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March 23rd, 2010 - Pamela A. Grady

Check out the latest happenings within 11 distinct areas of the metro

Development, progress and more abound in the metro\'s many districts.

Adventure District
After recently purchasing Remington Park Racing Casino for $80.25 million, Global Gaming Solutions RP unveiled plans to renovate the venue.

Fifty new electronic gaming machines were added, bringing the total in the casino to 750, and an additional 100 machines are slated to be added this month. Racing fans also can expect to see a substantial number of new flat-screen televisions throughout the facility. Behind the scenes improvements also are taking place, including an upgrade to the surveillance system.

Other attractions receiving upgrades in the district include the National Softball Hall of Fame, 2801 NE 50, and Oklahoma City Zoo's new children's zoo, says Katie Puckett, Adventure District coordinator.

Western Avenue District
The Western Avenue District, which extends from NW 36 Street north to Wilshire Boulevard - including the Shartel Avenue area - is experiencing an abundance of activity.

Newcomers along the strip are shop owners Lori Anderson and Morgan Harris. Anderson operates Emersen Grace Little Shoe Store, a children's shoe and clothing boutique at 3709 N Western Ave. Harris recently opened Green Bambino, a reusable cloth diaper and eco-baby product store, at 5113 N Shartel Ave. in Shartel Plaza.

At NW 51 Street and Western, Suzy Thompson and Steve Reynolds's Forward Foods remains under construction. Brian Fitzsimmons of Fitzsimmons Architects is charged with the design for the boutique grocer. The full-service specialty shop will carry a variety of gourmet products, including items imported from all over the world. The owners have yet to set an opening date.

Ongoing construction at Chesapeake Energy's Classen Curve project at NW Grand and N Classen boulevards is stirring a renewed excitement, says Heather Griswold, Western Avenue District coordinator. Buildings are under construction in the 90,000-squarefoot retail and restaurant project.

In coming months, Hal Smith Restaurant Group's latest concept, Upper Crust Wood Fired Pizza, will join newly opened restaurant and academy 105degrees, Keith and Heather Paul's Republic gastropub, and Red Coyote Running and Fitness.

Other retailers scheduled to move into Classen Curve later this year include Pete Holloway's Caf 501 and Balliet's, owned by the Benham family.

The Paseo
New gallery owner and metal artist Sheridan Scott opened A Jewelers Art at 3018 Paseo Drive. The 800-square-foot store carries a variety of custom-designed jewelry by Oklahoma metal artists, and showcases a visiting artist's work every month. Jewelry-making classes are held throughout the month.

Shaun Fiaconne and Kim Dansereau opened Picasso Caf and The Other Room in a space formerly occupied by Galileo's restaurant and Isis bar, 3009 Paseo Drive. On the menu are pizza, pasta and vegetarian dishes.

The Paseo, situated between NW 28 Street and N Walker Avenue to NW 30 Street and N Dewey Avenue, hosts more than 11 art shows and events throughout the year. The area is home to more than 17 galleries.

Asian District
The Asian District's Phase III Streetscape continues along Classen Boulevard, north of NW 23 Street to NW 30 Street. The $2 million project, funded through the 2000 General Obligation Bond, includes asphalt roadway milling and overlay with full depth replacement in selected locations, curb work, decorative crosswalks and sidewalk repairs or replacements. The project is scheduled for completion by early June.

At the same time, construction of a 26,000-square-foot retail shopping center has been financed by First Enterprise Bank and is underway at NW 26 Street and Classen. Owner Mike Nguyen also is building a retail facility on NW 23 Street, across from The Gold Dome.

Automobile Alley
In recent years, residential and commercial development in Automobile Alley has accelerated rapidly with private investment, leveraged historical tax credits and tax increment financing. Several architecturally unique buildings owned by local developers have undergone intense renovations for tenants: Sara Sara Cupcakes, Funnel Design, Iguana Grill, Broadway Wine Merchants, two coffee shops, two bicycle shops and Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches. Two newcomers to the area are Stella Photography, 3 NW 9, and sushi eatery Pachinko Parlor, 1 NW 9.

In June, Rawhide Furniture, an upscale Western store, will relocate from Norman's Main Street to Automobile Alley. Renovations are underway at 1007 N Broadway Ave., where store owner and interior designer Angie Bailey will take 5,300 square feet of space. Bailey, who grew up on a cattle ranch, calls her store more of a "sophisticated ranch," carrying decorated belts, accessories, handmade boots, jewelry, handbags, home furnishings and more.

Charles Holland, chairman of the Automobile Alley board, says the area is funding a traffic and parking study in an effort to achieve a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, enhance retail sales and attract more residential tenants and homeowners. More landscaping off-Broadway and a railroad-quiet zone are other important goals for the near future.

Automobile Alley will be the focal point of this year's Creativity World Biennale beginning in October, a four-day conference and two-month art exhibit attracting thousands to Oklahoma City to participate in business, industry and educational discussions. Art from around the world will be exhibited at various venues along Broadway Avenue.

Deep Deuce
[Artspace] at Untitled in Deep Deuce hosts its "A Taste of Art" series featuring gourmet cooking classes by Chef Eric Smith from Pachinko Parlor and Sara Sara Cupcakes. Smith recently taught "Sushi Made Simple," "Journey through the Asian Market" and "An Evening in Italy: Risotto." On April 20, Smith will hold a fourth class, "The Italian Table: Family Style Cuisine." He emphasizes hands-on class participation and, afterward, the group enjoys its gourmet meals with a glass of wine.

The Candy Factory Lofts building, 1 E Sheridan Ave., is progressing, as Advanced Academics Inc. leased an additional 8,594 square feet of office space on the seventh floor for its online learning facility. The company already occupies the three floors below. Co-owner Jeff Moore says other tenants are showing interest in the building, as the property's ground floor is completely vacant.

"We've got a couple of floors built out for one of the partners, and we have another group that I think is real close to doing something with us on the first level," says Moore, who owns the building along with partners Chuck Ainsworth and Steve Hudiburg.

Moore also owns the rest of the block under Bricktown Square LLC with Hudiburg and Kent Ledbetter, a California investor. He says plans for the two vacant upper floors above Brix Grille & Sportsbar at 27 E Sheridan Ave. remain unfinished, but the property is in design stages with Sikes Abernathie Architects for home and office space.

Another one-story, 2,600-square-foot building at 14 E Main and the two-story Sherman Machine and Iron Works at 1 N Oklahoma Ave. are available for lease. In 2009, Bricktown celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the canal and the 20-year anniversary of Spaghetti Warehouse, but there's more to come in 2010.

Sports and music have become increasingly important ingredients in Bricktown's continued success, says Jim Cowan, Bricktown Association's executive director. Several large conventions will reap the benefits of being held near the entertainment district this year as well; Cowan says June's United States Conference of Mayors will be one of the most high-profile events Bricktown has ever seen.

Developers Mickey Clagg, Bob Howard and Chris Fleming are in the midst of redeveloping nearly 30 properties within the area in their MidTown Renaissance project. Recently completed are three buildings at NW 12 Street and Francis Avenue, comprising 16 apartment units that range from traditional to contemporary design. All units are available for lease. Mark Krittenbrink of Krittenbrink Architecture handled design duties.

"So far, all the doom and gloom in the national headlines has had little impact on MidTown. We continue to see a good deal of interest from prospective tenants," Clagg says, adding that later this month, Stella, an Italian eatery, is scheduled to open at 1201 N Walker Ave., next to 1492 New World Latin Cuisine. "We're starting to see some national stuff in the area, but we would rather recruit the local restaurant. But as times goes, things evolve. You know you're on the right track when the nationals are looking at you."

He says the group is currently working on the Packard Building, which will be a mix of retail and office space once completed. Next, Hadden Hall, 215 NW 10, will be renovated into 18 apartments.

"Both buildings are contributing resources to the Automobile Alley historic district," Fleming says, adding that steps are being taken to ensure historic preservation guidelines are adhered to in order to receive incentives. "It takes a little bit longer to get a lot better product at the end of the day, but the time we spent in doing that is well worth it in the end."

Central Business District
Progress continues on Devon Energy's $750 million, 54-story headquarters, scheduled for completion in 2012. Designed by Pickard Chilton, the 1.9 million-square-foot facility will boast 80,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the ground floor. To the west is the 1 North Hudson building, 401 W Sheridan Ave.

Holder Flintco, general contractor for Devon Energy's office project, leased an additional 1,905 square feet of office space in the building, for a total of approximately 20,485 square feet. Three additional tenants have signed leases there, including MedCor Inc., a clinical interventions and management services company, taking 1,257 square feet on the ground floor; Berkel & Company Contractors Inc., 350 square feet on the fifth floor; and Structural Services Inc., a New Mexico corporation and subcontractor for the Devon building, 200 square feet on the fifth floor. Rick Pritchett with Precor Ruffin managed lease negotiations.

Plaza District
Along NW 16 Street lies the Plaza District, which supports local emerging artists, musicians, theater and retail shops. Every second Friday, the district presents "Live on the Plaza," an art festival offering food, shopping and live music.

New to the area are Travis Pickett, Derek Knowlton and Spencer Mellow with Warpaint Clothing Company, specializing in American Indian and vintage rock 'n' roll apparel. Other activity includes the renovation of Geraldine Studios, 1609 Blackwelder Ave.

Developer Jeff Struble is renovating the 1947 former Laundromat facility into four live/work studios. On April 28, the Plaza District will present developer Steve Mason with the 2010 Urban Pioneer Award for his revitalization efforts and investment in Automobile Alley. The annual award is given to individuals in the Oklahoma City community who exemplify the state's spirit with leadership and a commitment to urban revitalization.

Film Row
Film Row's streetscape and beautification project along the 600 and 700 blocks of W Sheridan Avenue continues and is about one-third complete, according to 308 Design Collaborative principal David Wanzer. Funded through tax increment financing, design work includes new lighting, sidewalks, landscaping and irrigation.

Wanzer says ongoing construction continues at the Film Exchange Building. Accompanying existing tenants IAO Gallery and Insight Funding Group are Critical Mass Productions, taking 2,850 square feet at 702 W Sheridan, and Trailblazer Capital/Toyscapes, soon to occupy 6,100 square feet at 700 W Sheridan.

The district's Sector 614 building, 614 W Sheridan, houses Tietsort Design, a construction firm specializing in creative and artistic furnishings. The building offers 2,900 square feet of event space for rent, filled with contemporary artwork, paintings, sculptures and furnishings.

Oklahoma Theatre Supply building, a 5,400-square-foot office building at 628 W Sheridan, is filled with local design firms 308 Design Collaborative, bg Design, Obelisk Engineering and Creative Vega. By year's end, Film Row is slated to join the Downtown Business Improvement District as an official Plaza Downtown district.
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