Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Go West: Developers See Opportunity Where Tourists See Blight

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Go West: Developers See Opportunity Where Tourists See Blight

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - The 21C Museum Hotel celebrated its first 90 days this week. General Manager Matt Cowden said the hotel has attracted visitors from Dallas, Tulsa, and even its own backyard.

"There's a strong group of folks that are 21C loyal," Cowden said. "They travel to visit all the hotels. We've seen a lot of those folks check us out."

He said he hasn't had any guests express concerns about safety in the area. Oklahoma City visitors understand that there's more to come nearby, with a brewery in the former Sunshine Cleaners building, a music venue directly south of the hotel, and a multifamily housing project planned near the hotel as well.

But out-of-towners will find an area with old industrial buildings and broken sidewalks. There may be homeless people sleeping on the curb. And though there's no large sign on it, the county jail looms over the district. A developer has joked about his multifamily project offering a great view of the facility.

Cowden said he's ecstatic about the area because there's a lot more to come.

"We have parking next to our property," he said. "I think the logistics of our location is just what's exciting."

Urban Land Institute Senior Fellow Tom Murphy said he's seen some success in similarly challenging areas. In 1998, the former Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, mayor helped bring a Home Depot to the downtrodden East Liberty neighborhood. The Home Depot moved into a former Sears building.

A Whole Foods followed Home Depot. Trader Joe's and Target moved in as well.

He said he and other city leaders had to figure out why the market wasn't working. When he first looked at East Liberty, 60 percent of the property was tax-delinquent.

He said public/private partnerships were critical to getting Home Depot into the area. The homeless population moved out gradually.

Murphy said in the Cincinnati neighborhood Over-the-Rhine, the Cincinnati City Center Development Corp. …

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