.”

Designed with performance in mind, buses will travel major arterial roadways to achieve 30-minute service, and create two high-performance 15-minute service corridors.

The current standard is — well, calling it a “standard” implies something is actually followed.

Driven by performance, all buses are equipped with cutting-edge technology including automatic vehicle location (AVL) devices, onboard cameras, audible stop annunciation system, and onboard public WiFi.

How to explain AVL? Let’s try this: “Where the hell is Number 108? It’s supposed to be on Route 5 at 122nd and Penn!”

Powered by innovation, customer-focused tools like text notifications, journey planning, and mobile tools (to name a few) will be available for customer convenience and accountability.

“Will be” means this summer, they say. And they probably need to combine as many of those tools as possible into a single phone app.

So far there’s not a lot of promotional material; there’s a web site, with a brief video clip and a place to sign up for spam. I’m not sure whether all this will make for a better bus experience, but it’s hard to imagine how it could be much worse than the way it’s been.

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Curve negotiation

Don Gammill has a nifty weekly column in the Oklahoman called “Traffic Talk,” much of which is devoted to answering questions from people who are tired of being stuck in it. This particular example wasn’t, but it was pertinent to me for other reasons. Sharon writes:

When … on Interstate 35 going north and turn(ing) west onto I-44, you curve off to the left and go on a large curve above I-44 and nowhere is there a sign to reduce your speed in the curve. I don’t feel the speed should be the same as on I-35 as it is in that curve. The same is true when you exit I-44 from the west to go south on I-35, again there is no reduce speed sign of any kind. As an experienced driver, I know to reduce speed, but young drivers don’t necessarily know or realize this.

You may remember this little expostulation from 2009:

The ramp from I-44 eastbound to I-35 southbound, which I use five days a week, sometimes six, is about a 75-degree curve that I routinely take at 60 mph unless it’s wet or the 6:30ish traffic doesn’t permit. (I’m going from a road where the speed limit is 60 to a road where the speed limit is, um, 60, so 60 seems like the most logical speed.) In fact, I consider this a test of car and/or tires: if there’s any squeal, it’s a fail. Hardly anyone else pulls this sort of stunt, which makes me wonder if I’m pushing too hard.

Since then, I have switched to tires with a little more cushiness and a little less stick, so I’m usually taking that ramp at 55 now. Curiously, the other ramp in this stacklet, from I-35 north to I-44 westbound, I seldom take at faster than 50. There are two reasons for this: on the return trip, there’s generally a lot more traffic, it being on the bleeding edge of rush hour, and what’s more, this ramp is very narrow and lined with Jersey barriers, which allow for a whole lot less slop.

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Saturday spottings (tales of the unexpected)

Relatively nice Saturdays are not all that common in January — the fact that we’ve had two of them so far, out of a possible two, is pretty remarkable — so I stretched out my errands a bit today. This ranks among the worse ideas I’ve had lately, since traffic almost everywhere was heavy.

How heavy was it, you ask? I figured there was no chance of getting out of the Shell station at 63rd and May alive, so after filling up (a plausible $3.229 for V-Power), I backed up a hair and threaded my way through a curb cut to what used to be French Market Mall. It was a decidedly better approach to May, but it still took about four minutes to crawl the half a block to the intersection — and there were absolutely no parking spaces to be had anywhere near Sprouts, in front of the store, at the bookstore to its north, or at the auto-parts place to its south. “Woe unto ye,” I didn’t exactly say, and headed on.

Westbound on 63rd, I spotted a Lincoln Town Car with the tag LINTON2. “Wonder what LINTON1 looked like?” I mused. About ten seconds later, LINTON1 actually pulled in front of me: one of those Lincoln MK jobs, though I couldn’t tell you which one, since they all look like Fords to me. They continued on parallel paths for a while before #1 turned off.

The last stop on the way, as usual, was Crest Foods. Routinely they print the name of the checker on the register tape; this time, the cashier wrote the name of the sacker across the top. I’m not sure why, but since I never have any issues with the sackers, I’m not going to worry about it either.

Reconstruction of May Avenue from 36th to Britton, as mentioned last fall, is apparently about to begin: both sides of the street from 36th to past 47th were lined with those taller, skinnier traffic cones, about 20 percent of which had been knocked down, perhaps by wind, perhaps by people grown impatient waiting for the bus. I think it’s safe to predict that traffic will not improve any time soon.

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A slightly bigger horseshoe

Oklahoma City had 4,151 people in 1890, and was divided into four wards. (The popular histories say 10,000 showed up for the Land Run, but that was in the spring of ’89 — and between then and the 1890 Census was a little something called “winter.”)

The four wards remained intact until 1966, at which time the city went to an eight-ward system, mostly because it had been annexing land left and right. The city is actually slightly smaller now in terms of area, but the population has nearly doubled in the 48 years since then, and way back in 2006 Ward 4 Councilman Pete White was saying he’d like to see a 10-ward system.

It’s now 2014, Pete White is still representing Ward 4, and City Council will hold an unusual Wednesday meeting to take up the idea of adding two wards. If Council doesn’t act, White says he’s ready to start an initiative petition to get it on the municipal ballot.

Tulsa, with two-thirds the population, has a nine-ward system. When I brought this up in ’06, Tulsa political blogger Michael Bates said:

At the last census, Tulsa had about 43,000 people per council district, which is still too big in my opinion. A district for representation at the city level ought be no bigger than a district for representation at the state level.

The state has 3.8 million people and 101 House districts; to match up with this scheme, we’d need sixteen wards, which strikes me as an unwieldy number.

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Look busy, Sam’s coming

Back in 2007, I noted:

They’re clearing off the lot on the northwest corner of 39th and May, which means that there will probably never be another Dodge dealership at that location.

Which there won’t; but it took six years to find out what will be there. Sam’s Club, assuming city approval, will occupy the lot, minus the actual corner, which contains a Circle K.

This means, of course, that the property owners gave up their idea for a strip mall on the premises, but you have to figure that Sam’s will draw a whole lot of traffic just by dint of being Sam’s.

The lot extends to 42nd; Luther Dulaney Park lies to the north and west. Area residents, at least on the east side of May, have long been calling for a traffic light at 43rd. This may be their best chance to get it.

Upside: That godawful “Cash For Gold” sign on the west side of May is good as gone.

Downside: The actual “Cash For Gold” place, in the Dakota Financial building along 39th just past this development, isn’t going anywhere.

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But there’s no place to park

Even today, in the midst of what could legitimately be called a downtown renaissance in Oklahoma City, there are people who won’t set foot, or tire, in the urban core because it will cost them something to park. I have always suspected that this excuse was standing in for another, and I may have been right about that:

I’ve long argued that complaining about “there’s no parking” or having to “pay for parking” is just a convenient scapegoat excuse people give when the product on offer isn’t a compelling enough buy. If your downtown doesn’t offer enough value vs. a suburban office park location, naturally employees having to pay to park sounds like a huge imposition. If an attraction is lame, then of course people don’t want to pay to park there.

When lameness goes away, the demand surges. A recent example:

Attendance at Indiana Pacers games has spiked this year. It’s not hard to figure out why: they started winning games and have a team that doesn’t repel fans. Not long ago their arena was so empty it reminded me of the old days at Market Square where they used to hang a curtain around the upper deck to screen off the empty seats. Those Pacers were a team of thugs that got involved with fights with fans in the stands at the game, and shootouts at strip clubs afterwards. They also didn’t do a lot of winning.

Parking charges on game nights remained quite hefty throughout. The fluctuations in attendance had nothing to do with parking and high parking prices aren’t preventing sellouts this year. The lesson is clear: create a compelling product in your downtown or business district and parking won’t be an obstacle.

Yesterday in Oklahoma City was cold and icicles threatened anyone who walked near a tree. The Toronto Raptors were in town for a game with the Thunder. Attendance: the same old 18,203 it always is. Did anyone complain about parking? Maybe some guy who left his car under a tree.

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Something to rail against

On the off-chance that you think our local transit mavens are just slightly deluded — well, imagine what it’s like in we-gotta-do-something Austin. Chris Bradford sends an open letter to City Council:

It is thus remarkable that Project Connect’s planners managed to choose the only sub-corridor — Highland — that lacks either a current or future Core Transit Corridor connection to downtown or UT. Airport Boulevard, of course, is a Core Transit Corridor. But it does not connect to downtown/UT, and there is no Core Transit Corridor connecting Airport to downtown/UT through the Highland “sub-corridor.” (Of course, Guadalupe-Lamar — the preferred alternative of many — connects UT and Airport quite nicely, but it appears to be off the table.) Choosing the Highland sub-corridor will require that our next high-capacity transit investment be made on Duval or Red River… Neither of these has been identified as even a future Core Transit Corridor.

Duval, if I remember correctly, has about 1.6 speed humps per block; the only advantage I can see to Red River is that you can occasionally see it from the upper deck of Interstate 35. Maybe they’re wanting to push 38½ Street as a connector.

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You ducks are expected to sit

A front-page (albeit below the fold) story in this morning’s Oklahoman described the horrors of a westside neighborhood, an area in which I used to live many years ago and which apparently has been heading into the ol’ porcelain facility of late.

The story (behind the paywall) was long enough to fill up page 2A, where I found this:

Oklahoman photo of Terrace Apartments in OKC

I ought to call up a local sign painter and ask what he’d charge for “SHOOT US, WE’RE UNARMED.”

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Where it all goes (’13)

Two things are notable about this year’s property-tax bill: the millage is up by a smidgen, and the value of the palatial estate at Surlywood is not exactly climbing. End result: the outlay drifted downward a bit. From the treasurer’s report that comes with the bill (last year’s numbers, as always, in [brackets]):

  • City of Oklahoma City: $126.58 [$133.46]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $478.05 [$494.54]
  • Metro Tech Center: $122.50 [$128.87]
  • Oklahoma County general: $94.52 [$100.43]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.77 [$34.53]
  • County Health Department: $20.50 [$21.60]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.16 [$43.37]
  • Total: $915.88 [$956.80]

Last year’s write-up is here. The actual millage is 115.70, up from 114.71; highest millage on record was 117.58 in 2011.

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Non-vertical integration

News Item, Monday: The Oklahoman is returning to downtown. Century Center, 100 W Main, is set to become home to The Oklahoma Publishing Company, The Oklahoman and NewsOK by September 2014, subject to remaining government approvals. About 350 employees will make the move, while the production operation will remain at Britton and Broadway.

Top Ten rejected names for the new Opubco complex downtown:

  1. Gaylordia
  2. The Dwarf Tower
  3. News’ Last Stand
  4. FAO Schmucks
  5. Steve Lackmeyer’s Lunch Room
  6. Stage Center East
  7. Soon to Be a Steakhouse
  8. TIF Central
  9. Darth Mall
  10. Oklahoma City Times Square

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Around the corner

Once in a while I will brag on this neighborhood, a neat little postwar strip (two blocks wide, half a mile long) about four and a half miles from the middle of town, an area I always assumed would be beyond my resources ever to live in. (I’ve now been here almost ten years. Go figure.)

This particular house, now being offered at about $10k less than I might have guessed, is probably a cut above most of the single-story houses within a half-mile radius, and it’s been done up nicely. It’s owned, of course, by someone I hate to see leave, but life is like that sometimes.

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Not as a renter

A fellow I follow on Twitter has set up a blog called 1845 Park Place, which is the address of the house he just bought — “Right between Chance and Luxury Tax,” he says, which grabbed my attention right there. (Technically, it’s between Kentucky and Indiana, but you don’t have to know that.)

And actually, that’s a promising location, between NW 10th — a corridor that’s been improving of late, at least in this area — and the Plaza District, which is rapidly becoming the place to be.

This subdivision — Classen’s Cream Ridge — dates back to 1916; the house in question is your basic one-story bungalow.

It’s the guy’s first house, so I imagine he’ll have lots to say as he turns it into his Dream Home.

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The cycles come around

You’re never going to get everyone in this town onto bicycles, but this is a heartening sight just the same:

It doesn’t hurt that it’s actually mid-September, which means the heat usually is not enough to blowtorch the tops of your arms. (I said “usually.”)

And it proves that the nascent bike-share service begun in the spring of ’12 has had a measure of staying power, despite an abundance of naysayers.

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And not a moment too soon

Respondents to Oklahoma City’s annual survey (you can see it as a PDF, if you’re so inclined) are generally pleased with city services with a couple of notable exceptions: the transit system is inadequate, and the streets are worse.

One of the worst streets, however, is about to become less so:

Look for the work to start in January on rebuilding four miles of May Avenue between NW 36 Street and Britton Road. Roadbed will be reconstructed, wheelchair ramps will go in at 14 intersections, and the street will be resurfaced with asphalt. Drainage will be improved on the west side of May between Summit Place and Britton.

Drainage would first have to exist in something other than Public Works’ imagination for it to be “improved.” I’ve always assumed that this was their way of telling southbound drivers that they’ve just left The Village.

Cost of the project: $3.8 million. That’s $950,000 a mile. And they’ll have to do it again before the decade is out. The Feds — meaning, of course, people from Fairbanks to Fargo to Philadelphia — will put up 80 percent of that.

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Lox will be opened

From Steve Lackmeyer’s Q&A session yesterday:

Jane [10:52 a.m.] What type of cuisine would you like to see Good Egg or Chris Lower bring into the city center (between 23rd and i40) next?

Steve Lackmeyer [10:52 a.m.] I challenge them to figure out how to create a genuine Jewish deli to Oklahoma City.

Hey, if it works in Noshville…

They slaved over a hot stove all day. Eat something.

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Perhaps not entirely symbolic

The Love Tree

Says a real-estate agent of my acquaintance:

Story goes … everyone who has lived in this home has moved in single and moved out married. These two trees have intertwined as they have grown and are known collectively as the #lovetree.

I don’t know about you, but were I in the market right about now, and had I the wherewithal, that might almost be enough to get me to buy, all by itself. But that’s just the kind of doofus I am.

Besides, I know the houses in this neck of the woods, it’s a style I revere, and it’s an open house tomorrow (25 August).

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Urban 2.0

The politicians have had their shot at the cities. Now it’s the coders’ turn:

The phenomenon of the software khans starting to deploy their vast oceans of capital into remaking the American public square is just beginning to grow. [Zappos' Tony] Hsieh in Vegas, Quicken’s Dan Gilbert in Detroit, and others are beginning to take advantage of the devastation that the Blue State model has wreaked on America’s cities (and, not incidentally, at the same time lowering property acquisition costs dramatically) in order to build new visions of urban organization and structure.

The Millennials who will live and work in these new places are famously cooperative, collaborative, and group-think oriented. These new urban approaches will cater to those tendencies.

Here in the Big Breezy, where urban decay is (mostly) pushed off to the side, we’re not seeing exactly this sort of renaissance — after a couple of successful rounds of MAPS, the third is somehow provoking fractiousness — but we have those Millennials in place, so we may get similar results, if there are indeed any results to be had. And besides:

[T]his is the sort of change I would expect to see as the bankruptcy of the American political model becomes more apparent, and the wreckage created by it becomes more widespread.

And frankly I would much rather see this coming from the gazillionaires of tech than from the hapless, pathetic dinosaurs of Washington, D.C.

Silicon Valley is famously blue; replacing the old-think, Democratic Party version of blue with the high-tech New (Somewhat) Blue almost has to be an improvement.

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Columbidae trip

Something else I didn’t know about this town:

In 1973, the American Pigeon Museum and Library was established. Twenty years later, they purchased 10 acres in Oklahoma City and just last month moved into a brand new building that will open to the public early next year.

It’s located just south of NE 63rd Street and west of Bryant Avenue, and it has an extensive collection of pigeon equipment clocks, bands, trophies and paintings. It also has a lot great military photographs and Army pigeon corps equipment from both world wars including message holders like the one Cher Ami carried through whizzing bullets and battlefields of lore.

Despite her name, Cher Ami was a hen, and this is the message she was bearing:

October, 1918: Trapped behind enemy lines in Charlevaux, France, and surrounded by hundreds of German troops, the few hundred surviving members of the Lost Battalion soon had another problem to deal with in the form of friendly fire. His men rapidly succumbing to the onslaught and with two birds already shot down, Major Charles Whittlesay dispatched a frantic message by way of their last surviving homing pigeon, ‘Cher Ami’:

WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.

When the pigeon miraculously arrived at the division headquarters 25 miles away he had been shot in the leg, breast and eye, and thanks to his efforts 194 members of the battalion were subsequently rescued. Cher Ami died from his injuries six months later, but not before being awarded the croix de guerre for heroic service.

This is, in other words, not the bird that crapped on your car ninety seconds after you washed it.

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