View Full Version : Downtown makeover?

09-25-2007, 04:15 AM
Funds could put final polish on downtown

By Steve Lackmeyer
Business Writer

Downtown may be in for more of a makeover in coming years if a proposed bond issue gets the nod today from the Oklahoma City Council and then from voters in December.Funds could put final polish on downtownRelated InformationThose are big "ifs” — but the outcome could address many of the shortcomings that have nagged downtown since the completion of the much heralded Metropolitan Area Projects. If one takes a sober look at MAPS, one must realize that some tasks remain incomplete. Consider that the original vision for the Bricktown Canal was to create a link between downtown and the Oklahoma River. But almost a decade after it was built, the river and downtown remain two areas that can only be safely traversed by vehicle. That would change with a $3 million canal extension and pedestrian connection included in the proposed bond projects.

Several major downtown streets, meanwhile, haven't been improved since the early days of Urban Renewal. The big globe lights that light up Broadway, Park Avenue and Sheridan Avenue date to the early 1970s and were based on mid-1960s designs by architect and urban planner I.M. Pei. Once again, the bond issue could bring the appearance of downtown's streets into the 21st century — an improvement that could go far in the quest to enhance the city's image. Another lingering product of Urban Renewal — the cut-off of Harvey Avenue between Sheridan Avenue and Park Avenue — would be addressed with a $2 million extension that would allow visitors to walk a straight line from the Myriad Gardens to the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Some serious spending would go into the area dubbed "core to shore” — mostly lighted blocks between the current and future alignments of the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway. Projects in the bond issue include $3.2 million for land acquisition, $15 million for infrastructure and enhancements to the boulevard that will replace the current highway, and $1 million for a second extension of Harvey Avenue between Reno Avenue and the future boulevard. Such improvements would trigger a development spree in an area dismissed as a no-man's-land just a few years ago.

Some final items that caught my attention — $1.5 million is budgeted for improvements for Couch Drive Park and the adjoining Kerr Park, and $1.3 million would pay for relocation of the city's drunk tank away from the growing Deep Deuce neighborhood. Add all of the improvements together and they exceed $25 million. That figure is just a fraction of the proposed $760.5 million bond issue, and yet the improvements will go a long way toward finishing what was left undone as part of MAPS.

And all of this involves more than just City Hall politics. Private development triggered by MAPS exceeded $1 billion, so the potential impact of further public investment downtown can't be discounted. Proof of that includes another item on today's city council docket that could lead to a deal with Oklahoma RedHawks owners Bob Funk and Scott Pruitt developing a parking lot just east of the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. Their proposal, potentially a $200 million retail, housing and hotel project, would be weighed against other potential bids if the council decides to move forward with soliciting offers for the property. Sources say the city could end up requesting millions for a parcel that was once an isolated lot used by the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority.

09-25-2007, 10:01 AM
I hope extending Harvey south to Sheridan doesn't destroy the fountain at Festival Plaza.