- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

MCALESTER, Okla. (AP) - Micky and Kristen Lloyd have lofty plans for the two historic buildings they recently purchased in downtown McAlester.

The couple is refurbishing the properties at 111 and 120 E. Choctaw Ave., and in doing so are breathing new life into century-old structures that, if they could speak, would tell of days when horse-drawn carts were the way to get around McAlester; of times when coal mining was the economic driver, and of days when immigrants came to southeast Oklahoma in droves to lay the groundwork for generations of future family success.

“Everyone I talk to is excited about it,” Micky Lloyd said, noting the structure at 111 E. Choctaw is about 109 years old and features rare “decorative, handcrafted tin ceilings.”

Part of the Lloyds’ plan involves making the first floors of the structures vibrant retail outlets, including an eclectic Common Roots gift shop at 111 E. Choctaw, site of the former Brown’s Shoe Fit store. But perhaps just as exciting for city leaders is the couple’s long-term goal of putting in second-story lofts and apartments in the structures - a move some say could help give a historic downtown a brand new feel.

“It could really bring new life to downtown,” Kristen Lloyd said. “If you go around Oklahoma and look at downtowns that are thriving, all of them have loft apartments or loft living.”

But in order for the Lloyds and others to get second-story living a part of the downtown experience, the city of McAlester needs to first pass ordinances that allow commercial and residential usage of downtown buildings. Mayor Steve Harrison said the downtown is zoned commercial, but the city is working on an ordinance that if passed would give the go-ahead for second story lofts, the McAlester News-Capital (https://bit.ly/1m8S3Hk ) reported.

“Step one is to get the loft ordinance in place,” Harrison said. “Other communities that have done this often put in a second ordinance that’s a historic district overlay.”

Harrison said the city wants to make sure the loft apartments are safe and meet modern building codes, while allowing developers the ability to afford remodeling. Downtown retailer Twylia Kelley, owner of The Yellow Gazebo, loves the idea because it would bring more foot traffic downtown.

“I think it would be great and would help business,” Kelley said.

Ann and Bill Parrott and their son, Tracy, have done extensive remodeling work at 119 E. Choctaw, which used to be Hunt’s department store. The east side of the second floor of the building alone could house as many as seven lofts if the city passes the ordinance.

“The city has been very generous,” Ann Parrott said. “We want to bring more people to McAlester and make it a good walking community.”

The Lloyds think so, too. Kristen Lloyd walks through the second floors of their historic buildings and imagines what could be.

“Everyone we talk to is intrigued,” she said, adding “Why can’t we make downtown McAlester a tourist destination where people come to shop, eat and stay? It’s getting people behind the vision.”

___

Information from: McAlester News-Capital, https://www.mcalesternews.com

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