A group of city administrators, planners and engineers are working long hours these days and are tasked with making decisions that will shape downtown’s appearance for decades to come. I’ve written post after post and a column or two trying to bring readers into this discussion, explaining that big changes are to come.
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 …
Lights that date back to the 1950s like this one. Yes, based on old photos I've seen, we may be looking at an antique here.Sure, internationally reknown architect I.M. Pei is hated, right or wrong, for his role in hundreds of old buildings being torn down. But can't we also hate him for these lights he custom designed as well? Vintage early 1970s. Time to go.At some point these light poles had a distinguishable color. Red maybe? Or purple? I don't know and I can't remember. Now it's just a variation of rust and a reminder of another misguided attempt at modernizing our street appearance. Vintage mid- to late-1970s?
Sure, internationally reknown architect I.M. Pei is hated, right or wrong, for his role in hundreds of old buildings being torn down. But can't we also hate him for these lights he custom designed as well? Vintage early 1970s. Time to go.
I'm not sure, but I suspect this light can also be added I.M. Pei's portfolio of Oklahoma City improvements.
At some point these light poles had a distinguishable color. Red maybe? Or purple? I don't know and I can't remember. Now it's just a variation of rust and a reminder of another misguided attempt at modernizing our street appearance. Vintage mid- to late-1970s?
An archeologist could actually use our street lights to record downtown's history. After the box lights, we see no changes in street light designs until the mid-1990s. No coincidence there: downtown development stalled out in the early 1980s and didn't recover until the passage of MAPS in 1993. And it was around 1998 that these "acorn" lights began to appear...
I was in City Engineer Paul Brum's office when he was picking these "vintage-style" acorn street lamps from the OG&E catalog. At the time they were different for sure, and weren't to be found anywhere else. But now they're everywhere. Go to any cookie-cutter northwest OKC or Edmond neighborhood and you'll see these lights. You'll see them all over the suburbs. They say nothing about downtown OKC, and they've become quite suburban and ordinary. And do we really want all of downtown to be cast in a faux vintage design?
Paul Brum had one last pick from the OG&E before retiring (he passed away a few weeks ago). The Pei lights around the convention center were a mess. So Brum went back to the OG&E catalog and picked these globe lights. They can be found around the convention center and some of the adjoining hotels.To get an idea of what's possible, I thought I'd check out Rand Elliott's latest project - The Curve. Sure, we could focus on the architecture, but I wanted to see if Rand was doing anything different with the parking lot lights. And yes, they're different. So what are looking at?
OG&E isn't necessarily the bad guy here. There's an expense involved in manufacturing these lights, and they need a sizeable order to consider manufacturing an entirely different product than what they carry. And that's where we stand today: thanks to the Devon TIF, we can do just that. We can select any light design in the world. We can custom design a light that's found nowhere else. So what have consultants from The Office of James Burnett brought for our review? Well, here's a glimpse of one of the two lights presented last week by designer Derek Boss.
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