It’s always interesting to step back and look at downtown development in light of what’s going on elsewhere. Sure, we can visit the Tulsa World website and find the usual sibling bickering between OKC and Tulsa on any story that suggests OKC is doing something right with its downtown.
I’m not talking about that.
Instead, first let’s consider this blog by Texan “Durango”:
“Can the Star-Telegram please name the cities that envy Fort Worth? The only big city I’ve ever been to with a deader downtown than Fort Worth is Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ironically I was at a convention in their very nice convention center, that, apparently, unlike Fort Worth’s, is frequently used. It even has a large hotel attached to it that, unlike Fort Worth, they did not have to provide tax incentives in order to get someone to build a hotel. And though downtown Tulsa was not very lively it looked real nice, with a wide pedestrian walkway connecting the convention center to the downtown core. I was there on a Sunday. A lot of towns are pretty dead on Sundays.
Maybe the Star-Telegram should send a reporter to some other cities that really are both vital and revitalizing. Geez, just drive east 30 miles and see all those construction cranes all over downtown Dallas. Visit the downtowns of Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego, Chicago, Boise, Salt Lake City, Phoenix or even Oklahoma City and San Antonio and you’ll see very vital, booming, growing downtowns with downtown residential buildings being added.
Nothing happens or is happening in Fort Worth that hasn’t already happened elsewhere. For any city to envy Fort Worth Fort Worth would have to be trendy, would have to be doing something someone else isn’t already doing. The Star-Telegram needs to knock off their phony transparent civic boosting. Fort Worth is a perfectly nice town. Quit pretending it’s something it’s not.”
Now that’s a twist. You always hear about Fort Worth being a model downtown. And on my last visit, the city’s center – especially Sundance Square – was teaming with people enjoying a night on the town, strolling from restaurant to restaurant, listening to street musicians, hanging out at the Barnes and Noble.
It seemed. So much. Better. Than. Downtown Oklahoma City.
Sure, Saturday night, downtown Oklahoma City was packed with people. But tonight, well, I’m not so sure (I’m home now so obviously I’m going on a hunch).
But Durango has a point that can be said in any city getting too cocky about its downtown: one can always do better, and there’s likely another city that has pulled off the same miracle, the same triumph, the same incredible transformation. Or maybe it’s not the same. Maybe better.
I was intrigued by what I saw on visits the past couple of years to downtown Wichita, Denver, Fort Smith (yes!), Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Boston and San Antonio.
My last visit to Kansas City was about seven years ago. I’m pretty sure it’s changed a lot since. So where would I go, if my editors paid the tab?
I’ll start the list, and then you provide some additional suggestions for my bosses just in case they find that elusive money tree.
- Kansas City (last visit: 2000)
- St. Louis (last visit: mid-1990s)
- Houston (last visit: early 1990s)
- Little Rock
- Memphis (last visit: 1993)
- Nashville (last visit: 1990)