As construction continues on Oklahoma City’s new MAPS 3 convention center, developers are already talking about what will happen with the Cox Convention Center. The old center occupies prime downtown real estate next the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Journal Record editor Russell Ray spoke to KGOU’s Jacob McCleland about the future of the Cox Convention Center.
Jacob McCleland: It's the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland and I'm talking with Russell Ray. He's the editor of The Journal Record newspaper. Russell thank you for joining us.
Russell Ray: Thanks for having me, Jacob.
McCleland: Let's talk about the MAPS 3 convention center that's currently under construction. We're still a ways off from the convention center coming online. But when it does, what happens to the old municipally-owned Cox Convention Center? What happens to that facility?
Ray: Well no decision has been made about the future of the Cox Convention Center, but it's really no secret that developers are very interested in what they say is premium space and an excellent opportunity for redevelopment in downtown Oklahoma City. The ideas are wide ranging but in the end the market will dictate what the city builds in that space.
McCleland: So the Cox Convention Center is a very large city block that could potentially be cut into quadrants. Developers believe the property would have more value if it were if it were chopped up like that?
Ray: That's correct. One developer told us the best way to realize the center's full redevelopment value would be to cut the space into quadrants to match the downtown street grid. And no matter what they decide to build there, officials tell us the project will need to include more parking spaces as well.
McCleland: So Journal Record reporter Brian Bruce talked with some developers for his story about what downtown could look like in a world without the Cox Convention Center. What ideas did developers share with him?
Ray: Well the land has been deemed by the city as a high density space with no specified use. And Kathy O'Connor, president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, told Bryan her group has actually developed a conceptual plan for the site and that plan calls for the construction of high rise office or high rise residential use. And she did agree it would make sense to match the city's street grid for that project.
McCleland: So was there any kind of timeline for when we'll know what the city plans to do with the Cox Convention Center.
Ray: Well ultimately it's the city council's decision. But officials speculate it may be at least five years before we know what the city will do with that space because that's when they expect the center's obligations to provide event space will begin to run out. O'Connor also said the alliance will start looking more closely at the site in a year or two.
McCleland: Well let's talk for a little bit about tobacco prevention and selling cigarettes to minors. Sarah Terry-Cobo reports for The Journal Record that if too many retailers are caught selling cigarettes to minors it could cost the state about $6.8 million In federal funding. Walk us through this. How would this happen?
Ray: That's right. That amounts to 40 percent of a grant received each year by the state's substance abuse treatment agency. And the idea behind this is to keep store owners and the people who enforce the law accountable. So the federal government's definition of accountability is achieving a compliance rate of 80 percent.
McCleland: So the Oklahoma City district brought home a compliance score of 79.5. And that's just below the 80 percent threshold needed to keep the funding, right. So how is compliance determined in the first place?
Ray: Well the ABLE commission conducts compliance checks on more than 700 outlets across the state. And the way it works is really simple. An enforcement officer sends an under-age teenager into the store to buy tobacco. If a sale is made, then the store is deemed non-compliant.
McCleland: And the compliance rate has improved over the years, right?
Ray: Yeah that's correct. Oklahoma went from a noncompliance rate of 48.3 percent in 1997 to a low of 6.8 percent in recent years.
McCleland: Russell Ray's the editor of The Journal Record newspaper. Russell, thank you for talking with us.
Ray: Thank you.
McCleland: KGOU and the Journal Record collaborate each week on The Business Intelligence Report. You can find this conversation at kgou.org. You can also follow us on social media. We're on Facebook and Twitter @journalrecord and @kgounews.
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.