Jazz hands

The history of Deep Deuce is as rich a story as any told in the country. As the center of African-American life in the early to mid-20th century, jazz poured into the streets, and one just might bump into musicians Count Basie or Charlie Christian.

At the Calvary Baptist Church, the leaders felt a young man named Martin Luther King Jr. was too young to be their minister, but when civil rights and King’s causes were at their height, the church was the hub locally for those efforts.

As years went by, the area began to fall into decline: Shops closed, jazz trumpeters were a rare sight and the area was all but forgotten. It has seen increased activity in recent years — notably the Deep Deuce Apartments completed in 2001 — but a new resurgence will have the area just north of Bricktown looking quite different in the next year.

GLORY RESTORED 

Most
of the construction is new, but some historical buildings remain. The
centerpiece, Calvary Baptist Church, 300 N. Walnut, has stood watch over
Deep Deuce since its construction in the early 1920s. Listed on the
National Register of Historic Places, and in a state of disrepair, it
was purchased in March for $700,000 by Daniel and Joy Davis to house a
law office.

Directly
across Walnut and to the west, is Level, a 228-unit apartment
development with a branch of Norman-based Native Roots Market grocery
store and additional restaurant space on the ground floor.

Sitting
just south of Level, an Aloft hotel is under construction. An
additional 139-unit residential project is planned for the intersection
of N.E. Fourth Street and N. Oklahoma Avenue by developer Ron Bradshaw.

Joy
Davis says she and her husband were looking at available office space
Downtown, and when they saw the church, they loved the spot but knew
they would have their work cut out for them. Upon further inspection, it
was clear significant structural issues would need to be addressed
immediately — starting with a new roof.

But
there was also the desire to keep the church’s history and integrity
intact. The law offices will occupy the balcony of the sanctuary, which
will be glassed-off. The sanctuary will be restored to its former glory,
and Davis says it will be an event space. The exterior and stained glass
will be restored to original standards.

“We feel like that church belongs to the community,” she says. “It’s an important part of our history.”

With work under way, she hopes to be in the building sooner rather than later.

“Hopefully within a year, we’ll have everything restored and ready to go,” Davis says.

ON THE LEVEL

Level
is the vision of suburban residential developer Richard McKown. After a
career with Ideal Homes, McKown set his sight on Downtown. He teamed
with Oklahoma native Wade Scaramucci, an architect with London-based
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, to design the apartment complex on 2.6
acres. McKown’s goal was to create a community within walking distance
to the core of Downtown, with its food, drink and entertainment options.

“This
community is really designed for people who see the value in being able
to walk everywhere,” he says. “People who have figured out that it’s
kind of a pain to get in your car to go out to eat or buy groceries.”

As
April rolled into May, Level welcomed its first tenants to the $24
million project, and McKown expects it to be full by August. With rents
starting at about $850 per month, he hopes to keep tenants around for a
while.

His message to
tenants and potential tenants is a simple one: “Our goal is to keep you
three to five years,” he says. “We want to take great care of you, and
when it’s time to renew your lease, we want you to stay and help us
build this community.”

ACTIVATING ALOFT

James Thompson is bringing
the first Aloft to Oklahoma City. With a background in architecture and
four hotels around the city, Thompson saw a need for something unique
and to provide a hotel in close proximity to the central business
district, the Chesapeake Arena, the health sciences center and the state
Capitol.

“That location is a gateway to Bricktown and Downtown,” he says.

Aloft
is billed as a “vision of W Hotels.” The W brand is owned by Starwood
Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and includes prestige, high-end
properties around the world.

With
Aloft, Thompson says the brand caters to business and leisure travelers
in a fun, hip environment, and allows for some freedoms in designing
the properties, rather than a standard prototype.

“It will be very architecturally significant,” he says.

To help that vision become a reality, Williams hired Anthony McDermid, principal at TAParchitecture, to design the hotel.

McDermid
says one key element to creating density is that the hotel is designed
to sit close to the corner and the street. Restaurant and bar space will
dominate the first floor with sidewalk seating on the north side
looking toward Level. A covered entryway off the corner will greet
visitors driving up to the front door.

“It’s going to feel very urban,” he says. “It will activate that street.”

The
$21 million, 135-room hotel will offer what are called “tower suites”
on the east end, and executive suites with balconies on the west side
looking toward the skyline.

Thompson
says his goal is to have the hotel open by May of next year, just in
time to help shoulder some of the demand if the Oklahoma City Thunder
again make it to the playoffs.

“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he says.

Top photo: Level Apartments

Bottom photo: Richard McKown, developer of the 228-unit apartment project Level

Photos by Mark Hancock

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