How do you get people to invest, live and re-energize a vacant downtown? Muskogee thinks it found part of the answer by hiring a consultant who specializes in "flipping" historic districts.
Wednesday was only Ron Drake's second day, but he wants to start local. The consultant wants to see restaurants and apartments occupying historic buildings soon.
A century-old hardware store is almost ready for a new generation of customers in Muskogee. It's a good example of what Drake says the rest of downtown could look like.
"If Muskogee will do this right it will explode," he said.
Drake literally wrote the book on flipping small towns.
"They want to see the old floors and they want to see the tin ceilings, but we also need to have new HVAC, new lighting and that sort of things," Drake said.
He hopes to get the historic city center vibrant again.
Drake said, "Right now, we've got to get the local people on board, willing to jump in and get this ball rolling."
The revitalization effort affects everyone but has a big meaning for store owner Sue Vanderford.
"We have several large employers and we just don't want our young people living in Broken Arrow driving down here. We want them to live here, raise their family here, eat here, trade here and be part of the community here," she said.
Drake will be working in Muskogee for a year. He's also worked on a similar downtown project in Okmulgee.