OK, it’s not a fresh post by Blair. It dates back to February. But I have his permission to repost it and it fits in well with the discussion I started yesterday. Now, let’s start off with the obvious: the chamber building design has been approved and my discussion is about the street grid, not the building itself.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber went to the city with a suggestion to change E.K. Gaylord/NW 4/Broadway/Robert S. Kerr. The city traffic engineers hired a consultant, and as I’ve seen time and time again, the consultants came out with the report their client (city traffic engineers) want to see.
Sorry folks, but that’s how I see it after having covered City Hall for years and years. And I know there are people I like and respect who aren’t going to like me saying this one bit. I stand by it.
To assume city engineers are perfect is to assume it’s ok to errect a light post in the middle of a sidewalk in MidTown, or aggressively pursue demolition of the Walnut Avenue bridge or to create a virtual highway separating Bricktown from Lower Bricktown – all actions I’ve heard many downtowners criticize.
The chamber building isn’t under construction yet. And as far as I’m concerned, I see no reason why the question of the intersection can’t be looked at further.
So here it goes… I’ve known Blair for several years and he’s racked up some impressive accolades while he’s been at MIT pursuing a masters in planning. Blair takes it from here:
In my first post on the new Chamber building, I argued that the Chamber’s current proposal is wholly inadequate given the objectives of the City, the Chamber, and the downtown community as a whole. The site on which the building will be constructed is incredibly important to the future of not just the immediate surroundings, but to multiple adjoining districts and the whole of downtown. The importance of this site warrants taking whatever time is necessary to rethink the design in hopes of producing an alternative vision that will contribute to the vitality of the community now and into the future.
So today we are starting the process over. We are wiping the slate clean! Lets break free of what is clearly a flawed proposal and begin a process that looks for fresh solutions and ideas, producing a new plan that meets the Chamber’s objectives while enhancing downtown Oklahoma City for decades to come. I have found that the best plans are produced through collaboration, so I hope you will join me in this re-visioning effort!
To get things started, we are going to quickly overview the site, its location within downtown and how it relates to the districts that surround it. Many of you already know all of this, but I think it is worth posting for the people that aren’t overly familiar with the site. Plus, it gives us a shared foundation on which we can base the rest of our analysis and discussion.
The Site is framed-in by Broadway on the west, E.K. Gaylord on the southwest, and the Santa Fe railroad on the east. The north edge is defined by 4th Street and the south by a small segment of 3rd Street.
In addition to the site itself, three other parcels were left vacant through the efforts of Urban Renewal and the construction of E.K. Gaylord. Of the three residual parcels, only the westernmost piece serves any identifiable purpose, offering a small brick plaza that is isolated and rarely used.
The Site is approximately 3 acres in size, not including the adjacent residual parcels
Surrounding the site is a mix of buildings, including: The Oklahoman building and Downtown YMCA to the north, the Pioneer Building/AT&T Tower and TAP Architecture building to the west, and a drive-through bank and Kerr parking garage to the south.
This map shows the importance of the Site’s locations within the overall context of downtown. The Site is positioned at the nexus of multiple districts. It sits directly in between the CBD and the new housing that has been and continues to be constructed east of the Santa Fe tracks in the Deep Deuce – Maywood – Flatiron area. Plus, new housing has been added to the west of the Site along 3rd Street with construction of Legacy at Arts Quarter apartments and more is on the way with the redevelopment of the Carnegie Centre, adding to a density of residences within close proximity that is likely unparalleled by any undeveloped site in downtown.
The Site is located along Broadway, the historic “mainstreet” heading north out of downtown that continues to play an important role in the development of the city. A mixture of new offices, restaurants, and retail have sprung up along Automobile Alley, the district surrounding Broadway north of 4th street. While the section of Broadway south of 3rd Street has just recently been energized through the opening of the wonderfully restored Skirvin Hotel and new retail street presence of B.C. Clark. Ongoing redevelopment of the new Sandridge headquarters west of Broadway between 2nd and 3rd will likely further contribute to the vitality of this corridor.
Additionally, the Site sits between major centers of tourist activity: the convention center, Bricktown, and adjacent hotels; and the Oklahoma City National Memorial – our most frequented tourist destination.
This site has the potential to not only meet the needs of the Chamber, but to fulfill its natural role as a nexus to the surrounding districts and neighborhoods. Providing connections where none currently exist and incorporating uses that serve the broader needs of those that live, work, and visit downtown. Designing the Site correctly should not only lead to a better building, or even a better block, but an altogether better downtown!
FEEDBACK AND DISCUSSION
This interface provides a great opportunity for us to practice an open process with plenty of room for discussion and brainstorming. I will try to facilitate by providing a series of short post (like the one above), each of which will provide some information and/or ideas to drive the discussion. Like I said, I find that the best solutions are found through collaboration. So while I won’t be shy about telling you what I think, I sincerely hope you will chime in if you have something to add – even if you disagree with me.
By the way, I have set it up so that you can comment anonymously. While it is not my preference, please feel free to do so at your own discretion.
So what do you think? This overview was certainly not comprehensive. Is there anything important that you think needs to be added?
I am going to try and post something related to the re-visioning of the new Chamber building every few days. Next, we will explore the different aspects of the site and its surroundings that should be addressed as part of our new design.