Population: 599,199 (2012 estimate)
Source: A. J. Kirkpatrick, director of operations, Downtown OKC, Inc.
Q. What are some of your key downtown developments and attractions?
A. The arena that houses the NBA Thunder, the civic center and an area called Brick Town, which is just east of downtown, that is now an entertainment district. It was old warehouses turned into bars, nightclubs and restaurants, much like LoDo in Denver.
Q: What did the city do to revitalize its downtown?
A: Oklahoma City has traditionally had three pillars of its economy: oil and gas, state government and agriculture, but the Chamber of Commerce has been proactive in trying to diversify the economic base. We have been very successful in developing a top-notch health sciences center in the area between downtown and the state government sector of the city, and more recently we have seen major aviation job gains, thanks in large part to the presence of Tinker AFB. Our current mayor, Mick Cornett, had a background in sports broadcasting and was well-positioned to attract the NBA after we successfully hosted the Hornets for two seasons following Hurricane Katrina.
Q: What problems did your downtown have to overcome?
A: Oklahoma City experienced over a decade of decline starting with the 1982 oil bust. Our downtown office vacancy rate spiked to 35 percent and several of our major banks failed throughout the 1980s. Oklahoma City suffered from many problems: transit was poor, we had several decades of disinvestment in the core, people of wealth left for the suburbs and retail followed them, and the public no longer trusted the school board and had failed to pass several school bond initiatives.
Q: What role has private investment played in your downtown's recovery?
A: Devon (an oil and gas company) recently completed its $800 million headquarters and asked that $150 million of tax funding generated by the company be used to carry out a reconstruction of almost all of the streets in our central business district.
Q: Where did the city get the money to rebuild downtown?
A: A special voter-approved, one-cent citywide tax, which is used to maintain many of the original public investments each year; and federal funding, including Community Development Block Grants.
Q: Has downtown's growth created any problems?
A: As we have seen major employment growth over the past years, parking is starting to become a bigger issue and we are working to build three different garages.