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Sunshine Cleaners Redevelopment Moves Forward; Quapaw Casino Goes Farm-To-Fork To Woo Millennials

Renovation continues on the Sunshine Cleaners building at 1012 NW First St. in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Renovation continues on the Sunshine Cleaners building at 1012 NW First St. in Oklahoma City.

In April the Oklahoma City Council approved $550,000 in tax increment financing, or TIF money, for the dilapidated Sunshine Cleaners building just west of downtown.

About the only remarkable thing about the building two blocks from the Oklahoma County Jail is its beautiful neon sign. The roof has caved in, the windows are broken, and satellite imagery even shows an abandoned vehicle inside the building.

The money still has to be approved by the Oklahoma City, but The Journal Record’s editor Ted Streuli says the odds are in developer David Wanzer’s favor.

“He's done other projects like this around the city that have been very successful. The Tower Theater, for example, on Northwest 23rd Street,” Streuli said. “So he's got a track record with the city. Things have gone well so far and it's a pretty bright outlook.”

Oklahoma City Economic Development Manager Brent Bryant told The Journal Record’s Molly Fleming that Wanzer and his associates won’t get the money until certain construction benchmarks are met:

“These two projects have been found to be very difficult for the developer,” said Bryant. “We’re excited about these two projects because they’re taking old, blighted buildings and bringing life back to them.” Wanzer and his Pivot Project partners, Ben Sellers and Jonathan Dodson, are redeveloping the Sunshine Cleaners and Laundry building into 17,000 square feet of leasable space, which includes an office area, a restaurant, and a brewery with a public taproom. Wanzer said construction is in full swing at the cleaners building, with concrete being poured on Monday. He said utility work had started, with one nearby traffic lane closed for that process. New glass windows are being installed. City documents state that Wanzer estimates his team will spend $3.6 million on project costs. “Everything is going great,” he said. “Everything is moving forward for completion in the fourth quarter of this year.”

A chef picks herbs to use at the Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw. Tribal leaders spoke about their efforts to raise their own food products at the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference held Tuesday and Wednesday in Tulsa.
Credit Courtesy Photo.
A chef picks herbs to use at the Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw. Tribal leaders spoke about their efforts to raise their own food products at the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference held Tuesday and Wednesday in Tulsa.

New Generation Of Casino Patrons

All week tribal representatives have been meeting in Tulsa for the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association’s annual conference.

Casino audiences are aging, and younger consumers aren’t attending the facilities in the same numbers Baby Boomers do. But the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is trying to stay ahead of the curve to draw the next generation of patrons to their Downstream Casino Resort in the far northeast corner of the state.

“They found that Millennials really want to know where their food is coming from, that that's a key selling point to them,” Streuli said. “So they're doing some farm-to-table work that's right there on their own property.”

The tribe wants to use its land to grow enough food for its casino, the tribe’s four other restaurants, and coffee shop. They’ll start roasting coffee beans next month, and eventually grow and harvest their own beans, according to Fleming:

“The more we can grow, the less we have to depend on people,” said Gilbert Johnston, horticulturist at the tribe’s greenhouse. Johnston, Agricultural Manager Tom Hardcastle, Food and Beverage Director Lucus Setterfield, and Vice Chairperson Thomas Matthews spoke about the Quapaw’s agriculture venture Wednesday during the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association conference, held in Tulsa. The tribe has 65 beehives. It uses the honey in the steakhouse and is starting to use the honey with other herbs in a hand scrub. Within a year, the tribe will oversee 100 hives. The remaining beeswax is used in candles. From the greenhouse, 300 pounds of tomatoes, 200 pounds of cucumbers, and 50 pounds of peppers are harvested each month. This amount does not provide the resort with all the vegetables. It does provide for a lot of the products at the steakhouse, Setterfield said.

The tribe didn’t have specific figures for what kind of startup and operational costs this venture entails, but they say they’ve received positive feedback from younger customers. The casino is also uniquely positioned - literally. The resort itself is in Oklahoma, the parking lot is in Kansas, and the exit off Interstate 44 to get to the main access road is in Missouri.

“They think that the farm-to-table approach is really going to give them a draw from all three states,” Streuli said. “They're also talking about potentially brewing some of their craft beer. They have to look into the licensing issues in all three states to see how that might affect them.”

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.
Ted Streuli is the editor of The Journal Record, a weekday newspaper and online publisher of business, political and legal news for Oklahoma. He regularly reports for the Business Intelligence Report, heard each week on KGOU.
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