View Full Version : Lesson Learned this week



yukong
02-27-2015, 10:44 PM
While I have always bemoaned the nearsightedness of many OKC leaders, past and present regarding the historic treasures that have been lost, and those about to be lost.…I fully realized the sadness of that nearsightedness these past three days. I have been in Portland, Oregon, attending a conference. This afternoon I was finally able to really meander about town for a few hours just exploring this beautiful city. And the things I learned really saddened me. I'm sitting in my hotel room now pondering what I have learned.

I realize there are many differences between Portland and OKC. I realize the metro area of Portland is quite a bit larger than OKC. I realize the city is older and situated on two beautiful rivers, surrounded by mountains and gorgeous scenery. But what Portland has done…that OKC has not done…is they have saved and re-purposed their historic buildings. At the expense of large, glass towers…Portland has saved their historic buildings. The hotel where I am staying was the old Lipman and Wolfe Department store. A beautiful building that is now a beautiful boutique hotel. Another historic building is now a Macy's and several other stores. Another is a multi floor Target store. Several are hotels of nearly every banner. Hotels we have in OKC, but they are in old historic buildings and not new fake stucco cookie cutter buildings. Most all the buildings in Portland are older buildings that have been restored and house businesses, hotels, restaurants, stores and housing. In the Old Town section, there is one large 5 or so floor building that houses a branch of the University of Oregon. Many of the old buildings are from the early part of the century. This building was constructed in 1912-17 area. But most are not any older than many of the ones we tore down. And this is a great walking city. Just so much to see walking around. Old theaters still being used as theaters or live production venues. Parks every few blocks. And food trucks/trailers in several places. Nearly every vacant lot…has food trucks parked around the perimeter of the lot and they are quite busy during lunch. We ate at the food trucks every day. There were dozens. One whole city block was ringed with food trucks. And I love the Max light rail system. Makes me excited about our coming street cars. I just hope we extend them further out from the downtown area.

I realize we have a bit of that in Bricktown…but think about it…a boutique hotel in the Baum building? What a great place that would be. The Criterion theater hosting live music and movies. The Midwest theater doing the same. Housing in the Black hotel. Housing or a hotel in the Biltmore. That would be so sweet. I could go on and on but I know you get what I'm saying.

I just walked around this city thinking what could have been for OKC if our leaders had realized the treasures we had/have. And it saddens me more to realize we are about to tear down several more great old treasures. Don't tell me they are functionally obsolete. You could have said the same about the old Lipman and Wolfe Department Store. But now…it's a great boutique hotel that is quite popular and quite pricy.

Really the only thing Portland has that I'm glad we don't have is the huge population of homeless. I was amazed how many homeless there were here. And what was surprising was the vast majority are young people. 20-somethings. There are thousands of them. Nearly every street corner has several congregated or camping out. I walked down to the river park, and on the walking trail along the river I found 25-30 camped out under a bridge. I asked the Doorman at the hotel about the many homeless and he said it was a situation that has gotten out of hand because of the long-time acceptance of the problem by the city leaders here. It was somewhat sad. Especially when he told me that may come from out of state because of tales of how fun it is to live on the streets in Portland. They come…get addicted to drugs and then become a nuisance. It was sad seeing kids digging through the trash cans at the park by the food trucks to find un-eaten food. We gave one our leftovers. Most of them are nice enough…but they are a blight on this beautiful city.

Anyway…I just felt the need to vent. I see these great old buildings and think of what could have been if out leaders had exercised the same foresight and restraint as it regarded the fabulous old palaces we had in OKC. And it saddens me that we are continuing to repeat the same mistakes.

Just the facts
02-28-2015, 07:44 AM
I enjoyed reading your first hand account. Even though I am a suburban dweller (for now) here in Jax, I go to downtown at least 2 times a week and walk; not for exercise but as a tourist in my own city. When the city is scaled for walking it makes you want to walk. The homeless population is a relatively recent American phenomena and I could talk about the problem and why it exists for hours. If you are interested in that subject you can read up on "mainstreaming" and the problems it created.

Urbanized
02-28-2015, 08:02 AM
Yes, Portland is nearly unique in its awesomeness vs the rest of the U.S.. Every bit as much as HP played a role, so did land use and planning (and topography). One of the main differences is that while most cities "saved" their empty/derelict/underutilized old buildings, Portland never really stopped using theirs. It's much easier to preserve buildings and neighborhoods that have benefitted from continued use and maintenance.

The massive homelessness population is also pretty peculiar to that city. The two things are not closely intertwined, however.

bchris02
02-28-2015, 08:23 AM
I completely agree with this. Portland is an amazing city and is the envy of a lot of cities today. Austin tries to be Portland but Portland is the real deal. It's a huge magnet for twentysomethings but unfortunately too many of them who go there end up on the streets.

In terms of comparison to OKC, I don't think the two cities could be any more opposite. Urban renewal wasn't unique to OKC, but the saddest part is by 2015 most cities have learned from their mistakes and are revitalizing what historic stock they have left. OKC is still tearing stuff down for parking. It's not like everything they are wanting to build could not be build on surface parking or empty lots. One poster here (KayneMo?) made an image that showed how the entire 499 Sheridan proposal could be built without demolishing a single structure. Developers and leaders in this town have no vision beyond the bottom dollar and what is best for the big corporate CEOs here and now. If different decisions would have been made back in the early 1960s, OKC today would be a very different place and could possibly be a destination for its history and its vibrancy. It's mindnumbing that civic leaders and developers continue to make the same mistakes they were making 50 years ago, further stripping OKC of its character and identity.

jccouger
02-28-2015, 09:17 AM
Another city that seems to be experiencing a boom in homelessness is Denver. I think it has a lot to do with the same reasons for Portland's homeless problem. It gained a reputation for being a fun place to be homeless AKA easy access to drugs.

Its kind of too easy to ignore the homeless problem. Sure you have to see them on the corners begging for money & food, but really more people are just annoyed by it so they don't feel bad for them. Its getting out of hand now though, its something we need to figure out & start to solve because whatever we are doing now is not fixing anything. Its not even a band-aid at this point. Poverty, mental illness & drug addiction has hit our country hard over the last decade & its a problem we can no longer ignore.

Hell, nearly a quarter of the American population that HAS shelter is 1 missed pay check away from being homeless themselves.

Pete
02-28-2015, 10:25 AM
One of the main differences is that wile most cities "saved" their empty/derelict/underutilized old buildings, Portland never really stopped using theirs. It's much easier to preserve buildings and neighborhoods that have benefitted from continued use and maintenance.

This is really the key point in any American city that has preserved a good deal of it's historic building stock.

The reasons cities (like OKC and many others) cleared full blocks was because the people and businesses left and they felt the only way to get them back was remove largely rotted sections. It happened in every U.S. city to a greater or lesser extent and in my research I've come to believe that what happened in OKC was pretty typical, it's just we are all much more aware of it, and then the 80's caused the brakes to go on for about 25 years leaving the scars longer than some other towns.

I think it's a false perception that misguided bureaucrats are responsible for most urban renewal. The responsible parties are the car and oil companies and government polities which all fueled the rapid expansion of the suburbs post WWII. The unique racial tensions of the 50's and 60's in the U.S. were another big contributor to many leaving the cities for tract homes and independent school districts. The massive highway building and lack of investment in public transportation kept the sprawl momentum going in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

I posted aerials a while back that showed Midtown after all the urban renewal demolitions (late 60's) and it was still a dense area with few vacant lots. Then by 2000, there were all the huge holes we are still trying to fill. And that was due to decay, neglect and abandonment, not any urban renewal plan.

If you look at other young countries like Australia and Canada where economies were not dominated by car and oil companies (and never had the same racial tensions), they never went through their leave-the-city phase. They are both bigger geographically that the U.S. with far less population, yet their cities are much more dense and generally have great public transportation.


Now, as for the more recent decisions around demoing buildings and building infrastructure in cow pastures around OKC, that's a different matter and despite all our gains is a serious black eye on our leadership and planning.

SOONER8693
02-28-2015, 06:03 PM
I completely agree with this. Portland is an amazing city and is the envy of a lot of cities today. Austin tries to be Portland but Portland is the real deal. It's a huge magnet for twentysomethings but unfortunately too many of them who go there end up on the streets.

In terms of comparison to OKC, I don't think the two cities could be any more opposite. Urban renewal wasn't unique to OKC, but the saddest part is by 2015 most cities have learned from their mistakes and are revitalizing what historic stock they have left. OKC is still tearing stuff down for parking. It's not like everything they are wanting to build could not be build on surface parking or empty lots. One poster here (KayneMo?) made an image that showed how the entire 499 Sheridan proposal could be built without demolishing a single structure. Developers and leaders in this town have no vision beyond the bottom dollar and what is best for the big corporate CEOs here and now. If different decisions would have been made back in the early 1960s, OKC today would be a very different place and could possibly be a destination for its history and its vibrancy. It's mindnumbing that civic leaders and developers continue to make the same mistakes they were making 50 years ago, further stripping OKC of its character and identity.
Every opportunity to take a shot at and badmouth OKC. Soooo predictable. Change it up once in a while, just for the entertainment value for the other posters.

zookeeper
02-28-2015, 06:09 PM
Excellent post, excellent rebuttals, but right now in OKC we have few mid-century structures left downtown -- and they're on the table as we speak.
Which is where Pete's last sentence comes into play.

Laramie
02-28-2015, 06:24 PM
We can't resurrect the dead.

Let's preserve the few structures we have left; think of some creative uses in which we can blend the historically old with the new.

Spartan
03-02-2015, 02:06 PM
Historic buildings gain authentic character over time as they are lived in. OKC is just suppressing uniqueness.

White Peacock
03-02-2015, 05:56 PM
Good observation, OP. I used to live in Portland, and the constant refreshing of old buildings (as opposed to razing and rebuilding) is part of what gives the city its character.

The biggest problem I have with OKC is its absolute lack of walkability. In Portland, you can go to any of their districts, park your car where you can find as pot, and walk for hours as each district is loaded with destinations. You can park in the Hawthorne district and hit up a number of cafes, restaurants, record stores, clothing shops, and various other specialty shops, and you'll be occupied all day. Same is true for the Belmont district, Pearl district, downtown, etc. OKC's districts, if they have the park-and-peruse kind of setup, they lack the scale of a Portland district, and if they have the scale of a Portland district, they lack the make-a-day-of-it setup that Portland's areas seem to have just developed organically. The closest in atmosphere to a PDX district would be our Plaza district, but it's like a miniature version.

Bricktown is almost entirely a place to eat food and get drunk. There's not much reason to go there beyond that. The Asian district is somewhat properly themed, but really disjointed and again, doesn't offer much more than a million places to eat. I live in what I recently learned is called the Windsor District. I love living in the area, but I've never even considered that one might call it a 'district' since there's really nothing to tie the area together, thematically, that warrants such a distinction. It's a forced conversion to a type of environment that the area wasn't preinclined to become, and I'm not sure things like that work very well usually. That's always been my biggest complaint about OKC's renaissance; it's largely inorganic. Portland's neighborhoods don't feel engineered or designed by a council.

And don't get butt-hurt; I'm not bashing OKC. I think we're on a good track, but it's going to take a while before it feels entirely authentic. And I really think we need to do a lot more to encourage independent business owners to set up shop instead of trying to attract chains.

Spartan
03-03-2015, 06:45 PM
I am usually the king of blunt remarks on OKC, but just wanted to say I think the Plaza District is still underrated. There is now vibrancy on a lot of the side streets north AND even south of 16th, which when included, are on par with a Portland hotspot. Most of the housing stock around it has now been renovated in conjunction with 16th Street's resurgence, and it also connects to Carey Place (one of OKC's coolest streets).

I think there, we should "just add streetcar" ... West-Northwest OKC is still vastly underrated, and I predict will evolve more organically like South Austin or Portland.

Pete
03-03-2015, 06:49 PM
There is more housing coming for the Plaza area.

Some projects that will be announced soon plus tons of smaller infill.

I agree, if anything it's underrated as an urban district and there is more to come.

bchris02
03-03-2015, 07:08 PM
The Plaza district and the Paseo are currently the most organic and "finished" districts the city has. Those districts are underrated while I believe Midtown is overrated (with the exception of on H&8th nights). I think Western Avenue has the potential to join it once the streetscape and placemaking is complete. Very cool area.

Film Row has tons of potential as well but needs a strong catalyst to kick things off.

Spartan
03-03-2015, 07:30 PM
The Plaza district and the Paseo are currently the most organic and "finished" districts the city has. Those districts are underrated while I believe Midtown is overrated (with the exception of on H&8th nights). I think Western Avenue has the potential to join it once the streetscape and placemaking is complete. Very cool area.

Film Row has tons of potential as well but needs a strong catalyst to kick things off.

Have you really done a night of bar hopping in Midtown? When you talk specifics and think about it, Midtown really has a ton of stuff. I spent New Years there actually. Had dinner at Packard's (only place we could get reservations, strangely), walked down and showed people the Hanging Staircase and lights on Broadway, then had a drink at the Iguana, drove (sadly) over to a friend's apartment in the Seiber, later went over to McNellie's, then finished at Dust Bowl.

I could have done any combination of a dozen more things. I now have friends in the Seiber, the Guardian, The Edge, and SoSA. Tried having bfast at Waffle Champion but the wait was over an hour. Midtown is getting decent, but it's so incredibly spread out still. More infill coming, plus the streetcar, and then it will be an urban district to behold.

Pete
03-03-2015, 07:33 PM
10th Street will soon look like this in a line:

Sidecar
Broadway 10
Bleu Garten
R&J Supper Club
Fassler Hall
Dust Bowl
McNellies
Cafe do Brasil
O Bar
Louies

Plus 1492 and Stella.


That's pretty strong and we still have a bunch more infill to come.

Spartan
03-03-2015, 07:39 PM
If you're not sold on OKC, go have a few Caipairinhas (sp? rum and sugar limeade) on the rooftop deck at Cafe do Brasil. It's a phenomenal view and experience. I imagine the O Bar has a good view, too.

bchris02
03-03-2015, 08:00 PM
If you're not sold on OKC, go have a few Caipairinhas (sp? rum and sugar limeade) on the rooftop deck at Cafe do Brasil. It's a phenomenal view and experience. I imagine the O Bar has a good view, too.

I agree. I think O Bar is one of the best bars in OKC honestly. In terms of Midtown being overrated, I am speaking strictly in terms of being a complete, organic urban district like in Portland (or many other cities). Midtown is still very much an emerging district. In 5-10 years (probably closer to 5), as long as development doesn't stall out, I think it will be second only to Bricktown and will even be better in a lot of ways. It isn't there yet though. The Plaza and the Paseo have that feel already in 2015.

If I was showing somebody OKC for the first time and wanted to paint a good picture, I would start with dinner at Empire, maybe go to Oak and Ore. I would walk the Plaza strip and then neighborhood directly north of it which is one of OKC's greatest hidden gems. After that, I would go walk the Paseo and maybe have a drink at the Pump Bar afterward. About 11pm or so I would hit up O Bar in Midtown and then from there end the night in Bricktown or Deep Deuce.

Spartan
03-03-2015, 08:37 PM
That's a ton of ground to cover. Better to concentrate your evening in one walkable area, especially if drinking is involved. OKC will have arrived when all of these areas are connected by streetcar. An added benefit of high level transit service is that when the streetcar is 8 minutes away from OCU, someone is likelier to just walk to the Paseo because it really isn't much farther. This kind of infrastructure is unique as a pedestrian extender.

Teo9969
03-03-2015, 11:44 PM
Drove around in Downtown Raleigh tonight for the first time…mmmaaaaannnn

As Raleigh-Durham isn't SO much bigger than OKC (considering that it's 2 major urban centers instead of just 1), I think it's a reasonable place to compare, and even comparing it to the very little that I remember of Austin, I just couldn't believe how rock solid it felt in the little area I was.

HangryHippo
03-04-2015, 09:15 AM
I don't recall being that impressed by Raleigh, but it's been awhile since I was there. What did you find rock solid?

adaniel
03-04-2015, 09:35 AM
Seconded. Unless a lot has changed since I was there visiting family back in 2008 (and I doubt it since there was a major recession between then and now), I was not impressed at all with their DT area. Although I will add the Research Triangle as a whole is a very nice area, its just "multi polar" and not downtown-centric.

bchris02
03-04-2015, 09:52 AM
Seconded. Unless a lot has changed since I was there visiting family back in 2008 (and I doubt it since there was a major recession between then and now), I was not impressed at all with their DT area. Although I will add the Research Triangle as a whole is a very nice area, its just "multi polar" and not downtown-centric.

Raleigh, like Charlotte, has continued to grow quite briskly even through the recession. Being that RDU's economic is a lot more tech focused as opposed to banking, they had it easy during the recession compared to Charlotte. I prefer Charlotte's downtown, skyline, and vibe but Raleigh is a nice city. Raleigh is a bit younger and more progressive like Austin. I would say they are easily ahead of OKC in about every possible way. With that said, they aren't directly comparable. The Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill are separate MSAs but they function like DFW. The population of the urban region is 2 million so it is peers with places like Charlotte, Austin, Kansas City, and Denver.

Spartan
03-04-2015, 09:57 AM
Raleigh is way more sprawly and newer as a whole. But they have embraced urban infill recently.

SOONER8693
03-04-2015, 12:38 PM
Raleigh, like Charlotte, has continued to grow quite briskly even through the recession. Being that RDU's economic is a lot more tech focused as opposed to banking, they had it easy during the recession compared to Charlotte. I prefer Charlotte's downtown, skyline, and vibe but Raleigh is a nice city. Raleigh is a bit younger and more progressive like Austin. I would say they are easily ahead of OKC in about every possible way. With that said, they aren't directly comparable. The Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill are separate MSAs but they function like DFW. The population of the urban region is 2 million so it is peers with places like Charlotte, Austin, Kansas City, and Denver.
Shocker.

s00nr1
03-04-2015, 04:35 PM
I will be making my first trip to Portland next month on business and am really looking forward to seeing it.

Urbanized
03-04-2015, 07:00 PM
Jealous

Teo9969
03-04-2015, 11:45 PM
I don't recall being that impressed by Raleigh, but it's been awhile since I was there. What did you find rock solid?

There's a lot I have not enjoyed about RDU, particularly in how they've developed their suburban areas and how sprawled out they are overall, but when it comes to downtown, while theirs is significantly smaller in land area (and what will ultimately hold them back), they have done a great job at filling holes, laying out their streets, building a convincing format and highlighting a wide array of architecture. I was super uber duper impressed with the following picture and it made me sad that OKC has nothing remotely this cool on a small scale in our entire downtown area.

10296

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3c/Fayetteville_Street_in_downtown_Raleigh,_North_Car olina.jpg

It's maybe just a bit disheartening because I feel like OKC could be so much further along and better planned. I think we'll make significant progress soon, but knowing that Raleigh doesn't have near the potential that OKC does and seeing that they've bested us at this point, is sobering.

bchris02
03-05-2015, 06:23 AM
It's maybe just a bit disheartening because I feel like OKC could be so much further along and better planned. I think we'll make significant progress soon, but knowing that Raleigh doesn't have near the potential that OKC does and seeing that they've bested us at this point, is sobering.

I feel the same way about places like Memphis, Louisville, and Richmond. Those cities are all similar in size to OKC, are behind from an economic perspective, yet they all have urban districts that are much farther along than anything in OKC. Question is, why?

In my opinion, the top culprit is the lack of respect and desire to preserve history in this city. All of these "cool" districts in these other cities are at least partially comprised of historic building stock. OKC could have had that but because so much was destroyed this city is having to build a downtown from scratch. It doesn't help that what little history is left is facing the same disregard as what was destroyed in the urban renewal days. In addition, the DDRC needs to get more of a backbone. Things have improved tenfold since the days of Lower Bricktown and Legacy at Arts Quarter but some things are still getting a green light that leave me shaking my head (Staybridge Suites).

TU 'cane
03-05-2015, 09:55 AM
Great post, thanks for the insight.

All I have to say is this, if we want OKC to be that next big thing, the people, particularly the younger gens, have to remain involved in what they want done for the future.
OKC has made some enormous strides, let's not downplay them. But, in the same respect, it has a ways to go before becoming what it has the potential to become. The more OKC grows in terms of population, the more developments and interests there will be, particularly in places like downtown and BrickTown where visitors will see most of.

Just take pride in your city.

bchris02
03-05-2015, 12:48 PM
Great post, thanks for the insight.

All I have to say is this, if we want OKC to be that next big thing, the people, particularly the younger gens, have to remain involved in what they want done for the future.
OKC has made some enormous strides, let's not downplay them. But, in the same respect, it has a ways to go before becoming what it has the potential to become. The more OKC grows in terms of population, the more developments and interests there will be, particularly in places like downtown and BrickTown where visitors will see most of.

Just take pride in your city.

Great points.

When thinking about this city in 2005 its amazing how far it has come. Think about it. Back then, both the Plaza and Midtown were still almost entirely run down and dilapidated. Automobile Alley was dead. There was no Thunder and the Chesapeake Arena was the Ford Center. Bricktown was OKC's one and only entertainment district. Most new development was happening in Lower Bricktown and we all know what kind of development it was. There was no Devon tower and I am pretty sure the Skirvin had not yet been revitalized. There were only a few places a person could even live downtown. This was just a decade ago. Personally I get frustrated even today because this city still pulls below its weight in many ways but its almost unfathomable how it was 10 years ago. Go back 20 years and it was even worse. No Bricktown, no arena, and no ballpark. There was virtually no reason to go downtown period unless you worked there.

All of that said, OKC is competing with other cities for jobs and young people. As much as OKC has to be proud of compared to its not so distant past, it still has some ground to cover. Comparisons to places like Raleigh, Nashville, Austin, and Louisville are healthy because it gives the city the incentive to demand better. I really think OKC has reached a point where the DDRC should stop green-lighting every subpar development that gets proposed or otherwise the city may never see its potential.

Just the facts
03-06-2015, 06:15 AM
I feel the same way about places like Memphis, Louisville, and Richmond. Those cities are all similar in size to OKC, are behind from an economic perspective, yet they all have urban districts that are much farther along than anything in OKC. Question is, why?

In my opinion, the top culprit is the lack of respect and desire to preserve history in this city. All of these "cool" districts in these other cities are at least partially comprised of historic building stock. OKC could have had that but because so much was destroyed this city is having to build a downtown from scratch. It doesn't help that what little history is left is facing the same disregard as what was destroyed in the urban renewal days. In addition, the DDRC needs to get more of a backbone. Things have improved tenfold since the days of Lower Bricktown and Legacy at Arts Quarter but some things are still getting a green light that leave me shaking my head (Staybridge Suites).

The main problem is we have to many elected leaders, city employees, and community activist that never recognized or bought in to the shift to urban density and walkability. Like the hippies who never mentally left the '60s, this group never mentally left 1980 (and for some reason it seems OKC has more people in this group than any other city in America).

bchris02
03-06-2015, 06:52 AM
The main problem is we have to many elected leaders, city employees, and community activist that never recognized or bought in to the shift to urban density and walkability. Like the hippies who never mentally left the '60s, this group never mentally left 1980 (and for some reason it seems OKC has more people in this group than any other city in America).

I don't always agree with you but I definitely agree with you fully on that. "1980s mentality" is a great way to put it. I think a big part of it is there is still a tendency for more progressive people to leave for other cities rather than stay here and make a difference. OKC needs to get to that tipping point where it offers enough of an urban lifestyle to keep people for whom that is a priority from leaving for DFW, Seattle, Denver, etc. It is getting closer but there is still more ground to cover.

Just the facts
03-06-2015, 07:17 AM
I don't always agree with you but I definitely agree with you fully on that. "1980s mentality" is a great way to put it. I think a big part of it is there is still a tendency for more progressive people to leave for other cities rather than stay here and make a difference. OKC needs to get to that tipping point where it offers enough of an urban lifestyle to keep people for whom that is a priority from leaving for DFW, Seattle, Denver, etc. It is getting closer but there is still more ground to cover.

I don't know if 'progressive' is the correct word for it because I am the biggest right-wing tea partier I know and I am all about walkability and investing in people - not corporations. New Urbanism is not a political movement - it is a human movement. What OKC is seriously lacking is enough people in positions of power who value humans more than corporations.

Dubya61
03-06-2015, 08:27 AM
I don't know if 'progressive' is the correct word for it because I am the biggest right-wing tea partier I know and I am all about walkability and investing in people - not corporations. New Urbanism is not a political movement - it is a human movement. What OKC is seriously lacking is enough people in positions of power who value humans more than corporations.

I think that's Oklahoma, too.

BDP
03-06-2015, 10:06 AM
When thinking about this city in 2005 its amazing how far it has come. Think about it. Back then, both the Plaza and Midtown were still almost entirely run down and dilapidated. Automobile Alley was dead. There was no Thunder and the Chesapeake Arena was the Ford Center. Bricktown was OKC's one and only entertainment district. Most new development was happening in Lower Bricktown and we all know what kind of development it was. There was no Devon tower and I am pretty sure the Skirvin had not yet been revitalized. There were only a few places a person could even live downtown. This was just a decade ago. Personally I get frustrated even today because this city still pulls below its weight in many ways but its almost unfathomable how it was 10 years ago. Go back 20 years and it was even worse. No Bricktown, no arena, and no ballpark. There was virtually no reason to go downtown period unless you worked there.

I think our successes are actually what makes our recent mistakes more frustrating. There are so many examples of how to do things right in Oklahoma City now and that actually makes it harder to swallow all of the things that keep happening that undermine the good things. It's like consistently losing by a last second field goal because of a bad coaching decision. The most interesting thing to me is that it seems, more and more, our mistakes are engineered by people with the most power and influence and our most significant improvements occur organically on a smaller scale piece by piece. The best example of this is the propaganda piece for destruction of the Preftakes block. It specifically recognized many of the the great districts that have emerged in the city, while lobbying for doing the exact opposite of what has made those areas successful. I will never understand why many seem to keep wanting to do exactly what the city has invested over a billion dollars in itself to reverse.

The reality is that OKC is a much better place to live now than it has been my entire life and, honestly, I feel like it's outsiders that recognize it more than we do. It's always interesting to me how impressed friends and family from much larger markets are with some of our districts. If there is any consistent negative observation I hear it's about the gaps in the urban fabric and then I have to tell them that despite all these open spaces, we still tear things down and then they get even more confused.