A journey for the Original Mile: Midwest City on track to redevelop historic area


By Heide Brandes

MIDWEST CITY – When customers step into Midwest City’s new Schlotzsky’s at 2400 S. Air Depot in Midwest City, they will experience a design and plan unlike any of the chain’s other restaurants in the U.S.

Restaurant owner and Midwest City native David Jones also owns DLJ Holdings. DLJ Holdings owns the land and building that Schlotzsky’s inhabits.

However, his design is unique. The restaurant is part of a revitalization plan introduced by Midwest City to bring new life into an old neighborhood. The chain restaurant façade fits with Midwest City’s Original Mile plan, occupying the bottom of the two-story building. Four 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments are on the second floor.

The two-story concept is unusual for a modern chain sandwich shop. Jones said by participating in the Original Mile plan, he not only has the most beautiful Schlotzsky’s in America, but also is contributing to an area he feels will be the next big thing in central Oklahoma.

“The redevelopment is a very big undertaking on the city’s part,” Jones said. “It’s a massive plan. They are looking at all aspects to make Midwest City a ‘Model City’ again. I think we are the first one to do a commercial development part of the plan.”

The vision of the Original Mile plan is to revive the area by building on the original concepts that earned Midwest City recognition as “America’s Model City” by the National Association of Home Builders in 1951 while creating a distinctive, desirable and quality neighborhood of the future, said Billy Harless, the city’s community development director for Midwest City.

“New and improved commercial and retail areas will complement the existing town center and provide for innovative mixed-use development,” Harless said.

To put the plan into place, the Midwest City officials conducted site visits, interviews and meetings with city staff members, community members and residents of the Original Mile.

Building back

Established in 1942, Midwest City was a one-square-mile area that consisted of homes, a school, a park and a retail district. The Original Mile is between Air Depot and Midwest Boulevard and SE 15th and SE 29th streets. The neighborhood was developed as housing for the Midwest Air Depot, later renamed Tinker Air Force Base. Both the city and Tinker have grown substantially and the old neighborhood needs a redo, officials said.

City planners have developed a long-range plan for the blighted neighborhood. Besides new mixed-use developments that include urban apartments, the plan also includes new streets, new façade and even a neighborhood amphitheater and plaza gathering area.

“What we did with the Original Mile study was come up with as many ideas as we could that the city could pick and choose from,” Harless said. “One of the things that came out of the study was that the Original Mile had a lot of odd-shaped property with limited parking and small parcels from the old houses, which gave us the flexibility with zoning for things we were unable to do before, like mixed-use commercial.”

Additional commercial development is already under way at Air Depot Boulevard within the Town Centre Plaza complex. The mixed-use concept is new to Midwest City and includes upscale first-floor commercial space for office or retail and upscale apartments on the second floor.

“It’s very appealing for business owners to be able to build a business and live over their business, too,” Harless said. “Mr. Jones’ development is the first to do that in Midwest City, but we have other developers who have that option in their permits. We knew when we built the Town Centre (on SE 29th Street between Air Depot and Midwest Boulevard) that we would have to do something with the property surrounding it.”

Jones said the new Schlotzsky’s, which opened on Dec. 30 at 2400 S. Air Depot, fits the concept and is unlike any other in the nation.

“It has an indoor-outdoor fireplace and we are working to complete a mosaic fountain,” Jones said. “We also chose private booths for seating. Although booths do not lend themselves for maximum occupancy, it’s more comfortable for the customers.”

The building also has a grand balcony, a cobblestone drive and a drive-thru with private screening elements. Landscaping and finishing touches are under way.

“Inside the upstairs apartments, we have higher ceilings than normal, over-and-under washer and dryers, balconies and 50-inch flat screens in every apartment,” Jones said. “We decided to go with one-bedroom because we wanted the apartments to be more spacious.”

The apartments, which are currently unnamed, are expected to open for residency at the end of February.

The design of the entire structure includes 33-foot walls on one side of the development, vibrant colors and up-and-down lighting to enhance the design.

“This is really an amazing development,” Jones said. “Residents of the apartments can just walk out their door, step onto the sidewalk and go shopping at the Town Centre. This plan is going to bring a different perspective to Midwest City.”

Harless said many of the concepts are to make the area as a whole more appealing.

“We have other aspects of that Original Mile study that the city is working on right now,” he said. “We have a decorative fence planned along Midwest Boulevard that the city is ready to start on, some monuments planned and the new Eastside Elementary School. We are looking at other elements in the study, like housing and façade work on existing housing.”

Midwest City has an advantage in that it has a general lack of dilapidated structures, but still has good neighborhood design. The city currently plans to remove the water tower at the site of the former City Hall and install a new cell tower that will be built decoratively to make more aesthetically pleasing.

Though the neighborhood currently has three public parks, the addition of small pocket parks is also a part of the plan.

The Original Mile

The Original Mile plan includes the following:

• Introducing a new streetscape throughout the Original Mile with new curbs, gutters, sidewalks, traffic-calming methods and trees.

Source: The Journal Record

• A Capital Improvement Plan to provide a guide to systematically improving infrastructure in the Original Mile.

• Promotion of home revitalization design options for façades, remodels and infill for existing homes in the area.

• A community civic space for a major public outdoor venue that links Town Center Plaza to the neighborhood and draws city and regional audiences, using the new camouflaged cell tower as a focal point.

• Keeping single-family homes and duplexes as the predominant housing choice, add innovative housing through mixed-use developments and consider row homes around the community civic space.

• A phased funding and priority plan.