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Norman’s Jekyll and Hyde streets: Booming development and boarded windows

Penny Ridenour / Red Dirt Report
One lone tenant is left in this shopping center on Ed Noble Parkway in Norman.
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Norman is one of the most vibrant portions of the Oklahoma City metro, yet if you are driving on the Ed Noble Parkway, adjacent to I-35, or another business district plagued by roads closed for construction, you might believe you are in a ghost town.

One of the major causes has been the business migration to the University North Park business district, which started development in 2008.

Most Normanites did not imagine that the construction of a Super Target and an Embassy Suites Hotel would usher in such an influx of new and migrating businesses.

Scott Martin, President and CEO of the Norman Chamber of Commerce and a former state legislator, said there were "cannibalism" clauses built into the development plan, and it has curbed the emptying of businesses around town, but not with complete success.

“We [Chamber] are for businesses wherever they are in Norman. There can only be so much retail growth in any one part of town, and we are approaching that limit at University North Park. Once that happens we expect other areas of town to replenish,” Martin said.

Meanwhile, the crickets are chirping on the Ed Noble Parkway, particularly between Main Street and Lindsey Street. On this one-mile section of interstate access road, three businesses have moved to University North Park and seven businesses have headed off to parts unknown.

In this section, the last Office Max went out of business and referred all business to its parent, Office Depot, in University North Park. Chili’s Restaurant and Michael’s have also found a new home at University North Park.

Johnny Carinos, Souper Salad, Marble Slab Creamery, Al’s Formal Wear, Pro-cuts, The Shack seafood restaurant (featured in a Red Dirt Report review), and Burger King have all gone out of business on this mile.

And At the Beach moved to another Norman location.

The most obvious sign of distress is the never-opened gem of Strawberry Lake, the would-be Wayne’s Waterside Grill.

Much-touted as an opening-soon fine restaurant since 2004, this property is currently in dispute after being sold at a sheriff’s sale as the owner has also declared bankruptcy. According to the Norman Development Services Department, there have been 14 building permits booked for this site in the last 11 years, for projects in excess of $6 million.

The never-opened Wayne's Waterside Grill. (Penny Ridenour / Red Dirt Report) 

Another glaring problem for business hardship is Lindsey Street, where the business district is effectively castrated by a multi-year bridge and lane expansion project, currently sitting idle in the wake of the state budget crisis.

Martin said the Lindsey Streets Merchant Association will launch a ‘Transformation Challenge’ to encourage people to spend their dollars on Lindsey Street.

Martin said he is confident in the vitality of all the Norman business district because people crave ease of access to retail and restaurants, and he fully expects to see a long-term resurgence in these areas.

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Penny Ridenour

Penny Ridenour is a transplant Oklahoman of almost 20 years with enough red dirt under her...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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