Yi sees gold in the west: Businessman eyes the next urban district

Published Tuesday, June 6, 2017
by Kateleigh Mills

Tommy Yi is one of the co-founders of StarSpace46, 1141 W. Sheridan Ave, a coworking space for local entrepreneurs. He plans to develop the area around his business with local leaders into an urban area similar to the Plaza District or Midtown.

“We are really focusing on tech or anything that has to do with craft,” Yi said. “We are being very inclusive and open with the local residents, which is what you really didn’t see with any of the other areas.”

The area would be between Linwood and Classen boulevards and Sheridan and Virginia avenues. He plans to work with people in the area and other businesses to create a single vision by 2018. Money to pay for the development would come from independent investors.

The challenges for the area are building community interest, getting businesses interested in purchasing buildings, and cleaning up crime. Many of the buildings are abandoned or used for storage, Yi said.

The plan is to create affordable residential areas and bring in local businesses to attract younger generations.

“It has a lot of the problems that the Plaza had when they first started,” Yi said.

Councilwoman Meg Salyer from Ward 6 said the west side of downtown Oklahoma City is exploding with development.

“West Oklahoma City is well underway to be a mixed-use development,” Salyer said.

She said the area around StarSpace46 is the next area out from Film Row, but needs to garner local support that the city could facilitate. She said there are many rich pockets of emerging areas to develop on the west side.

“I have met with a number of folks down there, the farmers market and other emerging districts, and there are lots of ideas,” Salyer said. “But there is not an infrastructure plan yet.”

City planner and architect Mark Seibold agreed that the west side of downtown has potential. He said the first step to creating a district would be to assess the area and understand what challenges it faced.

“The tech sector across the nation is a thriving industry and Oklahoma City is a little behind on that curve,” Seibold said. “Tommy is trying to build that into a physical place.”

If the project garners support and a vision, the next step would be to calculate the costs and impacts in order to develop an implementation plan.

“Any future district, whatever shape it takes, would have a lot of people involved and a lot of public input,” Seibold said.

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