I don’t get to do a column on Tuesday because of the lack of a business section with Monday being a holiday. But if I did have a column that day, I’d say this: Mark this day on your calendar; it’s a historic one for downtown Oklahoma City.
Yep, the city council is set to decide, once and for all, the location of the downtown elementary school. Expect an easy approval of the decision previously made by the Oklahoma City School Board and MAPS for Kids trust to build the school at Sheridan and Walker Avenues, across from Stage Center.
Will a separate decision to approve a recommendation by the MAPS 3 citizens review board to build the new convention center south of the Myriad Gardens be just as easy? Despite the best of efforts by Mayor Mick Cornett the past few years to lock in a different site south of the Oklahoma City Arena, don’t be surprised if the “Core to Shore North” site sticks.
Here’s what consultant Populous has to say about the site:
In our opinion, this site succeeds on several levels. With a prominent civic address on the future Boulevard and an enviable orientation to the newly revitalized Myriad Gardens park and future Central Park, Core to Shore North is ideally positioned to enhance the convention center’s and Oklahoma City’s brand as a great business destination.
This site has excellent linkages to the City’s arena and strong connections to existing hotels, as well as to Bricktown’s dining and entertainment establishments. Hotel development possibilities on-site and on adjacent parcels present many attractive options. Until the current Cox Center site is redeveloped, its current meeting and arena facilities can augment the new convention center’s rentable space.
The Cox site also provides hotel development potential directly adjacent to Core to Shore North. Areas west of this site including the Film Row redevelopment will benefit from the added visitor activity. Another important factor influencing our decision is the on-going implementation of Project 180, a transformative streetscape enhancement project that will significantly improve the pedestrian environment throughout this portion of downtown.
In summary, we believe that the Core to Shore North site provides the best opportunity to create not only a vibrant new convention center but to help strengthen the existing downtown environment.
So will there be any fireworks at all?
Oh yes, my friends, the schedule for all the MAPS 3 projects will be up for a vote as well. And as we all know, this is where the butchering of the steer has gotten a bit messy. Get ready to trash the clothes you’re wearing if you’re too close to this action.
Two options are up for consideration. Let’s get down to the marquee events – the streetcar system, Core to Shore park and the convention center.
Under option one, the first phase of the street car system, which would include a hub and at least a starting route, would be finished by early 2017.
The Core to Shore park heavily promoted by Mayor Mick Cornett would be finished to coincide with his expectation of a new adjoining boulevard opening in 2014. Sort of at least. If I understand everything correctly, this will be bare bones sort of park, nothing much more than green space for the first phase, with later, more elaborate phases to be done a few years later.
The convention center meanwhile, would open by early 2019. Sure, that may seem a long time away for some of you, especially those of you who were in elementary school when the first MAPS started. For me… well, I’ll be shocked if any of these relatively “quick” schedules hold.
Of course all that assumes the council goes for the option one recommended by the MAPS 3 citizens review board. And as indicated last month, they might not.
So what’s up with option two?
Under this option, Mayor Mick gets his full park by 2014, with only a segment for south of the new Interstate 40 delayed a few years later. The convention center opening is delayed to late 2019. And the transit system, from what I can tell, remains on the same track as in option one. At this point Steve Lackmeyer makes no comment about what various political forces might be pitted against each other, and how he’ll be happy to be munching on some popcorn while watching the replay Tuesday night, relieved that the very talented Michael Kimball has taken over as city hall reporter (don’t worry boys and girls, I’m still on the downtown beat).
UPDATE: OPTION ONE PASSED…. JUST AS CRAZY AS I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE…