I don’t hit “favorite” too often on Twitter, but anyone who checks out my favorites may notice one in particular that at first glance may seem a bit odd:
The Core to Shore Plan exemplifies
the true spirit of Daniel Burnham’s famous
dictum for planning: “Make no little plans. They have
no magic to stir men’s blood.”
A Plan with Solid Fundamentals
The magic of the Core to Shore Plan resides in its big
ideas, whose strength is bolstered because they also
express the plan’s solid fundamentals.
Are those the words of someone opposed to Core to Shore?
As decisions are being made that will shape Core to Shore for years to come, it’s time to revisit the ULI report and ask ourselves – did we learn all we could as we “make no little plans.”
While no other buildings have the architectural significance of Little Flower Church and Union Station, several notable older buildings, such as the Latino Community Development Agency building, contribute to the character of the area and could be incorporated into development projects if economically feasible.”
A few weeks back I traveled to Dallas and had this to say:
Downtown Dallas is missing something.
None of it really links together. The streets aren’t walkable. Downtown Dallas has a lot of “districts,” but not one of them, not even West Village, is enough to rise up and say “this is Dallas!”
Looking back, my criticism of some of the newest development in downtown Dallas didn’t go far enough. To be blunt, if having a W Hotel in Dallas is considered tops, I’ll take the Skirvin and Colcord over that any day. I’m sorry, but the W is like everything else around it. The Victory area architecture, in particular, is one great tribute to self-absorbed architects who clearly spent little to no time trying to figure out how it could all relate to life on the street.
An editorial in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News nails it home:
What downtown Dallas needs more of: street-level bustle that entices worker-bees out of their cubicles and draws people at night and on weekends. What downtown Dallas has enough of: indifferent, monumental buildings whose sole contribution to urban life is bulk.
The drawing looks great. And I’m sure similar drawings were released before Dallas city leaders began construction of the Victory development. But the razzle dazzle of the drawings often cause you to overlook what’s missing:
It’s too clean, too tidy, too spectacular to have life. To have soul. To have character. To have a personality.
And inevitably, if Core to Shore is come to pass, it will likely mean the demolition of buildings like these:
So this is it. I’ve dedicated an entire week to one topic. I know not all of you are into this one judging from the lack of comments. But it’s important.
Behind the scenes, downtown leaders are deciding where to invest their future energies. They’ve concluded Automobile Alley will be downtown’s primary retail corridor with some tourist and speciality retail popping up in Bricktown.
I’m not judging them for such decisions. You can’t do everything, so you have to stake your claim, make your bets and hope for the best.
But this one intersection, as shown in photos earlier this week, acts as a barrier between Automobile and the rest of downtown. If downtown is to be more walkable, if we really care about that, how does it make sense to cut off pedestrians from your main retail drag?
And so I ask questions. To quote one city official who spoke to my good friend Jack Money last week, “Lackmeyer is driving us crazy.”
Jack’s response? “Well, Lackmeyer wouldn’t be Lackmeyer if he wasn’t doing that, now would he?”
Yeah, OK, I drive some folks crazy. But I’ve got a reporter’s heart, and I care about my community. I’m loathe to believe the experts, and I don’t trust consultants.
And that brings us to the dance.
It’s an old routine, really. Take last month’s State of Bricktown press conference where I asked Mayor Mick Cornett whether he thinks property owners should take better care of their old buildings. Cornett talked about the prospect of free parking, the needs to let the market work, but he didn’t answer my question.
The mayor basically answered a question I wasn’t asking, and didn’t answer the one I did ask.
So that brings us to an inquiry by the chanber, and a proposal by Blair Humphreys and Hans Butzer, to change the street grid at NW 4, Broadway and E.K. Gaylord.
Their proposal looked like this:
Now, I’m not saying this is the right or wrong way to go here. But I can recognize a City Hall side step when I see one.
The city responded to all this by hiring URS, a consulting firm from Denver. I’ve been told by Blair neither he or Hans were approached by URS.
And I’m very confused by the URS study, which dismisses the proposal by the chamber, Humphreys and Butzer on the basis that having E.K. Gaylord dead-end at NW 4 would have motorists drive through a bad underpass at NW 4.
Now say what? Go back and look at the proposal in the graphic above. It, and not what is shown in the URS study, shows the intent of the proposal submitted to the city. And it doesn’t involve NW 4.
I’m even more confused after I got the following email from City Public Works Director Dennis Clowers answering questions about whether the study’s authors consulted Humphreys and Butzer and whether their proposal was really analyzed:
I have no idea if URS contacted Mr. Humphreys or not. You are welcome to ask them. Yes, I believe Gaylord was to end at Dean McGee. Of course the current situation does not favor pedestrians as well as motorists. It is six lanes wide.
We are going to, over the next few years make significant changes to many downtown streets through the streetscapes projects funded by the GO Bond Issue and the Devon TIF. Gaylord may be included. However, it still currently carries 13,500 vpd. We do not have models regarding traffic after I-40 moves yet. We will through the downtown study TEC is currently doing. My assumption is that with a connection to I-40 that does not exist now, traffic is sure to increase.
Now let’s go back to the URS study. It doesn’t jive with what Humphreys and Butzer were proposing, and it doesn’t match what Clowers says above either. It presumes Gaylord going to NW 4. And I’m more confused by the above comments when it’s compared to an an email I’ve obtained that was sent by Clowers to URS suggesting the report take into account that traffic counts through the intersection will rise once the new I-40 is open with the Shields exit.
“Assumption.” That’s the word that Clowers used above. But common sense tells me something isn’t right with this “assumption.” Think about who is traveling through the intersection: people commuting between the Santa Fe/Broadway-Kerr garages and north Oklahoma City, and those traveling to and from Automobile Alley.
With the relocation of Devon Energy employees to the City Center garage, wouldn’t it be correct to assume the traffic load might drop?
As for the new I-40, are we thinking there is going to be a dramatic increase in people traveling from I-40 to and from Automobile Alley?
This all reminds me of when city engineers predicted chaos would ensue if NW 5 were closed for creation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. No such chaos has emerged to date.
Here’s the kicker to end this whole discussion – for now. If this were a situation where the city staff had no intentions of steering the outcome, why do we see these comments in a June 6, 2007 email from City Public Works director Dennis Clowers to Amy Lewin with URS?
The conclusion and recommendation section doesn’t appear to make any recommendation. Please include a recommendation to the effect that this proposal is not a good idea. Thanks.
I asked about this as well. Here’s Clowers’ response:
As for my “isn’t a good idea” quote, the final draft of the study talked around it not being a good idea, and really didn’t make a definite recommendation. I simply asked them, if the intent of the recommendation is negative, just say so.
I’ve never known Dennis Clowers to be anything but a dedicated civil servant who cares about his community and wants to see it thrive. But I leave it to you, the readers, as to whether or not this proposal was given serious consideration, whether the consultants did their job, and whether this issue should be reopened.
So what’s this study I’ve been talking about? Go here and read it, and then come back …
So let’s start this off with what Dennis Clowers has to say about the rejected proposal to change the E.K. Gaylord/NW 4 intersection:
We asked URS to study this issue and make a recommendation on it. We did not tell them up front the recommendation we wanted. The current traffic count on Broadway between 4th and 6th is 13,500. It drops a little just south of there, to around 11,800. In my opinion, with the current traffic count, it would be a bad idea to eliminate the curve and make the Gaylord/Broadway, NW 3th area a series of 90 degree turns.
That situation would get worse when I-40 is opened and we have a full interchange at I-40 and Robinson/Shields. The traffic on Shields/Gaylord/Broadway will only increase.
So that’s what the expert says. With all due respect, it’s my job to second guess the experts, show when they’ve been wrong, and ask whether they’re wrong again.
So let’s start with a fact I think most of us can agree on: until recently automotive traffic has been the sole consideration for city engineers. If this weren’t so, would we really have built Memorial Road through Quail Springs without sidewalks?
Should this history dictate, especially downtown, that there be complete imbalance now toward pedestrian needs? I’m not suggesting that at all. City staff say they want a balanced, common sense approach on all this. I have no reason to doubt them.
But I do have some doubts as to whether there’s a been a thoughtful discussion when it comes to E.K. Gaylord/Broadway/NW 4 and Robert S. Kerr.
I know for sure it’s not had the sort of discussion that was supposed to occur as a result of the downtown master planning that occurred about 2000/2001 as Downtown Oklahoma City Inc was being formed.
For weeks and months most of downtown’s movers and shakers met at the McAlpine Center to not just dream up a new downtown, but to make it happen. They talked about making downtown more walkable. And one thing that sticks in my mind was a question asked early on by Chuck Wiggin, owner of 101 Park Ave: is this going to be another excersise where a lot of things are said but nothing is really done?
A decade later, the answer to that is mixed. Some of the action plan was implemented, but one significant step, the creation of permanent committees to review and analyze downtown development never took place. The idea was quite simple: at the end of the day city staff might be very talented, but they are missing the insight of those who are truly invested in downtown. These folks basically agreed that more input on downtown development wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Those committees quickly disappeared. I’ll leave to others to answer Chuck’s original question. But what if downtown civic leaders had been given the chance to review the chamber’s proposal for recreating the E.K. Gaylord intersection? Would they have agreed with the conclusion by city engineers?
Can anyone truly say this proposal got a public hearing?
Why can’t this discussion still take place? Once upon a time city engineers insisted the canal had to be built in three segments instead of two – a design that would have created a boat turnaround where the Centennial Fountain is, instead of south of I-40. I don’t know of anyone now who thinks that was a good idea.
Could city staff be wrong on this one? Am I horrible to ask such a thing?
Tomorrow: answering questions that weren’t asked and not answering questions that were asked.
One final post by Blair Humphreys and then I’m back into the discussion with some uncomfortable questions about whether goals and strategies developed during the downtown master planning process about a decade ago are being followed.
First Blair tries to one up me on blogging on downtown, now he’s looking like the better historian …
In December 1902 Edward King Gaylord, upon the advice of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, ventured from St. Louis to Oklahoma City and purchased an interest from Roy Stafford in The Daily Oklahoman. He quickly set to work, applying his talent and expertise to improve and expand the paper. By 1909 he had established himself as a valued civic leader, working with men like John Shartel and Anton Classen to establish Oklahoma City as the capitol of the new state and participating in other efforts that brought railroads and industry to the burgeoning prairie city. He had also proved his abilities as a newspaper man, growing the business at a rapid pace.
A New Headquarters Building
The expanding paper outgrew its previous building, and in 1909 began construction of a new 5-story headquarters at the corner of 4th and Broadway. Designed by Layton & Smith, the same firm credited with the design of the Oklahoma State Capitol building, the Oklahoman Building offers a majestic neo-classical facade that’s beauty endures to the present day. The paper continued to thrive and by 1923 was considering its future facility needs, buying up a series of lots between the Oklahoman Building and the Santa Fe tracks. This is the land that would become Oklahoma City’s first great public space!
On March 18, 1923, Edward King Gaylord offered company land to serve as Oklahoma City’s first downtown park (click to read)
A CLOSE IN PARK
In the 1920s Oklahoma City’s population doubled from 91,295 to 185,389 – moving up from the 80th to the 43rd largest city in the United States. Despite the addition of large parks on the edge of town constructed as part of the 1910 Parks and Boulevard Plan and the existence of other quality open spaces, such as Belle Isle Amusement Park north of the city and Wheeler Park on the banks of the North Canadian River, the city still failed to provide the adequate public space for people living and working downtown. This fact was not lost on E.K. Gaylord. On March 18, 1923 he made this announcement on the front page of his paper:
“One of Oklahoma City’s greatest needs is a close in park.”
A search of the files of The Daily Oklahoman disclosed the fact that that statement had been published editorially more than a score of times in the last ten years.
And in order to “practice what it preaches,” The Oklahoma Publishing company has decided to help establish teh first down town park immediately
The park was located on the half block behind the Oklahoman building, starting at the alley on the west and extending east 275 feet to the publisher’s warehouse along the Santa Fe tracks. The depth of the park, from 4th street on the south to what used to be an alley running east-west through the center of the block on the north, was 140 feet, resulting in a park just under one acre in size.
This rendering shows the location of Oklahoman Park and the surrounding development (based on 1922 Sanborn Map – PDF).
Over the next six years Oklahoman Park greatly enhanced the quality of life in downtown, serving residents as an everyday park, and also as a central meeting place that hosted numerous downtown events, such as: sports broadcast, concerts, memorial services, and more. It was so popular in fact that it once attracted more than 15,000 people for a single event, with crowds overflowing into the streets and blocking traffic.
Oklahoman Park Time Line
To give you an idea of how this park space served Oklahoma City over the years, I have put together a time line of some notable events.
OPENING DAY / July 11, 1923
On Wednesday, July 11, 1923 at 4:00pm, Oklahoman Park officially opened and treated those in attendance to a play-by-play presentation of the Oklahoma City Indians game versus Wichita, on a large “magnetic baseball board” that relayed the movement of the game from information provided by direct wire service. The park was an instant success, as demonstrated by this photo of the crowd that was published in the next days paper.
MEMORIAL SERVICE / August 10, 1923
On this day Oklahoma Citians gathered in Oklahoman Park to pay tribute to President Warren G. Harding following his death.
BEDLAM FOOTBALL BROADCAST / October 27, 1923
The introduction of a new Football Gridgraph, a magnetic football board that displayed the game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the sound of the radio broadcast. The Football Gridgraph (see below) was used to display all of the college football games for the fans that couldn’t catch the train to Norman.
DRAPED IN WINTER REMNANTS / January 11, 1925
Oklahoman Park covered in snow. This is only the second picture I have found of the park and gives some sense of how it fit behind the OPUBCO headquarters.
WORLD SERIES / October 6, 1926
Each year fans would gather to watch and listen to the broadcast of the World Series. On this day they got a special treat as Babe Ruth set a World Series record by hitting three home runs in Game 4 of the series.
THE BATTLE OF THE LONG COUNT / September 22, 1927
On this day, crowds of Oklahoma City residents – between fifteen and sixteen thousand – turned out to listen to a broadcast of what would be known as The Battle of the Long Count, a boxing rematch between Heavyweight champion Gene Tunney and former champion Jack Dempsey, that was broadcast live from Soldier Field in Chicago. The crowd was so large in fact that “long before the gong sounded on the first round, the crowds had overflowed across the streets,” blocking traffic on surround streets. “It was an outing for Oklahoma City.”
THE END OF OKLAHOMAN PARK / July 7, 1929
From the start Mr. Gaylord knew that as some point the Oklahoman would need the land for the expansion of their facilities. In 1929 that day finally came when the paper announced that construction of a new modern publishing plant was set to take place on the site of Oklahoman Park. Oklahoman Park served the City’s residents for six years thanks to the generosity and vision of a great city leader.
A GREAT NEW PUBLIC SPACE
This great public space was a major amenity to downtown Oklahoma City. It was more than just another park. It helped meet the public space needs for surrounding residents and broader Oklahoma City community. Just as E.K. Gaylord noted of the city in 1923, today Oklahoma City lacks high quality urban spaces like the Oklahoman Park. While we may no longer gather for radio broadcast or magnetic board displays, a small urban park at the corner of 4th and Broadway would be a welcome amenity to this area of downtown and would be utilized both on a daily basis and for numerous events and festivals.
Thankfully, the construction of the new Chamber Building provides the perfect opportunity to create a great new public space. We can create a place that helps us meet our planning objectives and captures the essence of OKC’s first urban public space. This public space will not compete with the planned Core 2 Shore park as it is quite some distance away and much, much smaller in scale. What this place can do is improve pedestrian connectivity, provide a gathering place for festivals and events and offer a great place to eat lunch for CBD workers. This park would redefine this portion of downtown and enhance the potential for new development in all of the adjoining districts – especially Automobile Alley!
Let’s establish what the Chamber site should be; laying out what the plan for the site needs to accomplish and what elements must be incorporated into this plan.
WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH
It is impossible to plan the site without a clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve. Here, two things matter. First, there are the objectives of the Chamber, made up of their needs and desires for the building and site. But these objectives cannot be established in isolation; they must relate to the broader goals we are pursuing within downtown and the areas surrounding the site. An understanding of these broader goals combined with the requirements of the Chamber should give us the information needed to put forth a realistic proposal that meets the objectives of all parties.
One element the Chamber hopes to incorporate into their plan is a public space to honor OKC business leaders.
CHAMBER BUILDING OBJECTIVES
The Chamber has expressed a number of goals for the project that are specific to their needs, mission and prominent role in Oklahoma City. Based on the information about the project that has appeared thus far, I have created this list of objectives and requirements:
- building of approx. 50,000 square feet
- maintain views of historic Oklahoman Building
- create a “front door” for the community
- allow people to walk from convention center
- an iconic design
- includes a public space/plaza to honor business leaders
- convenient parking
BROADER DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES
It requires a lengthy process, collaborating with multiple stakeholder groups, to establish a set of broader goals for a community, a process that this blog has neither the time nor capacity to take on. Thankfully though, such a process has already taken place and provides an acceptable framework to guide the broader objectives of our plan.
One of the most repeated goals stated by leaders of the OKC community is to make Downtown more pedestrian-friendly.
The Downtown Design District (§ 59-7200) guidelines have these five stated objectives:
(1) promote the development and redevelopment of the downtown area in a manner consistent with the unique and diverse design elements of downtown;
(2) ensure that a DBD use is compatible with the commercial, cultural, historical, and governmental significance of downtown;
(3) promote the downtown area as a vital mixed-use area;
(4) create a network of pleasant public spaces and pedestrian amenities in the downtown area, and;
(5) enhance existing structures, preserve and restore historic features, and circulation patterns in the downtown area.
It is probably not fair to judge by legal language alone. However, the message from the downtown community has been very consistent in supporting these goals across the board. For instance, a quick scan of the internet found quotes from city leaders, real estate professionals, planners and more; all reaffirming that #4 – making the city more “pedestrian-friendly” – is not only one of the codified objectives, but a genuine goal of people from across the downtown community.
Here are a range of quotes from across the city that echo the priorities of the Downtown Design guidelines:
…The city is trying to change into a city that is less sprawling, has more density and is more pedestrian friendly…
- Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City
Pedestrian traffic has to be addressed. For two years, I have been a downtown walker from West Main to Midtown to Bricktown all the way to the river. We need to improve our core to make it more pedestrian friendly. This also includes bicycles now. The new bike rack plan for Bricktown is a step in the right direction…I am a proponent of walking outside. I think it creates energy on the streets. Although the Underground is a nice alternative for very windy or cold or rainy days, I like to see people on the streets. This is also good for our tourism. We need to encourage people to walk … might help their health, too….improving our pedestrian traffic needs to be on the agenda for further discussion including input from urban neighbors and downtown workers.
- Judy Hatfield, Downtown Developer
Pedestrian issues are very big on our priority list.
- Jeff Bezdek, Urban Neighbors (Downtown’s Neighborhood Association)
Pedestrian flow is the real key to the overall success of not only Core to Shore, but also the sustained viability of the other points of interest our city has to offer to locals and out-of-towners as well. We have the ability in Oklahoma City to mitigate a lot of the horror stories other markets have seen by learning from their mistakes and being proactive. Our CBD is small enough that if you’re a tourist and coming into town for an NBA game, or an NCAA event, you could conceivably take in everything from Bricktown to Midtown to Core to Shore on foot over the course of a weekend.
- Brent Conway, CB Richard Ellis
We want to create more of an urban feeling. – Framing the streets and providing for a more secure sense of a pedestrian life. It’s not suburban in style.
- Terry Taylor, formerly of the Oklahoma City Planning Department
ELEMENTS OF THE PLAN
Reading through the objectives of both the Chamber and the broader downtown community, you see that at a base-level there is not much conflict. The requirements for the building do not indicate that it would have to, in anyway, detract from the type of downtown we desire. In fact, the Chamber is more or less the ideal partner, hoping to create a high quality building, include public space, provide for pedestrian connectivity, and preserve historic assets. The only element that there is not a conclusive agreement on is the mixture of uses within the building. The city rightly encourages “mixed-use” because it contributes to a thriving downtown and creates opportunities for urban retail. However, the Chamber building is in some ways a true civic building – not dissimilar from a courthouse or city hall. So perhaps the absence of a mixture of uses in the Chamber building is not only acceptable, but appropriate.
Now that we have identified the objectives of all parties and established that there are no conflicts to resolve, it is fairly simple to construct a list of what the Chamber site plan should include.
Designed by Layton & Smith and constructed in 1909, the Oklahoman Building remains one of OKC’s most beautiful buildings.
THE CHAMBER SITE PLAN SHOULD:
(1) Provide for a prominently positioned “iconic” building – 50,000 sf in size – welcoming visitors to the city
(2) Preserve views of the historic Oklahoman Building on the northeast corner of 4th and Broadway
(3) Create suitable pedestrian connections, especially along Broadway between the CBD/Bricktown areas and the Automobile Alley/Memorial area, and between the residential neighborhoods east of the site and the rest of downtown, along 3rd and/or 4th street
(4) Serve as the impetus for additional development adjacent to the Site to create a vital mixed-use area. Opportunities include the redevelopment of the drive-thru bank south of the site, the development of the parking lot northwest of the site, and the potential enhancement of Automobile Alley as a retail/mixed-use corridor.
(5) Provide convenient parking that is appropriate within the urban context of the site
(6) Allow room for a great public space that not only provides an opportunity to honor Oklahoma City’s business leaders, but significantly enhances the civic quality of life for the entire community. Its a place to congregate, to celebrate, to relax, or to play. It should be a great urban public space – an outdoor community living room!
Oddly enough, Oklahoma City once had just such a public space – our first downtown park – and it was located at 4th and Broadway.
OK, it’s not a fresh post by Blair. It dates back to February. But I have his permission to repost it and it fits in well with the discussion I started yesterday. Now, let’s start off with the obvious: the chamber building design has been approved and my discussion is about the street grid, not the building itself.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber went to the city with a suggestion to change E.K. Gaylord/NW 4/Broadway/Robert S. Kerr. The city traffic engineers hired a consultant, and as I’ve seen time and time again, the consultants came out with the report their client (city traffic engineers) want to see.
Sorry folks, but that’s how I see it after having covered City Hall for years and years. And I know there are people I like and respect who aren’t going to like me saying this one bit. I stand by it.
To assume city engineers are perfect is to assume it’s ok to errect a light post in the middle of a sidewalk in MidTown, or aggressively pursue demolition of the Walnut Avenue bridge or to create a virtual highway separating Bricktown from Lower Bricktown – all actions I’ve heard many downtowners criticize.
The chamber building isn’t under construction yet. And as far as I’m concerned, I see no reason why the question of the intersection can’t be looked at further.
So here it goes… I’ve known Blair for several years and he’s racked up some impressive accolades while he’s been at MIT pursuing a masters in planning. Blair takes it from here:
In my first post on the new Chamber building, I argued that the Chamber’s current proposal is wholly inadequate given the objectives of the City, the Chamber, and the downtown community as a whole. The site on which the building will be constructed is incredibly important to the future of not just the immediate surroundings, but to multiple adjoining districts and the whole of downtown. The importance of this site warrants taking whatever time is necessary to rethink the design in hopes of producing an alternative vision that will contribute to the vitality of the community now and into the future.
So today we are starting the process over. We are wiping the slate clean! Lets break free of what is clearly a flawed proposal and begin a process that looks for fresh solutions and ideas, producing a new plan that meets the Chamber’s objectives while enhancing downtown Oklahoma City for decades to come. I have found that the best plans are produced through collaboration, so I hope you will join me in this re-visioning effort!
To get things started, we are going to quickly overview the site, its location within downtown and how it relates to the districts that surround it. Many of you already know all of this, but I think it is worth posting for the people that aren’t overly familiar with the site. Plus, it gives us a shared foundation on which we can base the rest of our analysis and discussion.
The Site is framed-in by Broadway on the west, E.K. Gaylord on the southwest, and the Santa Fe railroad on the east. The north edge is defined by 4th Street and the south by a small segment of 3rd Street.
In addition to the site itself, three other parcels were left vacant through the efforts of Urban Renewal and the construction of E.K. Gaylord. Of the three residual parcels, only the westernmost piece serves any identifiable purpose, offering a small brick plaza that is isolated and rarely used.
The Site is approximately 3 acres in size, not including the adjacent residual parcels
Surrounding the site is a mix of buildings, including: The Oklahoman building and Downtown YMCA to the north, the Pioneer Building/AT&T Tower and TAP Architecture building to the west, and a drive-through bank and Kerr parking garage to the south.
This map shows the importance of the Site’s locations within the overall context of downtown. The Site is positioned at the nexus of multiple districts. It sits directly in between the CBD and the new housing that has been and continues to be constructed east of the Santa Fe tracks in the Deep Deuce – Maywood – Flatiron area. Plus, new housing has been added to the west of the Site along 3rd Street with construction of Legacy at Arts Quarter apartments and more is on the way with the redevelopment of the Carnegie Centre, adding to a density of residences within close proximity that is likely unparalleled by any undeveloped site in downtown.
The Site is located along Broadway, the historic “mainstreet” heading north out of downtown that continues to play an important role in the development of the city. A mixture of new offices, restaurants, and retail have sprung up along Automobile Alley, the district surrounding Broadway north of 4th street. While the section of Broadway south of 3rd Street has just recently been energized through the opening of the wonderfully restored Skirvin Hotel and new retail street presence of B.C. Clark. Ongoing redevelopment of the new Sandridge headquarters west of Broadway between 2nd and 3rd will likely further contribute to the vitality of this corridor.
Additionally, the Site sits between major centers of tourist activity: the convention center, Bricktown, and adjacent hotels; and the Oklahoma City National Memorial – our most frequented tourist destination.
This site has the potential to not only meet the needs of the Chamber, but to fulfill its natural role as a nexus to the surrounding districts and neighborhoods. Providing connections where none currently exist and incorporating uses that serve the broader needs of those that live, work, and visit downtown. Designing the Site correctly should not only lead to a better building, or even a better block, but an altogether better downtown!
FEEDBACK AND DISCUSSION
This interface provides a great opportunity for us to practice an open process with plenty of room for discussion and brainstorming. I will try to facilitate by providing a series of short post (like the one above), each of which will provide some information and/or ideas to drive the discussion. Like I said, I find that the best solutions are found through collaboration. So while I won’t be shy about telling you what I think, I sincerely hope you will chime in if you have something to add – even if you disagree with me.
By the way, I have set it up so that you can comment anonymously. While it is not my preference, please feel free to do so at your own discretion.
So what do you think? This overview was certainly not comprehensive. Is there anything important that you think needs to be added?
I am going to try and post something related to the re-visioning of the new Chamber building every few days. Next, we will explore the different aspects of the site and its surroundings that should be addressed as part of our new design.
Forgive me, but how could I miss a chance to catch up in person last week with Blair Humphreys? And yes, we discussed how city traffic engineers nixed a proposal by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber to create a more urban, pedestrian friendly intersection at E.K. Gaylord, Robert S. Kerr Ave. and Broadway.
What Blair missed out on (he had to leave before 5 p.m.) but I didn’t was a chance to observe traffic at this intersection that supposedly carries way too much traffic to be altered.
Well, what I saw at 5 p.m. was not a traffic jam. Instead, the above picture was taken at 5:05 p.m. and represents what I saw for the next 20 minutes at what is supposedly the height of rush hour.
I’m also intrigued by the idea that Automobile Alley – Broadway stretching from NW 4 to NW 13 – is destined to become downtown’s retail corridor. I’m not suggesting at all I think that’s a bad idea. The strip already has a good start with two bike shops, a florist, a t-shirt screening shop, a CD Warehouse, a liquor store, an office furniture store, an art gallery and more.
But if the city is to put its resources into making Broadway a retail corridor, would it really want to have a visual barrier between it and the surrounding downtown districts? What if the city had a visual barrier, for example, between Bricktown and the convention center and Ford Center? Would this make any sense?
And yet we have this:
With this barrier in place – the same barrier the chamber suggested should be removed as part of a restructuring of the intersection – aren’t we discouraging the rest of downtown, including several hotels, from walking on to Automobile Alley?
It’s time to take a good look at what Blair has been advocating – and what the chamber inquired about – and what I think might be coming out in a final report by consultant Jeff Speck based on a glimpse I caught of his power point.
I want to know: was the chamber’s proposal to rework this intersection really given serious consideration? As we continue with this week long discussion, I’ve sent emails to Planning Director Russell Claus and City Engineer Dennis Clowers asking the following questions:
More to come ….