The Ed Noble Parkway shopping district has seen some ups and downs since Chili’s and McDonald restaurants first broke ground there more than 30 years ago.
The area enjoyed its hey day in the 1990s, but it has struggled through an extended run of closed businesses, bankruptcies, real estate auctions and receiverships in recent years. Finally, however, there may be light at the end of the tunnel, says Sara Kaplan, retail marketing coordinator for the City of Norman.
Storm clouds began brewing in the mid-2000s when competition at University North Park arrived, followed with more hardships caused by interstate bridge construction on Main Street in 2013. The pain continued when Lindsey Street bridge construction began in 2016, prompting more closed businesses and empty storefronts.
“That area has had some challenges,” Kaplan said, “But it stands the best chance it’s had in a long time.”
Ed Noble Parkway Plaza will soon be sold through auction after being in receivership since 2016, bringing in new ownership and the potential for a new commitment to business development. Meanwhile, there appears to be a general sense of optimism, says Kaplan, a Norman native and former retail business owner.
She says there’s still a strong core of retailers that never left, such as Home Depot, Barnes and Noble and PetSmart.
Bed Bath and Beyond is another stalwart that is not only hanging on, it’s doubling down with a new commitment to the area. The store is in the midst of moving to a remodeled space a few doors down from its current location at 530 Ed Noble Parkway. The company also plans to move one of its sister stores into the district.
Cost Plus World Market is a retail chain owned by Bed Bath and Beyond, and a new store is expected in the shopping district this fall, bringing international home decor, furniture, jewelry, wine and gourmet foods imported from more than 50 countries.
While Party City is another big-box retailer planning to move into the area this year, the district is also attracting new restaurants, such as Gaberino’s Homestyle Italian Restaurant, which relocated last year to the former Chili’s location at 400 Ed Noble Parkway.
That restaurant will soon share its parking lot with The Crawfish Pot, which will open in mid-May. Owner Elane Tran Nguyen said her new restaurant at 3025 William Pereira will be her second location. She has been operating The Crawfish Pot for three years in south Oklahoma City at 2142 W Interstate 240 Service Road.
Born in Vietnam and raised by her family in New Orleans, Nguyen says her father continued his career as a fisherman when her family immigrated to the United States when she was 4 years old. Seafood is part of her family heritage, and she says Cajun style is her specialty.
Nguyen said she’s been interested in expanding to a second location for a while, and after looking at a couple of other locations in Northwest Oklahoma City and in Yukon, she decided Norman was the best choice. There are not many seafood restaurants in Norman, and she said the location off of Ed Noble Parkway is good.
She is aware of concerns over bridge and interstate interchange construction, but all of that is over with, and other business owners and managers in the area are optimistic about the future.
During construction, it’s understandable that people in Norman had to find alternative places to shop, but now that the streets are open again, and it’s slowly getting better, she said.
“It’s a great location, and I can tell it’s already coming back. I think it’s going to go very well.”
Norman retail expert Kaplan says the time for a turnaround may have finally arrived.
“It’s had some issues lately, but it’s a good center,” she says. “It’s well located and visible off Interstate 35. It’s definitely in the best position that it’s been in over the last 10 years.”– BSM