View Full Version : Design Review in OKC

The Old Downtown Guy
02-13-2009, 04:48 PM
From time to time there are comments in posts referring to one of the volunteer citizen commissions and boards that make many of the day to day decisions about what is built in Oklahoma City, where it's built and what it will look like. The authority, scope and membership of all of these important bodies can be found at City of Oklahoma City | News (

The Planning Department provides staff and oversees the processes of most, but all of the decision making is done by citizens appointed by the Mayor and Council. There are other groups, The Urban Renewal Authority, River Development Commission etc. that are structured slightly differently from a legal standpoint. None of the members are compensated for the hours and hours of service they provide to the rest of us through sitting on these bodies.

One of the bodies most often discussed on OKCTalk is the Urban Design Commission. It is also the one I have appeared before most. Both as a citizen and as a developer seeking approval of a project design. I am appreciative of the work it does and believe in it's importance and value to the long range redevelopment and stability of the geographic areas in Oklahoma City it is responsible for.

The concept of "Design Review" in all its forms is to provide protection from the inappropriate or harmful actions of property owners in a defined geographic area and thereby add the stability and assurance that one property owner can build or improve a property knowing that his neighbor is not going to do something that will harm the value of the project being built or property being improved. Having this framework and process, which is administered through the interpretation and application of "guidelines" by the design review body is widely documented to have enabled tens of millions of dollars in real estate activity that would not have taken place otherwise. All cities of medium and larger size have several design review boards.

In another thread, a project designed by TAP for the Seabrook Real Estate Company was discussed. The project site was at NW corner of NW 7th and Dewey in Midtown. The location is in the Transitional component of the newly rezoned Downtown District. The applicable ordinances are easily accessed on the site.

The first design of this project presented to the UDC was a three story building sitting on top of the first story parking garage. None of the twenty-one residential units were at street level, the building had very little architectural interest, was about sixty feet in height on a block of one and two story residential homes, one of which was newly constructed about three years ago. This particular design was not approved for construction by the UDC.

It was subsequently redesigned by TAP and scaled back to a much more appropriate size and some of the residential units had street level entrances . . . close but no cigar. That's where the project was when it was withdrawn by the developer. The project was on LoopNet - #1 in Commercial Real Estate Online ( at one time, but it didn't come up when I looked unless it is in the "premium member only" access section, which I don't subscribe to.

OK . . . fire away.

Michael Smith

Pray For World Peace . . . pass it on