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The Long Game in OKC’s Capitol Hill

Working to shape a pivotal neighborhood’s future



 


“What’ll you have, honey?”

It’s a common greeting from Norma Ericson, a co-owner, and Chantille Hendricks as they take orders from a long lunch line at Grill on the Hill. The cafe is actually at the apex of old Capitol Hill at 324 SW 25th Street in Oklahoma City.
 

Before 90-year-old “Pappa” Shy Manning leaves after lunch every day, Ericson makes it a point to give him a big hug.

“He and his wife, Jo, come in here even for their birthday parties with their family,” Ericson says with a laugh, pointing to a birthday announcement pinned to the wall.

The familiarity between staff and customers, along with good food, might distract a visitor from the substantial changes that are in store for the rest of historic Capitol Hill.

Although the district is currently a shadow of its previous self, one seasoned real estate developer can see a bright future. Marty Dillon of Uptown Development Group already has started investing in historic Capitol Hill. He’s not the only one who is interested, either: Oklahoma City Community College and the Metro Library System have spent millions in rebuilding some old buildings near SW 25th and Hudson for their services.

But investors may have to wait if they haven’t already made a purchase. In fact, there has been so much anticipation of values increasing, “there’s not a whole lot for sale,” says Brett Fisher, a longtime pawnbroker in Capitol Hill.

The high levels of interest mean the district could undergo major changes over the next 20 years, permanently changing its economic and cultural make-up.  

 

Before bridge improvement and work on the Oklahoma River, there was a geographic barrier between the south and north sides of Oklahoma City, reinforcing the cultural divisions between them. Now, new infrastructure and housing development could mean a blending of cultures previously unthinkable.

The Central Park being built downtown is part of a larger “Core to Shore” design, calling for development to jump south of I-40 and extend all the way to the Oklahoma River. And the river is only eight blocks north of SW 25th and Capitol Hill. The new MAPS 3 Convention Center will sit just 18 blocks to the north.

The pace of this work was slowed due to changes in the convention center’s location and now the energy sector’s economic downturn. But the eventual merging of Capitol Hill and downtown into one larger district could slowly dissolve previous cultures there. The white, older working-class Capitol Hill and the more recent Hispanic Capitol Hill could give way to a new blend of cultures yet to be defined.


Are the developments targeting upper-income professionals who are seeking a hip, urban lifestyle with the Central Park as its center? The large-scale, attractive designs of these developments in the area lend credibility to that speculation. There isn’t much of a counter-argument, either, since there has been no public talk to date of actually blending low-income or Section 8 residents into the new developments.

When a new economic culture arrives only blocks away, change will come to Capitol Hill. Will the district become Oklahoma City’s version of Brooklyn, New York, where the previous working class is simply being replaced by urban professionals? Or will Capitol Hill be a unique blend of several economic and ethnic cultures?

The current strength and increasing educational opportunities of the prevailing Hispanic culture in the district indicate the possibility that a unique blend will emerge.

 

Two public institutions are spending millions to be even more effective in reaching the prevailing Hispanic culture of Capitol Hill, affecting all-important literacy. Economic and political strength from deeper engagement with the rest of Oklahoma City could be the result. If Hispanics in south OKC continue on their trajectory of increasing educational and economic strength, by the time higher income professionals of many ethnicities arrive, the prevailing culture could force a blending rather than the Brooklyn-type replacement process.

OCCC takes the Capitol Hill district and its Hispanic culture so seriously, it already has spent $3.3 million on just the first phase of the new Capitol Hill Center at SW 25th and Hudson.

The shell of the former Katz Drug and Langston’s stores on that site are being used. Two more phases are planned.

“I think that it reflects the heart and the passion of OCCC,” Jessica Martinez-Brooks says. “We really care to meet students at whatever level they are coming in.”

University of Oklahoma’s Jessica Martinez-Brooks


Martinez-Brooks was the director of Community Outreach and Education for OCCC as the Capitol Hill Center construction began, and now works for the University of Oklahoma.

After three moves to get more permanent space, OCCC made a commitment to the Capitol Hill area.

“We knew we needed a permanent home,” Martinez-Brooks says. “We couldn’t keep renting space and develop programming how we wanted it, and based on community needs of both the students and their parents.”

Merging funds with money Oklahoma City granted from tax increment financing districts and “brownfield” grants to remove asbestos, OCCC was able to launch its building project on the corner.

The Metropolitan Library System is staying, too. Rather than abandoning Capitol Hill, the library system is investing heavily in the future of the population. With funding help from Oklahoma City, MLS is investing $4.1 million for extensive renovation of its building at SW 26th and Hudson, just one block south of the new OCCC location.

“There’s been a big resurgence of families and children, and there’s a huge need for access to electronic media there,” says Todd Olberling, director of construction management for the MLS. “We have a great after-school program with children that come down the street from the school. And so there’s a huge need there.”

 

“The Capitol Hill district is just south of downtown and has tons of potential,” says Marty Dillon – along with Mike Dillon, the principals for the Uptown Development Group.

They bought the Tower Theater on NW 23rd when most everyone else considered the property to be too toxic to touch. In 2014, Jonathan Dodson, David Wanzer and Ben Sellers bought it from Uptown to complete its transformation for multiple uses. With the recent relighting of the marquee, the Tower has gone from eyesore to jewel.

(Top) Capitol Hill businessman Brett Fisher (Bottom) Uptown Development Group’s Marty Dillon


Uptown Development seems to be good at making bets on property, and they’re betting on Capitol Hill. They bought the old Knob Hill Theater and connected buildings that lie just across the intersection from the OCCC Capitol Hill Center.

“It’s just another great Oklahoma City theater waiting to come back to life,” says Dillon.

 

Fisher said that he started hanging out in his dad’s pawn shop in Capitol Hill when he was 5 years old. Today, he is in his 50s and still going to work in the pawn shop his dad started.

He has some investments in Capitol Hill, but his “stuff is all old, old investment” from way before any public talk of a Central Park in downtown or Core to Shore. He isn’t selling any of it right now; it has too much future potential.

Nor are others.

It’s the anticipation of future value that makes it so hard to find any properties for sale along SW 25th right now.

“Everybody is just kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen with the river, and all that stuff,” Fisher says.

 

With development slowing, the area’s Hispanic culture will have even more time to develop economic depth and gain political strength in Oklahoma City and the state. So it’s not likely to be just a case of one economic class replacing another as in so many other gentrification processes. It will be a much different and far more interesting dynamic.

In Capitol Hill, it’s the long game now.

 

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Calendar

December 2018

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Grab your family and friends for an incredible performance and reimagining of the classic holiday story! Follow Carlos on his hip hop journey to self-discovery through magical lands filled with...

Cost: $20 presale; $25 at the door

Where:
OCCC
7777 S May
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
View map »


Sponsor: RACE Dance Company
Telephone: 405.410.4978
Contact Name: Hui Poos
Website »

More information

Grab your family and friends for an incredible performance and reimagining of the classic holiday story! Follow Carlos on his hip hop journey to self-discovery through magical lands filled with...

Cost: $20 presale; $25 at the door

Where:
OCCC
7777 S May
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
View map »


Sponsor: RACE Dance Company
Telephone: 405.410.4978
Contact Name: Hui Poos
Website »

More information

Elsa and Anna host this holiday spectacular full of Christmas magic - with a drop-in visit from the big man himself: Santa Claus! Featuring high-quality professional performers from Project...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Station at Central Park
700 S Broadway Avenue
Moore , OK  73160
View map »


Sponsor: Project Princess
Telephone: 405.777.2411
Contact Name: Brooke Ashely
Website »

More information

You’re invited to hear Sandi Patty in a free concert for the whole family in the Crossings OKC Sanctuary. Sandi, her family and the Voices of Crossings Choir and Orchestra will share the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossings Community Church - OKC Campus
14600 North Portland
Oklahoma City, OK  73134
View map »


Sponsor: Crossings Community Church
Telephone: 405.302.1258
Contact Name: Lori Bunyar
Website »

More information

The American Spirit Dance Company Presents Home for the Holidays Thursday, December 6, 8:00 PM, Kirkpatrick Theatre Friday, December 7, 8:00 PM, Kirkpatrick Theatre Saturday, December 8,...

Cost: $18.85 - $29.85

Where:
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The American Spirit Dance Company
Telephone: 405.208.4955
Contact Name: Ryan Barrett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

Upcoming Casting Calls in Oklahoma City Location: Provided via email Send headshots, measurements, resume and preferred audition time to casting@princessparty.com We are seeking actors who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Provided via email
Provided via email
Oklahoma City, OK  73112
View map »


Sponsor: The Princess Party Co.
Telephone: 616.426.6108
Contact Name: Skyler
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

Andy Alligator's is hosting a parents night out: Kids will enjoy supervised fun, food and games while parents have a night out on the town to finish up last-minute shopping without the kids....

Cost: $19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Telephone: 405.321.7275
Website »

More information

Come enjoy live, local comedy in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the 2nd Saturday of every month also has a family -friendly show...

Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

With the original Die Hard quickly becoming one of the most popular Christmas films around, we knew that everybody around town would be showing it. So we figured you know what's better than Die...

Cost: $7.50 - $9.50

Where:
Rodeo Cinema
2221 Exchange Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: VHSANDCHILL
Telephone: 405.503.0050
Contact Name: Sean Peel
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Presented By OKC Ballet, with the OKC Philharmonic Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and Artistic Director Robert Mills’ delightful staging of The Nutcracker will fill your heart...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Ballet
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Come enjoy live, local comedy in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the 2nd Saturday of every month also has a family -friendly show...

Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

With the original Die Hard quickly becoming one of the most popular Christmas films around, we knew that everybody around town would be showing it. So we figured you know what's better than Die...

Cost: $7.50 - $9.50

Where:
Rodeo Cinema
2221 Exchange Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: VHSANDCHILL
Telephone: 405.503.0050
Contact Name: Sean Peel
Website »

More information

Presented By OKC Ballet, with the OKC Philharmonic Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and Artistic Director Robert Mills’ delightful staging of The Nutcracker will fill your heart...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Ballet
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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