View Full Version : Lanscaping on the canal

07-09-2004, 01:50 AM
Not sure if you've seen the landscaping latelyon the canal, but it's just gorgious. The Park's Department is really doing a nice job.....turning it into a Myriad Gardens type feel! It's great! Anyways, there was a great article on it in Today's Oklahoman.
Here it is, in case you didn't get to see it:

Lush landscaping transforms view all around canal

By Jon Denton
The Oklahoman

The Bricktown Canal was just a minimalist expression in landscape art when canal supervisor Greg Crotchett arrived in 1999. The Bricktown Canal is an ambitious project conceived by MAPS planners and funded by taxpayers.
Acres of grass, trees, shrubs and flowers adorn the winding waterway. With its pumps and fountains, the $23 million canal is as modern as the Bricktown warehouse district is vintage.

Yet, the idea of a downtown watercourse has been around for more than a century. Here's a timeline:

1889 -- City leaders promoted a plan to link the North Canadian River to downtown Oklahoma City via a canal. The project sprung a leak, and bankruptcy and legal battles ensued.

1993 -- The Metropolitan Area Projects proposal conceived a downtown waterway as part of a river development project. The project shifted the canal to California Avenue so it could intersect a decaying block of Bricktown properties and boost redevelopment.

1999 -- The canal opens July 2, with one restaurant, Chelinos, onboard for business.

2004 -- Open along the canal are 17 Bricktown restaurants, clubs and shops.

He remembers the waterway's winding banks with their strips of amended soil, scattered trees and start-up flower beds.

"The plant material was small, but we could fertilize it," recalls the city parks and recreation department official.

That was five years ago this month. To meet MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) standards, a landscaper was hired to overhaul the north end of the waterway. In the next year, complaints about defective or missing trees and plants were answered with fresh material.

Now, the north end of the canal is taking on the look of an urban parkway. The south end is extensively landscaped, partly in preparation for Oklahoma's 2007 centennial celebration.

Separating the two areas five years ago with not much anybody could do about it was a big field of red mud and clumps of weeds. Motorists crossing on Interstate 40 got a good view of downtown's bare backside, and it wasn't pretty.

Today, the muddy field of streams is shrinking. In its place is the massive Bass Pro store, the Sonic Building, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and the soon-to-open 16-screen Bricktown theater.

All are a part of a bold plan to refashion a former warehouse district into one of the state's choice entertainment venues. To that purpose, the Bricktown Canal is blooming.

Slow and steady
The vision of the topography's original designers, JoAnne Vervinck on the north and Scott Howard on the south, is slowly emerging. Just as he expected, Crotchett said, their landscape designs needed about five years to mature.

That's typical for public gardens, observer Paul Johnson said. It takes time to find plants that do well and those that don't.

"Now, things are really coming along nicely there," said Johnson, a landscape consultant at Oklahoma Gardener Institute.

Frank Sims, executive director of the Bricktown Association, is an unabashed Bricktown booster. But he said he is genuinely impressed with the rapid change in the canal's landscape, calling it "an amazing transformation."

"We are compared to the River Walk in San Antonio ... They have had 50 years of foliage growth, and we've had five years. It's amazing to see people strolling down our canal, admiring all the landscaping and flowers. It's a very peaceful environment."

Yet, Crotchett is candid about what hasn't worked. A fungus attacked the park's loblolly pine, bringing on brown needles and an ugly dieback. Almost a dozen sago palms have outlived their original tropical setting and must now be trucked around in container pots.

It's a struggle to keep the bird of paradise trees going in Oklahoma's frigid winter, despite their crowd-pleasing appeal. They are by nature tropical, a flash of yellow and orange amid the greenery.

"Those came with the landscape. I don't know if we are going to plant any more of them," a cautious Crotchett said.

Still, it's not a bad record of losses. The landscape crew imbeds as many as 5,000 annuals in the spring and again in summer, then installs 2,000 winter plants. Crotchett hopes the variety keeps frequent visitors to the canal guessing about what comes next.

Among his daily burdens is foot traffic. Sometimes, thousands of people stroll the canal's seven landscaped acres. The visitors generally behave, but when they go astray, "We ask them politely to get out of the flower bed," he said.

Tried and true
What works best is no surprise. For vertical effect, the dependable Oklahoma redbuds are thriving. Lacebark elms are starting to throw shade. Shumard oaks are stretching, someday to reach their potential as giants of the landscape.

Royal purple smoke trees sport feathery blooms and striking orange fall colors. The colorful tamarisk, often found along Oklahoma's streambeds, is trimmed to prevent it from taking over as a shrubbery nuisance.

Another charmer, the pink dawn chitalpa, presents bell-shaped blossoms in profuse summer blooms.

Topping the trees for color and variety are the flower beds. As standard annuals in the north canal, begonias and impatiens are abundant. Purple cone flowers and hardy hibiscus perennials also contribute to the cottage garden effect, Crotchett said.

The canal's south section offers wild blue flax and buffalo grass. The Indian blanket, gaillardia, adds red and yellow splashes from the state's official wildflower. Wildflower fans also can count on seeing coreopsis and the nodding ox eye daisy.

Taking a cue from Oklahoma's prairie preserves is the drought-resistant little bluestem grass. Colors of the sideoats grama, at three-feet tall the largest of the grama grasses, vary from blue-green in spring to rust red in fall.

For all its beauty, there's still too much red dirt showing, landscaper Johnson says. Until development fills all the vacant lots, he recommends a blanket of ground cover.

"For water quality, for aesthetics, it would be a good idea to go ahead and plant or mulch. Mother Nature does not like empty spaces, so she's liable to plant weeds," Johnson said.

That's for developers to deal with. Crotchett says his purview remains the canal, the pump stations, water features, lights and landscaping.

To those responsibilities, he recently added the Oklahoma River, 14 miles of weed-infested shoreline formerly known as the Canadian River. For that most visible of downtown water features, he's starting with an attractive plant he can count on, the Oklahoma redbud.

07-09-2004, 06:26 AM
I was afraid that with action on the south canal not as dense as San Antonio's that it would look like some suburban development (Ed Noble Parkway or Moore's Riverwalk). But things have gotten more compact and the landscaping has kept the walk visually interesting. They've done a good job!

07-09-2004, 12:09 PM
Yeah, I also think Randy Hogan is doing a fine job developing the middle segment of the canal. His master plan calls for a very tight set up. In fact one of his new buildings is directly in front of the theater....looks like it's almost touching the theater. I think as development continues, everything will be built close together like on the north canal.
In a way, now I'm actually glad Bass Pro was built where it was. I think restaurants, small shops, and hotels are better right on the canal. Bass Pro also fills up space that probably otherwise would've gone undeveloped, since it's so far from the canal.

07-09-2004, 02:08 PM
Bass Pro's unwillingness to alter their exterior has proved to be a happy accident, from what you just said. I wonder what the exterior of the Embassy Suites will be. I don't think they are as signature-oriented as Courtyard by Marriott, with their pitched green tower. BTW, is Hogan's master plan available anywhere on the web?

07-09-2004, 03:44 PM
Unfortunately, Hogan's Master Plan isn't online. He's very careful about who he shows it to. I saw it at a council meeting several years ago, but I know it's probably changed some since then, although the general concept is probably still the same. The master plan showed very compact development.....that's one of the reasons Urban Renewal liked his plan so much better than Sooner Development, the other of the three developers that were in the running. Sooner Development didn't have much of a plan to present, but from the sound of things, their plan sounded more like a strip mall and small restaurants with lots of space between them. Hogan's plan brought buildings close to the canal, making a solid strip of buildings lining the canal. He left very little space between buildings, leaving a continuous feel more like that found on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.

Moshe Tal's plans looked good on paper, but he never was able to verify that he had financing in place. He also said he had investors in Israel, but never came forward with any paperwork. With his lack of financing and the fact that he wasn't a developer, that's the main reason the city went with Hogan.

One thing you have to remember, is the original Master Plan called for completely different anchors......namely, a 22 screen Edwards Theater with an IMAX theater facing the highway, a Sega Gameworks (separate facility), and a Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill. Now we're working with a Bass Pro Shop, a Sonic Headquarters Building, a Harkin's 16 screen movie theater, and a Toby Keith Venue.

Just for kicks, here was a description of the original plan:

You remember that? I'm surprised it's still online.

Just wanted to point something out about the theater....we're getting a smaller theater now than what was originally planned. That's because back when the Edwards Theater was planned the only larger theater in town was Cinemark Tinsletown 20. AMC 24 at Quail Springs and Regal 16 at Crossroads weren't in existence. Crossroads still had an 8 screen theater, Penn Square had a 10 screen theater, and Quail Springs didn't have a theater in the mall, but had a 6 screen AMC in Memorial Square (Memorial Rd. and Penn) and an 8 screen General Cinema Theater just west of the mall. So there was only 1 mega multi-screen theater.

But, I'm actually glad the theater being built now is smaller. I think it will fit better in the Bricktown area. I think the fewer big-box businesses we can keep out of Bricktown the better. I actually would've supported a 10 or 12 screen theater, with more space for other venues, or possibly even an IMAX theater. But the current set-up will be fine. One thing I like about Harkin's is they'll have a daycare center so family's can drop their kids off and go watch a movie. I bet that will be used quite a bit.

One thing about the canal.....there's so much space there still for lease. Heck, the entire Sonic Building 1st floor is for lease for retail, restaurant, or office space. It will be interesting to see what moves in there. I will say one thing....the Sonic Headquarters is a first class facility. Not sure if you got up real close and looked at it while you were here, but it's nice. Also, many of the buildings along the north canal are still for lease...especially Brewer's properties....I think he's holding out for the big bucks, from what I've been told.

I'd imagine that all buildings built on the canal will be brick, at least part way up. The Harkin's Theater will have brick halfway up. The Sonic Building has brick halfway up. The two new buildings that are being built right now (one next to the Sonic Building that will house Marble Slab and a sit down Sonic restaurant and one in front of the theater on the northeast corner of the theater- not sure what it will house yet) are being build with brick.

Yeah, I, I'm glad the Bass Pro Shop wasn't built on the canal. Since it doesn't have any brick on it, it's probably better where it's at. Plus, like I said, it fills space that probably otherwise would've been left vacant (it was too far away from Bricktown) and it frees up space for hotels and restaurants.

Yeah, from what I've been told, Embassy Suites will contain brick in the structure just like the other buildings. Probably not the entire building, but at least part way up.

Oh, and in regards to an earlier concern you had about structure of the building that would house the Sonic Restaurant and Marble Slab...yeah it will just be a square box building, but it will be all brick, like the rest of the warehouses in Bricktown.

07-09-2004, 05:42 PM
How many stories will the Embassy Suites be? When will construction start?

07-10-2004, 09:34 AM
Here is a cool thought. Build a few a few buildings of multiple story, maybe another hotel, a highrise mall (gallaria type), or whatever, extend the canal to go up some of the floors and show animatronics of the history of Oklahoma City... And what we see for the future.

Double the charge, but give people the option of paying current rates and disembarking before that part of the trip starts.

07-10-2004, 10:30 AM
and show animatronics of the history of Oklahoma City... And what we see for the future.

Double the charge, but give people the option of paying current rates and disembarking before that part of the trip starts.

Yes, a 21st century way to tell our story...

07-11-2004, 12:26 PM
The new Embassy Suites Hotel will be 12 stories and construction will start this Fall. It will be located just east of the Sonic Building.

I still like an idea I heard mentioned on another forum board....Have the hotel surround the canal on both sides with the canal flowing through the main lobby of the hotel......and have a water taxi check in in the lobby...water taxis float under the canal and through it.......and the main entrance is at canal the hotel makes a bridge over the canal.
I always thought that was a cool idea.