With The Rise project in full swing, Russell, president and chief executive officer of Land Run Commercial Real Estate Advisors, is confident the mix of upscale restaurants, bars and retail stores will restore the Uptown area to its former glory days when NW 23rd Street was a hub of OKC commerce and traffic.
“In part, this was self-defense,” Russell said of his decision to buy the 45,000 square feet of property, which includes the former hotel-motel liquidation building at 511 NW 23rd St. The development will stretch north one block and west almost to Dewey Avenue.
“I knew the building was vacant, and I live only three blocks from there and have a little girl,” he said. “Neighborhoods are about walkability, and NW 23rd is a great street with great traffic, but there were these dilapidated buildings and people who shouldn’t be there. Preserving my immediate area was important to me.”
Already, several businesses have signed on the dotted line to be part of the new development, including A Good Egg Dining Group, which already owns Cheever’s Cafe and Tucker’s Onion Burgers in the immediate vicinity.
Good Egg co-owner Keith Paul praised Russell and his vision for redevelopment.
“Regardless of the tenant lineup, I think The Rise will have as much, if not more, impact than any development in the area,” Paul said.
Paul and his wife, Heather, are poised to become one of the first tenants with The Drake, a new seafood restaurant. Other tenants will be Rant, a clothing retailer; At the Beach, a tanning salon; Anytime Fitness; t, an urban teahouse; Urban Core Pilates Studio; Old School Bagel Cafe; Fedora Cigar Lounge; Flashback Retro Pub and Gusto Pizzeria. The Pump, a restaurant and beer garden, will occupy a renovated gas station at NW 24th Street and Walker Avenue.
By summer, the area should be near capacity, Russell said.
Attracting retail shops is important because of the variety they bring to shoppers.
“We recruited certain retailers, and others came to us. I think that’s where we’re different in our evolution than Midtown or Bricktown. We have those retailers, the clothing store, the tanning salon, the gymnasium,” Russell said.
Still, parking is the key ingredient for a successful development, Russell said. Some 160 spaces will help attract — and keep — business.
“With the parking we have, this can be one of the greatest districts in Oklahoma City,” he said.
Timing also was a key component for Russell, whose vision includes a resurrection of the entire NW 23rd Street corridor.
“Oklahoma City is an unbelievable place to be right now, and this (development) is riding on that momentum,” he said. “The factors were just right. We’re going to take the momentum that was going on and use it as a catalyst to move along faster. We’re really piggybacking on the success of Bricktown, the Plaza District, Midtown and the success of downtown and the Thunder.”
Old and new
The development’s look will be a return, in part, to a more historic appearance that shows off the original limestone that has been covered up since the 1970s, said project architect Scott Parker.
Also, the old will blend with a modern South Miami Beach façade on the southeast corner with white panels and green glass.
“About 75 percent of the frontage will be the old limestone,” Parker said.
Although NW 23rd Street has been undergoing its own renaissance in recent years, The Rise should elevate the neighborhood in a substantial way, according to project designer Tyler Holmes.
“Uptown’s been branded, but this will be the biggest step forward for that brand,” he said.
A lack of off-street parking continues to delay a development that would include an art gallery and live music venue for as many as 300 people, a city official said.
The project, proposed by Dallas businessman Jerod Miller, has been deferred four times by the Oklahoma City Planning Commission but is scheduled for consideration at the Feb. 27 meeting, said OKC planner JJ Chambless.
Miller could not be reached for comment on this story.
The rezoning application is for 417, 419 and 421 NW 23rd Street.
City planners have recommended approval of the project, provided the developer obtain adequate parking, which has been a concern expressed by neighbors through a letterwriting campaign.
“There are several locations in the city where there is no off-street parking requirement. The intent is to protect the urban fabric and remaining building stock from being converted into surface parking,” according to a report from the OKC planning department.
There is no parking requirement for NW 23rd, and on-street parking is the only option unless a shared parking agreement is reached with surrounding business owners, city planners wrote in their report.
“The potential parking issue aside, the continued transformation of Uptown NW 23rd into a vibrant district is a benefit to the surrounding area and to Oklahoma City,” the report states.
Neighbors protest Although area residents favor redevelopment of the Uptown District, they’re opposed to a large number of cars parking in front of their homes.
“I live very near this venue, and recent business growth in the area has shown us that visitors will be using our residential streets for parking,” wrote Mary Coyle, who lives on NW 21st Street. “I’m thrilled by the renaissance happening, [but] dedicated parking must be part of their plan.”
The proposed music venue and art gallery are near the Mesta Park, Paseo, Jefferson Park, Heritage Hills and Edgemere Park neighborhoods.
State Rep. Kay Floyd represents the area along NW 23rd Street and showed her concern for neighbors in a letter to city planners.
“The (traffic) overflow into the neighborhoods would happen between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. These will be concert-goers who may be intoxicated, loud, disruptive, carrying trash and driving drunk or under the influence through the neighborhoods,” she wrote.
Part of the proposal calls for an alcoholic beverage license at the music venue.
Heritage Hills residents Alicia and Scott Champion favor business growth on NW 23rd Street but understand the problems that can occur with parking plans.
“As business owners and people who have worked over 25 years with the restaurant and nightclub industry, we fully know the scope of what happens and what can be problematic for those (residents) who are in close proximity,” the couple wrote in a letter.