I realize I’m hitting you readers with a lot of material right now. I apologize for that, but things are moving very rapidly and big, big decisions are being made that will guide downtown’s future for the next 20 years. Will we see a success that rivals the outcome of the original MAPS program? Or will we see a failure on the scale of the elimination of Main Street and the failure represented by 20 years (late 1960s to late 1980s) spent trying to build a “Galleria” mall across from the Myriad Gardens?
Last week I suggested we might benefit from revisiting the report delivered one year ago by a panel of some of the nation’s most respected urban planners assembled by the Urban Land Institute. Their task was to come up with a fresh look at what’s right, and what’s wrong, and how we might best proceed with plans for developing Core to Shore south of the Central Business District.
Here are their thoughts on building a convention center and a large conference hotel in Core to Shore:
The location of the convention center has been a controversial issue; when weighing the pros and cons of the proposed location, persons of good conscience will differ in their conclusions. Guided by experience, the panel worked with the information gathered from the city and the interview process.
Recognizing that more study undoubtedly needs to be done, the panel raises concerns about the planned location for the new convention center and recommends consideration of different sites.
The Core to Shore Plan currently locates the convention center immediately east of the Central Park.
Physically, this site works; however, from an aesthetic and development perspective, it is very troubling.
The height of the convention center will be 60 to 70 feet. Using this location will create a massive wall right against the city’s premier park. Recognizing this hazard, the Core to Shore Plan proposes to wrap the west side of the convention center with housing. This is a creative solution, but the panel fears it will not be possible to develop this unusual mixed-use product.
Just as important, locating the convention center east of the park would consume one of the most attractive sites for private development.
The convention center is a key component in the plan to activate the Core to Shore planning area and, indeed, for the economic development of the entire downtown. Thus, the panel looked for an alternative site that would accomplish the Core to Shore planning objectives without interfering with the Central Park.
For the new convention center, the panel recommends the site currently occupied by the lumber yard, on the southeast corner of Shields Boulevard and the Boulevard.
A convention center at this site will provide an anchor to Bricktown and establish a presence on the new Boulevard. This site has other benefits as well:
- Good access and visibility,
-Good access to Bricktown, with no barriers to this zone,
-A prime location facing the Boulevard,
-Separation from open-space corridors so as not to create a visible barrier to other areas in the plan, and
-Easier assembly of land.
A parking garage to support the convention center and other uses, including the Central Park, would be appropriate on the west side of Shields Boulevard.
Headquarters Hotel Site
The headquarters hotel does not have to be physically connected to the convention center, but proximate
walking distance is essential. The site shown in the Core to Shore Plan, along the Boulevard across from the Ford Center and adjacent to the Central Park, is ideal to serve a convention center on the lumber yard site. For this site to work, however, requires an attractive railroad underpass to draw conventioneers along the Boulevard.
The current site is also larger than needed: the headquarters hotel will require a site of 80,000 to 100,000 square feet, one-half to one-quarter the size of the site shown in the Core to Shore Plan.