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First National Flux, Midtown Mess, And #FLYTULSA In This Week’s Business Headlines

Pedestrians walk in front of Cafe 7 at the First National Center in downtown Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Pedestrians walk in front of Cafe 7 at the First National Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

Downtown Oklahoma City has been buzzing about the fate of First National Center.

The 84-year-old Art Deco skyscraper heavily inspired by the Empire State Building dominated the Oklahoma City horizon for four decades. But it’s had a rocky quarter century since its namesake bank folded in the mid-80s after the oil bust, and occupancy has been down since Devon Energy consolidated its operations in its flagship headquarters on Sheridan Ave.

First National Center has been for sale for nearly a year now, but there are still quite a few street-level, first-floor businesses whose fate is uncertain.

“A lawyer for the owners says the retailers and the restaurants on the first floor are being offered six month extensions as their leases expire,” says Journal Record managing editor Adam Brooks. “They just don't want to saddle proposed new owners with long-term tenants.”

For many tenants, it’s business as usual, according to The Journal Record’s Molly Fleming.

Feed the Children, which operates the Story of Hope store, hasn’t made any plans to leave the building. “Currently, Feed the Children is unaware of any lease changes for the Story of Hope retail store,” Kim Baich, Feed the Children chief communications and brand officer, wrote in an email. “Our lease is intact and we plan to continue operating the store.” Baich did not say when her lease is up. Mack Scherler, owner of the Medicine Cabinet pharmacy, said he has briefly heard from the property manager. His lease expired Dec. 31, and he was given a six-month renewal option. “I can’t find a place in six months,” he said. He asked for a 10-month lease and hasn’t heard if that was accepted.

Bustling Bowling Alley, Beer Hall Cause Midtown Parking Woes

Traffic passes in front of Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge in Oklahoma City’s Midtown.
Credit Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record
The Journal Record
Traffic passes in front of Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge in Oklahoma City’s Midtown.

“Walkability” is a key element of Oklahoma City’s urban revival, but cars will always be an essential part of life in one of the most geographically spread out cities in the country.

Those two ideas have met head-on in Midtown, where Fassler’s Beer Hall and the Dust Bowl Lanes share a space with the capacity for 500-600 people, with another 800 on an outdoor patio. But there are only 29 parking spots.

“It's not going to be a complete solution, but the Midtown Renaissance Group and Oklahoma City are working on closing down Park Place, which is just north of those new businesses,” Brooks says. “They're going to convert it to a one-way street with angle parking. That will help a little, but things are still going to be crowded in that area.”

Midtown Renaissance partner Chris Fleming says they plan to pay for the $250,000 change.

The group has already made some effort to help alleviate the parking situation by building a parking garage near Broadway Avenue and NW 10th Street. Fleming equated the distance to walking from a Penn Square Mall end parking spot to the mall’s front doors. “Parking (in Midtown) is not perfect, and in any urban environment it’s not perfect, but we’re doing the best we can as quickly as permitted,” he said.

Brooks says there’s been conflict between some of the neighboring businesses. Nearby Brown’s Bakery says it’s had problems with people leaving their cars in the parking lot, and beer cans littering the property.

“[Owner William Brown] put up signs saying cars would be towed, and then started doing it,” Brooks says. “He faced a lot of criticism on social media for that, but he says it's his property, and he needs to protect it."

TIA Encouraging More Departures

Nicole Linn shoots a photo of her daughter, Eliana, who poses with a 6-foot-tall replica of the Golden Driller on display at Tulsa International Airport.
Credit Rip Stell / The Journal Record
The Journal Record
Nicole Linn shoots a photo of her daughter, Eliana, who poses with a 6-foot-tall replica of the Golden Driller on display at Tulsa International Airport.

Tulsa International Airport has unveiled a campaign to encourage more people to start their trips by flying from Oklahoma’s second-largest city.

“There's a study a couple of years ago that showed that 420,000 people a year drive to Tulsa from Dallas to take their flights,” Brooks says. “The airport realized that if only five percent of those people changed their plans, and fly out of TIA, that could mean $350,000 in revenue each year.”

The Journal Record’sD. Ray Tuttle reports the $75,000 campaign includes television, radio, and online advertising.

Passengers traveling through Tulsa will be encouraged to share their travel stories using the #FLYTULSA hashtag, said Alexis Higgins, deputy airports director of marketing and community relations. Passengers will be asked to post their airport and vacation photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In addition, a 6-foot replica of the Tulsa Golden Driller, with a #FLYTULSA logo, will be set up past security to provide a photo opportunity. The promotion is meant to attract airlines as well as passengers, said Alex Eaton, president of World Travel. “The more people we can run through the airport, the bigger, stronger case we can make to airlines to bring profitable flight service to Tulsa,” Eaton said.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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