OKC: Tower Theater Lights are back


Drone aerial over NW 23rd, with the revitalized Tower Theater on the right, and its new public parking (formerly a dirt lot) across to the left, and the bustling (often congested) 23rd corridor dead-ahead. Photo credit Stephen Tyler, whose awesome Vsco page is worth a look. http://vsco.co/stphntylr/grid/1

It’s hard to believe that Devon Tower was finished 4 years ago. Hard, no, impossible. It’s amazing how time flies. For those who track urban progress, these big-ticket projects often serve as benchmarks not just for the communities we love, but for our own lives. I remember as a kid driving into downtown OKC, pre-Devon, thinking what a nicely balanced skyline we had. Similarly, I remember driving down NW 23rd just dreaming of the potential.

For those who don’t know, 23rd Street is the inner north side’s main east-west corridor, carrying between 25,000 and 18,000 cars a day, from the State Capitol west through the inner northside’s tree-lined historic neighborhoods. One block off 23rd, in either direction, usually looks great. On 23rd itself, until recently, has always looked terrible. Somehow the resurgence of the inner northside has evaded its main drag, where seedy landlords and underutilized sites have managed to cling to dear life while their ilk around them have given way to signs of progress.

One of those signs of progress finally happened along 23rd, and it was a big one. The Tower Theater, a long-languishing art deso / art moderne landmark at 23rd and Hudson, in the heart of the Uptown 23rd district, finally turned its lights on. After numerous starts and stops, including a once-hopeful restoration by Piedmont mayor and Midtown developer Greg Banta, this community anchor is approaching the finish line as an music hall, with the potential for film screenings, and storefronts refilled with a bar and another restaurant. The work was finally completed by Jonathan Dodson, Ben Sellers, and David Wanzer. Together these three guys are taking a lot of high-profile sites, where patience has worn thin before, and bringing them across the finish line. Watch this space, because these guys get the job done where others couldn’t before.



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