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On The Road Again

Dallas-Ft. Worth
On The Road Again
Ford Center, Oklahoma City
A few weeks back, we took a trip north on I-35 to Oklahoma City. Destination: Ford Center, to watch UNT men's basketball. While passing signs for Toby Keith's birthplace (Moore) and singing “Ooook-lahoma,” we noticed that OKC is a thriving city. For expert analysis, we turned to a native son and founder of,Ben Johnson. He tells us the Ford Center (home to the NBA's OKC Thunder since 2008) is the beneficiary of the first MAPS program (Metropolitan Area Projects), funded by a new one-cent sales tax and passed by OKC voters in 1993. MAPS also funded the new AT&T Bricktown Ballpark downtown (home to a Rangers' AAA club). The Ford Center is in the middle of a $100M renovation and expansion.
Devon Tower construction, Oklahoma City
We snapped the new 50-story HQ (ok, not quite there yet) for the nation's largest independent natural gas firm, Devon Energy. This is the biggest real estate story in the last 20 years for OKC, Ben tells us, because it's the largest skyscraper  under construction  in the US and will be the tallest building in Oklahoma. Designed by Jon Pickard and developed by Hines, Ben believes it'll be the region's crown jewel and put OKC on the architectural map. He cautions that upon opening, Devon will vacate about 800k SF of office space throughout the already vacancy-challenged downtown OKC market.
Chase Tower, Oklahoma City
Speaking of Chase, Ben shares a secret that even a few locals don't know: The tower (currently the city's tallest office building) is legally known as Cotter Ranch Tower, but the name never stuck. The building is owned by flamboyant San Antonio investor Jim Cotter, who bought it in 2004 and branded the lobby floor with his logo. Home to the Petroleum Club  on its upper three floors, Ben says once Devon's tower is finished, it will leave half  the Chase building empty. “Look for something large to happen there, maybe attracting a corporate relocation into some prime downtown space,” Ben says.
Myriad Gardens, Oklahoma City
Vindication for UFO conspiracy theorists? Nah. Ben assures us it's a huge botanical tube way ahead of its time. As part of the Myriad Gardens, it opened in downtown in '88, conceived by famed architect I.M. Pei  as part of his original master plan for OKC's downtown in 1964, Ben says. Now the entire site is undergoing a $35M renovation to include a new grand lawn area just across from the Devon tower's main entrance. Funding comes from a $115M  TIF district created by the Devon tower development, he tells us.
Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City
The Skirvin Hilton (named after local oilman William Skirvin) opened in 1911. Ben calls it “one of those grand dames of historic hotels.” He tells us it was closed in 1988 during the last oil bust, but reopened in February 2007 after a $55M renovation led by GM John Williams and Marcus Hotels & Resorts. “Rumor has it the hotel is haunted. Earlier this year several New York Knicks players attributed the team's loss to the local Thunder to ghosts roaming the hotel's halls. Maybe it's the team's sixth man,” Ben says.