Paving the way for Plaza Dis­trict growth

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - BY STEVE LACKMEYER Busi­ness Writer slack­meyer@ok­la­

The Plaza Dis­trict, rapidly as­cend­ing to be­ing one of Ok­la­homa City’s most pop­u­lar ur­ban des­ti­na­tions, will open 117 new park­ing spa­ces this month as the area con­tin­ues to at­tract restau­rants, shops and of­fices.

The park­ing lot at NW 15 and Black­welder is be­ing built by the Stru­ble fam­ily, own­ers of sev­eral com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties and who are build­ing a two-story build­ing at NW 16 and In­di­ana that will be home to of­fices and a restau­rant.

“We knew we needed park­ing and we had a smaller park­ing lot planned on Black­welder,” Jeff Stru­ble said. “Then a house on the block be­came avail­able so we were able to do some­thing big­ger.”

The park­ing lot de­sign is in­ten­tion­ally laid out so that it won’t be a sprawl of con­crete used only for cars.

Jeff and Aimee Stru­ble’s son, Pa­trick, is help­ing lead pro­gram­ming of the site that will in­clude pub­lic art.

“Go­ing to other cities, you see a mono­lithic pour of con­crete for park­ing lots,” Pa­trick Stru­ble said. “It’s ugly and we don’t think it’s en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. So we’re us­ing a mix of con­crete and de­com­posed gran­ite. It will help with wa­ter runoff and will look more invit­ing for peo­ple. And on this space we will have places for re­tail trucks and food trucks.”

A chance meet­ing with artist Adam Lan­man while he was vis­it­ing a class at the Uni­ver­sity of Ok­la­homa led to cre­ation of an in­stal­la­tion in the mid­dle of the lot that will con­sist of 16 mu­ral pan­els and LED-lit see­saws.

The pub­lic art will be over­seen by Plaza Walls, which over­sees a ro­tat­ing se­ries of mu­rals on al­ley sides of build­ings in the Plaza Dis­trict. Jeff Stru­ble said the 3-by-3-foot pan­els will be re­place­able, al­low­ing the art to be sold.

“I want some­thing that we can dis­play but then can be sold,” Jeff Stru­ble said. “The artists need to make some money. They got ad­ver­tis­ing for them­selves with plaza walls, which was great. But this will al­low peo­ple to buy their work.”

Plaza park­ing

Park­ing in the dis­trict has be­come an is­sue for both mer­chants and res­i­dents. Neigh­bors suc­cess­fully pe­ti­tioned the city to re­strict park­ing on res­i­den­tial streets, while Steve Ma­son has al­lowed area em­ploy­ees to park on a va­cant lot he owns on NW 16 to free up spa­ces in the heart of the dis­trict for visi­tors.

The Strubles say to en­sure the new spa­ces are avail­able for visi­tors, they will charge $1 an hour with a twohour min­i­mum for day­time park­ing and $5 for evening park­ing af­ter 4 p.m. They hope those rates will dis­suade area em­ploy­ees from us­ing the lot in­stead of the lot owned by Ma­son.

An­other eatery with a built-in fol­low­ing, Maples Bar­beque, is set to open later this year in the former Chilte­pes restau­rant at NW 16 and In­di­ana. Ma­son, who owns the Plaza Shop­ping Cen­ter on the north side of NW 16, praised the Strubles for in­vest­ing in park­ing that will ben­e­fit the en­tire dis­trict.

“I be­lieve the No. 1 prob­lem in the Plaza is park­ing,” Ma­son said. “I am thrilled that Aimee and Jeff are adding 117 spots. And that will go a long way to solv­ing the prob­lem.”

Seek­ing di­verse re­tail mix

Ma­son said he and his part­ner Aimee Ah­peatone are meet­ing monthly with fel­low prop­erty own­ers, in­clud­ing the Strubles, to dis­cuss chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ma­son ac­knowl­edged the loss of two re­tail shops at NW 16 and Black­welder, was a hit to the dis­trict. But he cau­tions against judg­ing the owner, whose rent in­crease was cited as a rea­son for the clos­ing of one of the shops, Col­lected Thread.

Both Ma­son and Stru­ble have worked to re­tain some of the dis­trict’s more eclec­tic shops that may not be high-rent ten­ants but do add to the area’s draw.

“The Plaza Dis­trict, much like Penn Square or the out­let mall, has to have a di­ver­sity of ten­ants to ul­ti­mately suc­ceed,” Ma­son said. “If Dar­win­ism works, then in five years it’s all restau­rants be­cause they pay twice as much as a re­tailer, and we will all be sad. But if you care about the dis­trict, we want to cu­rate a di­ver­sity of busi­nesses. But that is tougher in area where you have mul­ti­ple own­ers.”

The land­lord for Col­lected Thread and DNA Gal­leries could not be reached for com­ment. But Ma­son said the owner only has one build­ing and no higher-pay­ing ten­ants to help cover the shops that re­quire lower lease rates.

Lo­cal he­roes

Ma­son ac­knowl­edges he has enough space along NW 16 that he and Ah­peatone are able to cre­ate a “sanc­tu­ary” for ten­ants like Bad Granny’s Bazaar and Dis­trict House cof­fee shop.

“We have enough square footage un­der con­trol that we can af­ford to have higher pay­ing of­fices and restau­rants to sub­si­dize the cof­fee shops and re­tail­ers to make the ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter,” Ma­son said. “And as mul­ti­ple build­ing own­ers in a dis­trict, we need to pro­tect that di­ver­sity.”

Ma­son said his con­ver­sa­tions with the owner of the two empty stores is ne­go­ti­at­ing leases with new re­tail­ers to fill those spots.

The new park­ing, he added, will cer­tainly help main­tain the re­tail mix he be­lieves is crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing the Plaza’s draw for years to come. Ma­son, Ah­peatone and Stru­ble all agreed the dis­trict is near­ing a point when it can­not sup­port any more restau­rants.”

“We love the evo­lu­tion of the dis­trict, be­cause we en­vi­sioned that,” Ah­peatone said. “But we don’t want it to be­come a restau­rant dis­trict, and then it be­comes a club dis­trict.”


De­tach­able “Plaza Walls” mu­ral pan­els and LED-lit see­saws de­signed by artist Adam Lan­man will be in­stalled in the mid­dle of a new park­ing lot open­ing this month in the Plaza Dis­trict.


A new of­fice and re­tail build­ing is un­der con­struc­tion at NW 16 and In­di­ana by the Stru­ble fam­ily’s 180 Res­i­den­tial and 180 Ur­ban Groups.


Pa­trick, Aimee and Jeff Stru­ble say they are ded­i­cated to main­tain­ing a mix of uses in their new park­ing lot at NW 15 and Black­welder in the Plaza Dis­trict.

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