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Chris Johnson strolled out of the Miller Jackson building in Bricktown Sept. 14 and walked across a bridge over the canal. He looked out at two parcels of vacant land, while, in hand were a pair of renderings on poster board of the House of Bedlam, a retail, restaurant and parking project he hopes to build on the site. He was discouraged having just come from a Bricktown Urban Design Committee meeting where his plans once again were put on hold.
Johnson, owner of USA Screen Printing and
Embroidery Co., appeared before the committee in June with plans for the House
of Bedlam – featuring apparel and merchandise from Oklahoma’s
collegiate and professional sports teams and a café – facing Mickey Mantle
Drive and the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. County records show Johnson paid
$1.7 million and then $700,000 in separate transactions – both in June – to
purchase the nearly one acre of property from Gary Cotton.
The second building would sit along the area where the canal curves south, with a portion being a three-story structure, one story at canal level, and the remaining would be one-story, canal-front retail with parking on the roof of that space at street level. Johnson said he turned down a recent hotel proposal for the site in favor of the retail and parking structure. A walkway would connect to an existing walkway and provide pedestrian access around the project, over the canal and onto Mickey Mantle.
Committee members were not pleased with vague descriptions of a landscaping screen to shield parked cars from view. Tim Johnson, with Johnson & Associates, said the view of parked cars would be obscured from the canal due to the sight lines from the canal, and the cars being at street level.
“The view is obscured by the walkway,” he said.
Mark Krittenbrink, an architect and member of the committee, disagreed with that assessment. He said cars would be visible, and that landscaping is sometimes ignored or dies, which would negate its purpose shielding the view of cars. Chris Johnson said when he owned a parking lot west of the proposed site, he never heard complaints about people being able to see parked cars from the canal.
“I really like the idea of retail on the canal level,” Krittenbrink said. “Where I have issues with it is that it is very visible parking right up against the canal.”
Despite Box’s assertion that the landscaping would meet city code, which is required for a building permit to be issued, committee members were not willing to take his word for it. The renderings did not include the landscaping screen. Tim Johnson said that was so committee members could more clearly view the project and not have portions obscured by landscpaping.
“The only thing that I see definite here is parking,” Committee Chairwoman Avis Scaramucci said. “This is not just planting two trees and a couple of bushes.”
Committee member Phil Miller also wanted more specific information, and added, “I personally think landscaping is like brick-and-mortar in this case.”
Not of consequence, but certainly in context to the committee’s ultimate decision, the group was questioned as to potential tenants for the 30,000 square feet of speculative retail space.
“Do you have any commitments on filling all this retail space, or is it basically a parking facility?” Scaramucci asked.
Chris Johnson plans to manage the Bedlam store and café. He did not name any other potential tenants. He has discussed plans for something along the lines of a family fun center, or dicing the space up as required by new tenants.
Despite Box asking committee members for an up or down vote, a motion passed to continue the item to a future meeting. Chris Johnson said he is not throwing in the towel, and will work with his team on more specific design and landscaping plans for the project. In the meantime, however, he is anxious to get to work, having invested more than $2 million in the project.
“I’d break ground in 30 days if I could,” he said.