Bricktown committee approves building project

While the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University soon will hold their annual meeting on the field, one developer has been in and out of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee for months over a field where he hopes to build his dream.

The measure to approve the retail, restaurant and parking project passed the committee Nov. 9 by a 2-1 vote. Committee members Mark Krittenbrink and Bob Bright voted for it, while Tom Wilson seconded the motion, but voted nay with no additional comment. Committee Chairwoman Avis Scaramucci and committee member Phil Miller were absent. It was the fourth time the measure had come up for consideration.

Above, The Bricktown Canal

Chris Johnson, owner of USA Screen Printing and Embroidery Co., invested more than $2 million to purchase the land along two sides of the Bricktown Canal just west of Mickey Mantle Drive and across from the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. His plan calls for 30,000 square feet of retail space in two buildings, a valet parking lot, and a 26-space parking lot that faces the canal on two sides and sits on the roof of one building. He estimates with land costs included, the project will come in at about $5.5 million.

But there have been plenty of hiccups along the way.

At issue again and again was the parking. Committee members grilled Johnson over the last few months about the parking at street level that they said would be visible from the canal. Johnson, along with legal counsel, his architect and his engineer all stated that the main purpose of the project was to add retail space to Bricktown. Over the course of the meetings, committee members expressed concern that Johnson was trying to pull a fast one and get the project approved and then stack a parking garage on top of the retail structure.

“Our intent isn’t to sneak in a parking garage,” David Box, Johnson’s attorney, told the committee.

Their solution was to retain the parking, but shield it with a brick wall and shrubbery that combined would be about six feet high. While a Hummer might peek over the top, most cars would be concealed from view. The requirement that it reach at least that height was included by Bright as an amendment.

Krittenbrink, an architect, also previously criticized the plainness of the design. While both proposed buildings would be nearly all brick, Krittenbrink said they looked too plain. Box presented revised renderings that showed detailing in the brick work around the windows, rather than a flat exterior.

“We have provided a significant amount of detailing on the building that was not there previously,” Box said.

Krittnebrink commended the new information.

“I really do appreciate the detailing,” he said. “The brick detailing really adds some nice features and elements to that corner.”

On the roof of the west building, Johnson said it is being built to support two additional floors. He said there are no plans in the works to build additional floors.

Johnson said the next step is permitting, but he hopes to break ground in the next two months.

“We’re wanting to move forward fast,” Johnson said.

Wallace Construction is the general contractor. Johnson expects it to take about six to seven months to build. He hopes to have it open by summer. In the east building facing Mickey Mantle, Johnson will operate House of Bedlam, a café and retail store specializing in sports team attire. He does not have a tenant for the west building, but has hinted he might open a family entertainment center.

“I may be operating all of it,” he said.

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