The question: How did a cosmetic makeover of the park take priority over the reconstruction of streets like E.K. Gaylord, the two-way conversion of Hudson Avenue — both streets deemed disaster zones for pedestrians?
Background before we get to the answer: When funding on Project 180 ran short, city staff created a new list of Project 180 priorities and projects. The list showed what was still funded, rather than what was no longer funded. Some of the projects proposed to be no longer funded – E.K. Gaylord Boulevard for example, did get noticed and was challenged by some of the council members. Other cuts, most notably the elimination of completing the two-way conversion of Hudson Avenue, apparently escaped notice according to at least some of the council members. I’ve heard from numerous business owners, workers and downtown visitors concerned about how all this will look when everything is said and done.
Here is the response by City Manager Jim Couch:
Steve – Project 180’s budget has been a concern for many months. We experienced some cost overruns on the Myriad Botanical Gardens and have seen some unexpected challenges on the streetscapes. On basements alone, we had hundreds of thousands of dollars in overruns.
As stated to City Council during the December 20 presentation modifying the Project 180 budget, there remain a number of unknowns. Among those are uncertainties regarding the total amount of construction sales and use tax collected, interest rate on the long term debt, the unknown of the final ad valorem assessment of the Devon headquarters, change orders and amendments, scope creep and the pricing of future bids. A number of expense modifications were recommended to Council that included the elimination of several streets, plaza improvements in front of the Chesapeake Arena, as well as the reduction of the budget of Bicentennial Park.
The fact of the matter is when the resolution was adopted on December 20, Bicentennial Park was included but several streets, including Hudson, were not included. If you recall, Council requested we add Gaylord from Reno to Sheridan back in the project and that was done prior to adoption in December.
As I recall, you were at the Devon Implementation Committee when this was originally presented on December 1. From there it went to the Economic Development Trust on December 13 and subsequently approved by Council on December 20.
The memo, resolution and presentation are on okc.gov.