A couple weeks ago I noted reports that comedian Robin Williams had toured Bricktown during his visit here and joked he had seen “Redneck Venice.” I submitted this to Richard Mize, real estate editor, but also our in-house expert on all things “redneck.”
Here’s his column.
So we’re finally getting back into the whole streetscape discussion. One might think that a traffic light is just a traffic light. But in other cities I’ve actually seen a variety of designs that can really improve or detract from a street’s appearance. The Office of James Burnett (that’s the title these folks have chosen for their firm) provided Oklahoma City’s streetscape committee with a choice of designs. The one above has boxes around the signal lights that have a bit of a curve to them. The poles are straight, however, just as they are today, but with a cross-bar or tail at each end.
The committee rejected both of the above candidates, apparently not liking the boxes. They also rejected any design where the signal lights were presented horozontal instead vertical.
The curved pole did appeal to a couple of the committee members, most notably Assistant City Manager Cathy O’Connor and Assistant Engineer Laura Story. But others, like urban planner Aubrey Hammontree, commented the curved lights might conflict too much with signal lights that will remain intact on the perimeter of downtown. O’Connor responded the idea was to create a new look downtown that would make it different from anywhere else.
The apparent winner is the vertical candidate up above – the only difference from current fixtures being the cross-bars or tails at each end. The box around the lights remains a box – just as they are now.
I say “apparent” because the decisions became much more complicated after this one, and the committee may revisit this choice as they look at combinations designs.
Let the discussion begin. My next post will consist of examples of traffic light designs you’ve submitted and ones I’ve seen elsewhere.
Have a happy Halloween…
(Yes, I promise, more streetscape posts are coming soon!)
An ice skating rink, model boat rentals, an amphitheater and restaurant are among the amenities planned for a proposed downtown central park.
At a MAPS 3 presentation hosted Thursday by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, central park designer Mary Margaret Jones showed plans that call for a zigzagging lake surrounded by a great lawn, a large amphitheater for up to 15,000 people, a smaller amphitheater for 2,000 people, a large children’s play area, a dog park comparable to the one at Lake Hefner and a restaurant.
“This project is the kind of project we’re seeing in cities across the country and they are really transforming these communities,” said Jones, who is a senior principal at San Francisco-based Hargreaves Associates.
The 70-acre central park is expected to cost $130 million and is one of eight projects set to be funded by a one-cent MAPS 3 sales tax being submitted to voters on Dec. 8. It would be built one block south of the Myriad Gardens and is the centerpiece of the Core to Shore development led by Mayor Mick Cornett.
A restaurant and ice skating rink, small children’s play area, a small fenced area for dogs, amphitheater for 5,000 people and model boat rentals meanwhile are among $30 million of improvements set to begin next year at the Myriad Gardens. The improvements are funded through a tax increment financing district requested by Devon Energy in conjunction with construction of its $750 million, 50-story headquarters just north of the gardens.
“I’m happy to say we (design teams on both projects) are working together very well,” Jones said when asked about the similarities of the two projects. “We’re complimenting each other. Where the ice rink ends up downtown is still under discussion.”
Jones said only the gardens or park will likely be home to an ice rink and that the central park would be a better fit for accommodating a larger venue. She said multiple amphitheaters might be a plus for downtown.
“It’s good to have both,” Jones said. “You can have something small happening in the Myriad Gardens and something large going on in the central park, and it’s that vibrancy and going back and forth that will make both better.”
Cornett said the gardens’ ice rink, however, is on its way to becoming a reality with his blessing. Conceptual plans were approved last week and more advanced schematic designs are to be submitted to the city council for approval next month. Construction is set to start in May.
“The Myriad Gardens should go ahead, be planned, and be in accordance with the streetscape projects and Devon tower and go ahead as if it’s free standing,” Cornett said. “I think it’s interesting the gardens seem to be borrowing some elements typically thought of as being in parks. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Cornett said a lot of the programming for the central park won’t be certain until after its fate is decided by voters. Cornett said in recent days he has decided to drop plans to pursue underground parking at the park, citing its excessive cost.
He said the public has the same challenges understanding the park as they did the Bricktown Canal when it was first proposed as part of the original 1993 Metropolitan Area Projects initiative.
“It’s just so different than anything they’ve seen in Oklahoma City before,” Cornett said. “It’s difficult to comprehend. People who have been exposed to urban parks in other cities are very excited.”
The deadline to register as a voter in Oklahoma City if you want to vote on the MAPS 3 initiative is Nov. 13. Voters can register at their county election board.
Hopefully I’ll get to my next post in the morning. In the meantime, I’ll throw some quick fresh meat at ya…
- Cocoflow folks are sending out serious hints on Twitter they’re about to open in Bricktown. I assume they’re still looking at the former home of Uncommon Grounds in the Mercantile Building.
- At least one of the Bricktown hotel deals waylaid by the crash may be back on track, maybe more.
At least you’ll be struggling if you simply try to get it trying to open up this 18 mb PDF containing everything that’s being looked at with the downtown streetscapes. My suggestion (and that of our web guru Nick): download this to your desktop first, then view it.
Tomorrow we’ll start delving into the details, starting with signal lights.
Will it be the end of the world? I don’t think so. And truth be told, Bill Bleakley has created something very, very special for downtown Oklahoma City. The Ghouls Gone Wild parade started with a conversation between Burns Hargis when he was chairman of the Greater OKC Chamber and Bleakley, publisher of The Oklahoma Gazette. Hargis is up in Stillwater now, doing the presidential thing at Oklahoma State University. Bleakley has taken the parade to a status reserved for top events like Opening Night and the Spring Festival of the Arts.
In just three short years it has become a huge event, drawing crowds reported at more than 50,000, and producing memorable images like these taken by Oklahoman photographer Bryan Terry:
Others have helped make this event great as well – notably the incredibly loyal Flaming Lips (yeah, Wayne might be a bit foul mouthed and odd at times, but he’s OUR foul-mouthed oddball. And let’s face it, he’s hard not to love).
To see more shots of the parade by our award-winning photographer, visit Bryan’s blog here.
On my last post Brian, a longtime reader and participant, called me out on all this, pointing out that while I’ve written a lot about how things are about to change, details have been scarce.
I agree. Part of this is because not a lot of details have been available. But that’s changing, and this week I’m going to post an entire pdf of what’s being looked at, and issues to consider. First, let’s start with a look at existing conditions.
Downtown’s street lighting is a mess. We have …
Let’s define innovative first. It’s not easy, especially when it comes to discussing street lights, furniture and traffic poles. But Aubrey Hammontree, the city’s urban planner, gave what might be a good starting line when it comes to street lights.
It looks cool – and it’s far removed from any street lights seen today. Because this prototype being introduced in New York City uses LED lights, it’s far more energy efficient. And yet it’s contemporary design isn’t jarring – and it has been said the wire connections up top are reminicient of early day gas lights.
Here’s the background story from the Aug. 10, 2009 issue of Architect Magazine:
The prototype is the result of the second of two competitions held by New York City. The streetlight’s form emerged in the first competition, won by a team that included OVI and Sobek, and was led by New York–based architect Thomas Phifer and Partners. For the second competition, to develop a prototype, OVI and Sobek were the only entrants. Phifer is contracted separately to oversee aesthetic changes during the prototyping phase. Despite this slightly tangled project history, the jury focused its praise on the harmony between design and engineering: “The form seemed purposeful,” John Ronan said, “a nice integration of form and technology.”
The arced luminaire housing stands in sharp contrast to the squat, bulbous forms of standard high-pressure sodium streetlights. The pole can be locked into place with bolts already embedded in the sidewalks for existing streetlights, and its fluted profile allows signs to be slid into metal guides and locked into place at any orientation on the surface. “That’s going to clean up the cityscape right there,” Craig Hodgetts said. The testing and engineering is done, and the project is just waiting for the green light from the city.
No such competition is being held in Oklahoma City. And yet the opportunity for Oklahoma City to transform its downtown streets, all at once, is almost unmatched anywhere – including New York City where so much innovation has taken place.
I’m in a delicate position – I’ve been given generous access to a process underway to implement the wishes of Devon Energy to improve all of downtown through its $115 million tax increment financing district. And yet these wishes come with a radically short timeframe to get it all done. Smart good people are tasked with making decisions that will shape downtown development for decades.
Over the next week I’ll be delving into conditions that exist today, how the streets can guide development, how streetscapes have been pursued downtown this past decade and what’s being contemplated. And then, as respectfully and politely as I can, I will ask, are we rushing into mediocrity despite the best of intentions? Are the right people at the table? And can Oklahoma City match NYC’s Phifer competition?
“Think of this as the perfect simple black dress – one that must go with all the various accessories found in the outlying districts like Bricktown, MidTown, Automobile Alley and Film Row. That’s what we’re shopping for. Something that is classy, elegant and timeless.”
- One of several very talented local design experts I’ve spoken to this past week.
I’m embarking on one of the more ambitious series of posts I’ve attempted on this blog. What’s at stake with this conversation is just the look and feel of downtown Oklahoma City for decades to come. It’s a topic in which I’m asking for advice from some of the city’s top urban designers and planners.
A few years back I asked the city’s planning director and public works director why they were streetscaping Walker Avenue and yet retaining part of it as a one-way street. I had no blog back then, and no means to do what I can do today: to ask questions in a public forum, where answers aren’t just accepted, but disected and even acted upon by readers.
We now know the answer given on Walker Avenue wasn’t acceptable, and it is now set to be turned into a two-way street as part of the upcoming Devon-requested streetscapes.
This time around I’m going to bring all of you into the room where decisions are being made. Maybe there is no one-way Walker being contemplated this time around. Or maybe there is. And if you’re OK with that, you can nod your head and smile. But if you’re not OK with that, maybe, just maybe, you can make your own suggestion and maybe it will be heard.
Did I say what I’m attempting here is somewhat ambitious?