What to expect in Oklahoma City in 2013
Filed by Ben Allen in Feature.
January 2, 2013
Oklahoma City’s rise has been in the works for at least a decade now. Some might point to the approval of the first MAPS program in the early 90’s, but there’s other factors too – the energy boom and the Thunder’s arrival, just to name a few. With many of the big ideas settled, what might be coming in 2013? I took a peek ahead with leaders in the community…
You start with one part excitement:
“I just think there’s so many unfinished projects that people are wanting to get done, that once those happen, we’re off to the races.”
Throw some adventure in there too:
“Taking some risks. It’s a risk to open in the evenings for dinner when every other business around you isn’t so I’d love to see a few of them step out and do that.”
And finally, top it off with awareness…
“I would like to see the local mindset in this movement expand out beyond just what I call the bubble. And the bubble for me is the downtown, midtown area.”
All that together gets you what Oklahoma City could be in 2013.
First we had Keith Paul, owner of restaurants like Cheever’s Café and Tucker’s Onion Burgers, then Allison Barta Bailey, who works with local retailers, and also James Harber, the owner and creative director at Studio FJ – local web designers.
So let’s unpack that recipe, and get back to Keith Paul.
“I want to see more and more people get involved with what’s going on that we currently have going on as a city. I’m excited about what’s going on to the South, but there’s so many things going on right here. I like seeing people move from the suburbs into the city, closer to the city, and really take notice of what’s happening.”
Keith owns Good Egg Dining Group – they just expanded with a new restaurant in the Braniff Building, on the north edge of the downtown core. And while apartments and office buildings are starting to get packed together, Keith wants to see more.
“My vision is to just see people walking. From Red Prime Steak to a Thunder game, it’s a 12 minute walk. But people just don’t do it. But I think you’ll see that. In three years, a totally different downtown.”
“Let’s talk about embracing these amazing local businesses. And so I hope when we’re finishing 2013 going into 2014, our campaign as a city to other places is we’ve got something different here, so come see something you can’t find at home.”
Alison Barta Bailey says Oklahoma City has come a long way from even just a few years ago. But she hopes that in 2013, the mindset starts to change. Enough with the excitement over big box stores, Oklahoma City should be bragging about its unique flavor.
“We still have this ‘We’re a small city growing’ kind of mentality. But I think that we’re there. And I think we just have a different way of showing how successful we are as a city.”
That leaves us with the bubble of knowledge…how much do people know about OKC, and are they getting an accurate picture? The national media has been on a steady parade into the city, from Newsweek naming Mayor Cornett one of the most innovative mayors in America, to a glowing profile of the Thunder, sprinkled with details about the city’s revival, in a New York Times Magazine cover story.
“As more people figure out about it, the expansion happens faster. The creative community, arts community builds faster. Think of it as multiplication to the nth power. I think we’re going to see a large expansion because it’s so well known now.”
James Harber isn’t just talking about outside Oklahoma’s borders. Sometimes, he says you don’t need to leave Oklahoma City to find people who don’t know about the transformation of downtown and midtown.
“They have no idea that downtown is cool. They don’t even know we have districts.”
James grew up out in the country, but since moving to Oklahoma City, he sounds like one big advocate.
“I’m passionate about food, you can’t see me, but I’m passionate about food. It’s nice to really get behind a local product. For me, it’s let’s embrace that.”
It doesn’t hurt that this current renaissance has brought business. For the creative community especially, opportunities are expanding. Local is what’s in and James hopes it’s not a fad, but a way of life, in 2013.
“There’s actually one street corner in OKC where I’ve built websites for each business.”
That goes for all three – Keith and his restaurants, Allison and the local shops she works with, and James and his website design firm. A lot of good feelings about Oklahoma City in 2013. And a lot of crossed fingers that the re-shaping of the metro continues.