After taking the You Tube tour of Wichita last week and posting Patrick’s review of his visit, it’s time to take a closer look. First question: if Oklahoma City is bigger than Wichita, and Bricktown is a bigger regional destination, than why the disparity in retail?
Let’s look at the shops that can be found in Old Town, Wichita:
Above and Beyond Gifts, Aidia’s Brighton Jewelry, Andy’s Custom Woodworking, Automobilia, Beadazzled, Zieglers antiques, Catholic Book Store, Ceros Candy, Stewarts Jewelry, Sand Bar Trading, Heartland Bike, Razooks Furniture, Meade Street Gallery, and at least a dozen more stores that include art galleries, camping goods, clothing, etc.
And Bricktown? Well, it has Firefly Clothing, the Bricktown Visitor Center, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Emporium and The Painted Door.
That’s it, folks. Which area do you think is more desirable for visitors, shopping wise?
So here’s a secret between just us: parking in Old Town is free. Think that makes a difference?
But here’s another comparison:
For all the scares of gang violence in Bricktown two years ago, Old Town has had it much, much worse. Homicides, stabbings, shootings… multiple people wounded. Ask police in Bricktown and they will tell you that some of Bricktown’s past troubles began in unmanned parking lots where young trouble makers with nothing better to do ended up fighting.
Is free parking also to blame for Wichita’s problems?
One can draw all sorts of conclusions here, and clearly there is anecdotal evidence that free parking can spur far more retail than what we’ve seen in Bricktown to date. But that same path also poses a more troubling question – if the city were to introduce free parking in Bricktown, could it do so without encountering the same problems as is being faced by Old Town?
Now, as for Memphis …. take a good look at those You Tube videos again …
As lively as it appears, the streets also look hagard and worn-out. It does not appear as if the city has put the care into streetscapes that we’ve seen locally or in the other downtown You Tube visits to date.
According to a study assembled by Downtown Memphis a couple of years ago (a report that confirms reports I’ve heard from people who visited downtown Memphis), the popularity of downtown Memphis has come with crowds that can be unruly, illegal outdoor alcohol sales, con artists selling rip-off merchandize, crime and thefts.
And Memphis’ play to become a major league city by luring an NBA franchise is not going so well. Is there anything to this story that OKC can learn from before the arrival of the Sonics?
Crime, meanwhile, isn’t a given with a revitalized downtown. But it’s a danger that can pop up quickly when growth occurs unchecked, and without any long-term planning or contemplation of unintended consequences.