Hopefully you’ve been keeping up with the week-long column series I’ve produced this week. You can catch it all by visiting my NewsOK page.
I’ve been juggling a lot of balls lately, and I’ll be the first to admit this blog has been a bit quieter than I’d like the past couple of weeks. We’ll see if we can’t liven it up .
After looking back, it’s time to look forward. And there are some serious decisions being contemplated that could further boost – or hamper – downtown’s current success.
The story we’ve witnessed was the result of planners, engineers, property owners and leaders all collaborating on how best to shape our city. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: that collaboration has fallen apart in recent years. Engineers are in control. And engineers aren’t trained to think about how investment in public infrastructure will guide future development, how it plays into a community’s appearance, how it can be used to attract private investment. They’re trained to build sturdy bridges, roads that allow traffic to move through as efficiently as possible, and ditches that quickly drain after storms.
Without pressure from city leaders, planners and property owners, they’re not likely to design thoughtful boulevards. They’re going to go with the cheapest possible boulevard connection with Bricktown regardless of how it might confuse visitors and discourage a connection between the entertainment district and future development in the area now known as Core to Shore.
They’re going to pick the consultants they already know to design a new Core to Shore park and downtown transit system. It’s all very, very predictable…. and it’s a shift back in power to the engineers (who dominated development of Oklahoma City’s bland, sprawling infrastructure from the 1950s to the early 1990s) that the city council has quietly looked the other way on and allowed to take place.
Oklahoma City assumes that the very nature of public works dictates that engineers be in charge of the process. But is this a given in other cities? And is it time to question these decades-old assumptions and ask: is it time for a revolution?