A year of decisions that could shape Oklahoma City’s future
Filed by Ben Allen in Feature.
January 3, 2013
It’s a given change happens in a city, especially a still developing one like Oklahoma City. Yesterday, we heard how some in the community think awareness, a more pedestrian friendly city, and a movement to local businesses will continue in 2013. Let’s drill down on the details.
“The decisions that are made in 2013, will impact Oklahoma City for the next fifty years. And so that’s why I think they’re so important, is the impact they will have beyond 2013.”
Jane Jenkins is President and CEO of Downtown OKC Inc, a nonprofit group advocating, and helping develop, the city’s core. She’s talking about decisions like the one on the boulevard – will it get overpasses, will it be pedestrian friendly, what kind of development will pop up alongside it.
“Anything that involves a public process I’m hesitant to put any kind of time frame on. Things can change that affect the variables , and so I’m not sure whether we’ll get there.”
There’s a lot of moving pieces. Construction on existing streets as part of Project 180, the yet to be built boulevard, and then things like the park and the charter school.
To the Boulevard…It will flow through the northern half of the downtown core, a core the leader of another development group sees as facing rapid change.
“One of the things that you’ll begin to notice is that some of the surface parking lots have buildings on them.”
That’s Cathy O’Connor, president of the, ready, deep breath, Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.
“So projects like this parking garage that will take up actually two or three surface parking lots and turn them into parking, and hopefully residential with some retail and commercial space on the first floor, really help to transform the feel of downtown and enhance the experience for pedestrians and really make it feel more like a big city.”
With the boulevard, and other things still to go, like the enormous park that has the potential to bring so many different parts of downtown together.
“And the kinds of projects that we’re planning, some of the things that we get to build, we’ll only get to build once, and so we need to make the right decision about them.”
“It will be a much better pedestrian experience than we’ve had, ever, probably, in downtown Oklahoma City.”
But there’s only so much these groups can do. It takes people too – a change in mindset, routine, mixing things up. And a shift in what neighborhoods look like. Again, Jane Jenkins:
“That will result in more of the types of retail and services people want to see in the central core.”
Some of those services are pretty basic – dry cleaning, drug stores, more grocery stores, etc. Not headline grabbing necessarily, but required to build a community. Now, in talking with these leaders, there’s no “right” way to put that all together. Sometimes the services come first, sometimes it’s the housing. As long as it’s there, people like Casey Cornett will be happy…
“There is just prime for development. I would love to see a lot more stuff coming and I’m sure it will. I think 2013 might be the year people start to notice things like that.”
Casey works for VI Marketing and Branding, a rapidly growing company planted in the middle of downtown on Park Avenue.
“Around is going to be actual normalcy of living, and not normalcy of construction signs. I think 2013, we’re going to start seeing the fruits of all that. As streets open, as parks open, as plans start to become developed and you get physically see these things happening.”
There’s the public side of development, talking about the park and boulevard, but that’s just one part of the equation. Some apartment buildings are sprouting up, and with the orange cones and makeshift stop signs heading to storage day by day, Casey sees what’s possible.
“I would like people to look back at 2013 at the end of the year and say ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’”
And if Oklahoma City keeps it up, it’s not hard to picture more people around the country saying the same thing.
First, a final design for the downtown park coming this month. While there’s still some waiting left before Project 180 wraps up…not slated to finish until 2014. For the Boulevard, the city is still in the planning stage, it’s expected they’ll submit a plan to the state Transportation Department by the spring. On the charter school, the latest word is an opening in fall 2014.