Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Second Century Hopes to Make 'People Place'

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Second Century Hopes to Make 'People Place'

Article excerpt

Bill Johnstone sat down with Dean McGee about a month ago, and they talked about downtown.

"I wanted to get a sense of history," Johnstone said.

McGee, the oil pioneer and Oklahoma City civic leader who died Sept. 15 at age 85, was a guiding force behind virtually every improvement downtown in his lifetime. Johnstone, the banker who is chairman of the city's new redevelopment arm, Second Century Inc., hopes to build upon the accomplishments of the McGee era.

"We're taking on a legacy," Johnstone said. "And we are very respectful of that legacy. Mr. McGee said it very simply. He said downtown has to be a people place."

The flight of retailers to suburban shopping centers made downtown a destination almost exclusively for those who work there, Johnstone said.

"If you quit visiting a place, you quit owning it," he said. "Proprietorship is a feeling that has been weakened, and until people feel like downtown is theirs, they won't want to spend their money on it. That's a job we have ahead of us."

Second Century Inc., a non-profit organization with a nine-member board of directors, was created by the Oklahoma City Council as a "public-private partnership" for downtown redevelopment, Johnstone said. Members include three private citizens, four city council members and two representatives from the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.

It will hold its first meeting with its full board in place on Thursday.

Johnstone, chairman and president of City Bank and Trust, said his appointment as chairman of the Second Century board "is as symbolic as anything else. It illustrates and emphasizes the partnership between the private sector and the public sector."

Tiana Douglas, former executive director of the Urban Renewal Authority, is chief executive officer for Second Century.

"A city is a living, growing, evolving entity, or it dies," Douglas said. "There are so many fragments out there that can be woven together, that it's exciting again to be working on downtown. It hasn't been that fun in recent years."

Recent years have seen much talk and little action on downtown's "Galleria," or "Festival Marketplace," a four-block area bounded by Sheridan, Hudson, Park and Robinson avenues. Dreams and schemes and drawings and models have put offices, hotels, retail malls and other projects on the site.

Still, it is a parking lot.

Forest City Enterprises, a development firm with offices in Cleveland and Los Angeles, still has a letter of intent with the City of Oklahoma City for redevelopment of the 7.5-acre site. Forest City has been unable to secure an anchor tenant for a retail development there, and company officials could not be reached for comment.

Ward 8 City Councilwoman Jackie Carey, a Second Century board member who also co-chairs the city's downtown Events Committee with Douglas, said the Galleria site "is a big reason for the formation of Second Century. …

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