Preliminary designs for downtown parking garage unveiled

The Central Oklahoma Transportation and
Parking Authority hired TAP Architecture this summer to design the
$20 million, 750-space garage. The firm is working with Chicago-based
Desman Associates.

COTPA will own the garage, but it is slated
for land south of city hall that is controlled by OCURA, and the
parking lot of the neighboring Hightower Building. It will occupy the
majority of the block, and be book-ended by the Hightower and a
city-owned building.

“We will push up against both of those
buildings,” McDermid said.

The ground floor is set for retail, with
eight parking decks above it and the possibility of residential units
on top. Current drawings do not include residential, but Cathy
O’Connor, director of OCURA, said the idea has not been abandoned.
She said in talking with consulting firm RTKL, there are concerns
about the height of the project, and the need to build it all at one
time, rather than the residential units in a later phase.

“I would like to take some time to talk to
RTKL about that some more,” O’Connor told OCURA commissioners.

Larry Nichols, OCURA board chairman, voiced
concerns over the retail component on the ground floor. He cited
various retail missteps Downtown from largely underutilized space in
the Santa Fe Parking Garage, frequent vacancies in the retail arcade
in the First National Center, and challenges in getting and keeping
retailers in Bricktown. At his company’s Devon Energy Center, he
has had no suitors for retail space in the ground floor of the
parking garage.

“We all want retail,” he said. “But
the success of retail in Downtown has been a challenge.”

Nichols also said he does not want visitors
to city hall to have to see vacant space in the gleaming new garage.

“If it doesn’t work, you’ve got
boarded-up retail directly across the street from our city
government,” he said.

COTPA Administrator Rick Cain said his
office is sensitive to the retail issue, and wants to work to fill
that space. O’Connor said there have been talks of the city using
some of that space for meetings and other city operations if
retailers are not secured.

In designing the garage, McDermid said the
preliminary drawings are a clear direction of the look and feel of
the garage, but nothing is yet decided. It incorporates functional
components with inspiration from surrounding historical 1930s
limestone federalist architecture-style buildings.

“It’s a contemporary rendering with
traditional materials,” he said.

Nods to the past include metal screens seen
on the Civic Center Music Hall, city hall and the county courthouse
that are over windows and climb multiple floors. The first level of
the garage would include black granite with large windows, similar in
design to First National Center.

McDermid then looked south from the garage
site to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which features a
multi-story, multi-colored glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly.

“We looked at what else was going on in
the neighborhood,” he said. “We have one of the best, if not the
best collection of Chihuly glass in the nation.”

The Chihuly influence includes colored,
laminated glass to bathe parking decks in colored light, and to
provide a color key to help motorists remember on which floor they
have parked.

“They are decorative, but they also serve
a very useful purpose,” McDermid said.

He said city code calls for 30 percent of a
garage to be open for cross ventilation, and the plans call for a
larger percentage of open space than required to bathe the decks in
copious amounts of colored and natural light.

On Sept. 20, McDermid presented the same
drawings to the Downtown Design Review Committee. In July, when
McDermid was hired, Debi Holtzclaw, COTPA parking manager, said if
the project stays on schedule it will take about 18 months to build,
and could open in late 2013 or early 2014.



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