Mid merit

 

Having watched areas like Bricktown, Autombile Alley and the Plaza District become destination pockets within the city since being elected mayor in 2004, Cornett applauded the efforts in MidTown.

“MidTown’s probably come further than any other area in that specific time frame,” he says. “I remember what it looked like not that long ago.”

Once a thriving hub of activity, the area began to fall into decline in the 1960s. He says the area’s first period of prosperity began with a streetcar line in 1902, followed by the arrival of Mercy and St. Anthony hospitals. By the 1960s, as the city continued to grow and residents headed for the suburbs, it began to decay.

By 1969, Cornett says the area not only began to suffer, but became a place people wanted to drive through as quickly as possible.

“MidTown’s momentum was lost, and it quickly became a land of vacant lots and underutilized buildings,” he says.

While many of the area’s homes eventually were razed, a number of old buildings remained, including Plaza Court, the city’s first suburban shopping center. Plans for rehabilitation emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s amid the oil boom, but with the subsequent oil bust, Cornett says those plans went out the window.

For the next two decades, the area sat largely ignored.

It was only when Bob Howard, Mickey Clagg and Chris Fleming entered the picture in the mid-2000s that things began to turn around. Mercy Hospital was long gone, but St. Anthony had decided to stay … and expand.

Over the past eight years, the MidTown team has taken many of those aged buildings and turned them into viable properties with retail, residential and office options to create a true district.

Clagg is quick to add that financial assistance from federal tax credits, especially state historic tax credits, helped. About a dozen of the MidTown buildings have been historic preservation projects.

“Without the State Historic Preservation tax credits, MidTown wouldn’t look like it looks today,” he says.

Jane Jenkins, president and CEO of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., praises the team for finding new uses for things like abandoned parking garages. At 1212 N. Walker, the MidTown group turned a garage into apartments and retail space.

“1212 N. Walker is another example of creative, adaptive reuse,” she says.

One of the newest projects to come online is an old Packard dealership at N.W. 10th and Robinson Avenue, and a parking structure just behind it to the north called the Guardian.

The
1925 Packard building is now home to businesses like Blueknight Energy,
Wine & Palette and the recently opened Packard’s American Grill.
The Guardian has been converted to housing and will include The Garage
restaurant. An alley between the two buildings was converted to a
lighted courtyard, and on top of the Packard sits a rooftop garden and
event space.

Other projects in the works include the 250-unit Edge apartments under construction on the old Mercy site.

Developer
Gary Brooks won a redevelopment contract for the land from the Oklahoma
City Urban Renewal Authority and plans to have it completed next year.

In
the old Osler Building, 1200 N. Walker, Tulsa hotel developer Paul
Coury is at work converting the 1920s building into a 54-room Ambassador
boutique hotel.

St.
Anthony is in the midst of a $53 million expansion. It will comprise
125,000 square feet, and include four patient-care floors, a lower level
for parking, a heliport and a connection to the northeast wing of the
hospital around N.W. 10th and Dewey Avenue.

To
handle the increased need for parking and to make residential units
viable in properties near N.W. 10th and Broadway Avenue, the MidTown
group is set to begin work later this year on a 282-car parking garage.

Clagg
says all of the projects are about creating a sense of place in a
district that offers amenities for residents and visitors alike. He says
people have three places: home, work and a third place to spend time
when away from the other two.

“We want to be your third place,” he says. “We’d actually like to be all three.”

Photos by Mark Hancock

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