It may not have the panache and star power of the famed 6th Street in Austin, Texas -- one of the most famed nightclub and live music districts in the world -- but Tulsa's 6th Street near the intersection with Peoria Avenue will soon be taking on a life of its own.
Local entrepreneur Blake Ewing -- best known for his string of businesses in the Blue Dome District that includes Joe Momma's Pizza, Boomtown Tees and the Max Retropub -- plans on opening a coffee house, art gallery and used book store this spring called the Phoenix Café in the Pearl Place Building at 1302 E. 6th St.
"We'll display local artists, have live art events and feature a different local artist every month," he said. "We'll have beat poetry and live music. It'll be an all-day place. There'll be coffee and bagels in the morning and sandwiches for lunch. Late at night, it'll be a cool coffee house."
Ewing hopes to have the Phoenix open by May or June.
"It'll have a cool, artsy little vibe, and the walls will be lined with books," he said.
Ewing said work on the renovation recently began, and he has plans to construct a new storefront and sign, as well as replace the windows.
But the Phoenix won't be the only new business coming to the area in the heart of the Pearl District. Rachel Navarro, who owns the circa 1920 building with her husband Shelby, said Tulsa's L7 Studios and Square Records also will be leasing space in the building. Owner Jeremy Grodhaus said his enterprise will include a recording studio and retail space that sells music and merchandise by local artists, as well as the latest vinyl recordings and hi-fi gear. The L7/Square Records location should be open by April or May, Navarro said.
Grodhaus said he was excited to be moving his business from its current location on Sheridan Avenue to its new home.
"The Pearl District is definitely an up-and-coming place," he said. "It's going to be a really cool urban district with lots of landscaping and streetscaping, and that's what Tulsa needs right now. It's going to be the new trendy hot spot."
Grodhaus said he is considering having some public "first Friday" events at L7/Square Records, including blocking off the street for live music performances. He said he was attracted to 6th Street because of its potential as a walkable, sustainable district.
"We're happy to be part of it," he said.
Navarro said approximately 1,700 square feet of space in the 5,500-square-foot building remains available for lease. She said it has a new roof, but extensive plumbing and structural work has been done.
Across the street, in another building she owns with her husband, Navarro said a new bar and art gallery called Lot 6 will be opening at 1323 E. 6th St. at the northwest corner of 6th Street and Quaker Avenue. She expects Lot 6 to be open by February or March.
Those business openings should coincide with an intersection-enhancement and streetscaping project at 6th and Peoria the city has been planning for some time. New decorative lighting will be installed, and brick pavers will replace the current sidewalk, while the intersection will be renovated and traffic-calming measures will be installed.
The Pearl District also is expected soon to become the first place in the city to have a form-based code, an alternative to traditional zoning.
The Navarros long have been part of the effort to revitalize the neighborhood and are pleased to see their work finally paying dividends.
"I think the old saying is, 'It takes 10 years to be an overnight success,' " she said, laughing. "It feels like we've been working, working and working. I can't wait to see some of these people move in. I hope there's a drastic difference in that neighborhood in the next five months."
Navarro said the Pearl District Association has applied for a grant from the George Kaiser Family Foundation to extend the decorative lighting throughout the historic district on 6th Street, which is lined with vintage red brick buildings.
Ewing said he decided to open the Phoenix Café in the area because so many good things are happening in the Pearl District.
"The neighborhoods flanking downtown are going to be the next ones to benefit from what's happening downtown," he said. "People are going to want to start to live there. There are some great blank canvasses in places like the Pearl District and Brady Heights. This is a fortunate location for us. It can be a cool little arts district."
If plans to construct an ambitious flood-control project in the area reach fruition, Ewing knows his new coffee house will be located in a prime spot. Pearl District supporters are hoping to build two new lakes at each end of the district, much like the lake constructed recently at nearby Centennial Park, and join them with a canal that runs down the middle of 6th Street.
"It's got a long way to go, but it's got a lot of high-end potential," he said. "If all that happens, and we get some Route 66 development on 11th Street, I can see a point five or 10 years down the line when that neighborhood would be very high end.
"Cherry Street was not too unlike 6th Street not long ago," he said. "They're both secondary thoroughfares. And now Cherry Street is one of the coolest, if not the coolest, street in town. Sixth Street is also the connecting street between (the University of Tulsa) and downtown. When you think about what could be there, it can be a pretty fun street."
Ewing said the budget for the Phoenix Café is approximately $350,000, and he is still seeking investors for the project. He said he has another business in the Blue Dome district he is planning on opening first, a barbecue restaurant called Back Alley Blues that is adjacent to the Max Retropub. The targeted opening date for that project is April, he said.
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