Richard Mize has an interesting item in this morning’s Oklahoman on the Tuscanization, if you will, of an old Seventies apartment complex on the city’s northwest side, which was renamed “Isola Bella” “beautiful island” by its new owners in late 2007.
What I found most interesting, though, was what wasn’t there: the name of the place before it became Isola Bella. Mize is generally pretty thorough, so I suspect “Let’s not reopen old wounds” was a factor here, since the reputation of the old Woodlake complex in recent years was somewhere between drab and dire. (Still, it was way better than the CrappiFlats where I lived for too much of my life.)
And the new owners evidently have realized, as many owners of 1970s-era complexes have not, that it takes more than a facelift to make these places worthwhile again. Part of the problem, of course, is that the Seventies boom was followed by an Eighties bust, and issues which could have been addressed in a timely manner were ignored because of money problems. Isola Bella cost $16.5 million to acquire, and another $16 million to restore.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing the complex, though, may be the fact that cities and suburbs go through cyclical changes, and this particular part of town, once considered the Next Big Thing, is now Yawnsville at best. As a result of that long-ago boom, the area is seriously overbuilt: Lyrewood Lane, from just north of Isola Bella, is a half-mile string of apartments, one complex after another, all the way to Wilshire. And downward pressure on rents is precisely what you don’t need if you’ve just shelled out forty grand per unit.
Still, I have to wish them well, even as I worry about the so-called donut hypothesis, which suggests that folks with money tend to accumulate in the middle of the city, where downtown-revitalization efforts are in full swing, and around the edges of town in the ‘burbs, while everything in between becomes generally poorer. I’m not convinced this sector of northwest OKC is in full Krispy Kreme mode, but it’s definitely dropped off the radar in recent years.