Private investors breathing new life into Ritz Theater, old town Britton

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – An almost-forgotten strip along Route 66 is seeing new life.

A group of private investors set their sights on old town Britton, and already change is evident on the strip between Western and Classen.

“It’s one of the only emerging districts that’s on Route 66,” said investor Mark Inman. “Most of the storefronts on the north side have been resurfaced and refaced.”

Inman and his colleagues have acquired about half of the strip, and the shift is already obvious to businesses that were already in place. Lisa Allen opened Hideout Art, in the old Britton Bakery, shortly before the investors set their sights on the area.

“It’s so much different, it’s better,” Allen said. “[When I moved in], the neighborhood wasn’t that great. Really the only thing that was in business down the street was a bar that was pretty loud and rowdy. Especially since it’s all cleaned up, we feel so much safer.”

The dramatic difference on the strip also bringing in new business, like Zero Tolerance Coffee, set to open this spring. Owner Maura Baker says the renewed energy attracted her to the once dead area.

“I love old Britton,” Baker tells News 4. “I would drive through here and I was heartbroken that it was run down and, it’s been seedy down here.”

Inman explains the vision is to turn Britton into a pedestrian-friendly destination village, centered around its crown jewel.

“The former Ritz Theater is the main feature of the strip,” Inman said. “It’s the largest structure on the strip and it’s the most impressive. It has its original barrel ceiling; it’s got original brick interior walls so it’s got real potential on what it could be. It could be an event center, concert venue, restaurant, a brewery.”

He said controlling the Ritz was pivotal to controlling the district and the direction it will eventually take. Meanwhile, current and future business owners look forward to taking advantage of the foot traffic the theater’s future tenant will bring.

“With the Ritz being here, and being such a really unique building, we are the catalysts that are going to inspire growth, because coffee brings everyone together,” said Baker.

Inman said the city is set to repave that stretch of Britton Road, and he hopes that will be the first of a few infrastructure updates to contribute to the Britton district of the future.

For now, the owners and investors enjoy the rejuvenation and the prospect of what will occupy the Ritz and the other five vacant spaces.

“It takes time, and we know that,” said Inman. “We’re in it for the long haul, we’re in it for the betterment of the district and the betterment of the neighborhood.”

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