It was an intriguing moment when I first heard from Blair Humphreys that he was pursuing a career in planning. His older brother Grant was already making his mark as a new urbanist developer. Their father, Kirk, was a typical suburban developer before he was elected mayor in 1998. And while he too had made a pretty dramatic transition to focusing on the needs of the innercity during his tenure in office, younger son Blair appeared to be going further than Kirk or Grant – with their support, he began his pursuit of planning at the feet of architect and professor Hans Butzer and future planning director Russell Claus.
Yep, Blair was diving in deep. Having gotten to know his family over the years, I couldn’t help but ask – “Are you prepared to hear criticism against the very sort of suburban development done by your family in previous years?”
Yep, he was. But so too, it appeared, was his father who joined him in launching a local chapter of the Urban Land Institute. And before leaving to study at MIT last year, Blair was coming up with some pretty interesting ideas about changing downtown street patterns.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I last talked to Blair. But now he’s back – with a blog, www.imaginativeamerica.com, and it’s very interesting to see how far he’s advanced in his thinking about downtown development.
This all sets up the sort of potential family dynasty that could leave a mark on OKC for years to come: Kirk, the statesman and former city mayor continuing to influence the city’s direction, Grant, the ambitious urban developer, and Blair, the planner challenging the status quo of his beloved hometown.
At least that’s the take from a reporter who likes to come up with a good storyline. As evidenced by a neighborhood meeting gathered last week to debate Grant’s proposed development at NW 36 and Walker, not everyone thinks highly of the Humphreys. Some suspect the worst, assuming the Humphreys are a powerful clan out to enrich themselves.
Of course, such polarity in viewpoints only makes for an even better story. And ultimately, the Humphreys’ legacy will speak for itself. For now, I’m just enjoying being the fly on the wall, privledged to witness this transformation of a family that seems destined to help shape downtown Oklahoma City for years to come.