View Full Version : Shedding Square Miles

01-03-2007, 09:45 PM
Once upon a time in a land not so far away... at all... there was a small but booming urban city called Oklahoma City. Complete with rail transportation and plenty of recreation, this was the place to be. It was easy to predict this city would become the burgh of Oklahoma, and it already was, and so people in those days knew when Oklahoma City maxed out, the 'burbs would place a stranglehold on the capital city. Rural communities outside the city limit hadn't blossomed just yet, and it was only a matter of time. But high-density Oklahoma City still flourished, its downtown was the mini-Manhattan, complete with a slight replica of the Empire State Building (First National Tower). And everyone took the rail car downtown. Everyone.

Before 1956, Oklahoma City's land area was 85 square miles. In 1950, the city's population was 243,000. That meant that before the big expansion, Oklahoma City's population density was a tight 2,859 per square mile. But city leaders feared and accurately predicted leakage to the suburbs. Throw in the possibility of a loss in tax revenue and the thought of having to buy water from the suburbs to supply 243,000 thirsty city dwellers with fresh water, the city leaders of that day acted quickly. And they did, with a vengeance. They annexed over 500 square miles, gobbling up newly developed suburbs such as The Village, incorporated in 1950, Nichols Hills, which has been around since 1929, Del City and Warr Acres. Those cities became suburban islands within a major city, although Some of those suburbs were still in the country at the time. For years, Oklahoma City was the largest city in the country in terms of land area... all 635 square miles. The move actuality did serve its purpose- protect the city's tax base, protect the city's water shed (as three lakes are within city limits), and benefit from suburban growth. Since Edmond can no longer grow west, suburban development shifted over into Oklahoma City, where residents on that side of town enjoy cheaper utilities AND Edmond or Deer Creek Schools. The same is happening in far south OKC, where Moore outgrew its city limits. So where do developers build? Oklahoma City. But the city's cire suffered from years of neglect. And the the doughnut effect can still be felt in parts of the inner city although Midtown, the Asian District and Downtown are making serious comebacks. OCPS is even benefitting from MAPS for Kids, where the entire district is receiving an overhaul to save the district. In some ways, you can say that MAPS for Kids is a subconscious effort to reverse sprawl. But the truth is, anyone with money moving back to the core will send their children to private schools.

However, Oklahoma City hasn't REALLY gobbled up that much land in terms of urbanization to total land area. The ratios really haven't changed. Development is predeicted to take off in the tree-covered hills of northeast OKC, where homes and subdivisions have been steadily building up. In 1960, Oklahoma City's population of 324,000 yielded a population density of 522 people per square mile. And close to 100 square miles were urbanized. That's only 15.7 % of the total land area. Forty-six years later, in 2006, Oklahoma City's population was estimated at 540,000. As if today, roughly 240 square miles have been urbanized. While that's more than double in 1960, 240 square miles is still less than half the total land area. Today's population density is still 890 per square mile. So, what is Oklahoma City to do with all of that extra land that hasn't seen development in fifty years, and probably never will? The city can easily deannex 250 square miles with a tiny loss in population and tax base.

Read More on this story at my website below.

01-03-2007, 09:56 PM
That's a well written fifty year education and summary of Oklahoma City. I was born in 1982, so Oklahoma City has always been the same old Oklahoma City. I didn't know it was once smaller geographically.

I notice Will Rogers was built in 1966, so I'm assuming it was built in then Oklahoma City, after OKC annexed the extra 250 square miles. The airport just seems so far away from anything. I wish it was located closer to the urban core of OKC.

01-04-2007, 07:40 AM
I would caution against something like deannexation. But let me say why though. You say that in the last 50 years that the city hasn't filled in those areas. I would argue that not all areas that have filled in, are areas they thought would. Who would have guessed 50 years ago about Moore and Edmond? That's really only been in the last 20 years. The Southeast quadrant is slowly filling in more and more every year, and I believe the Northeast will trickle down south farther each year as well until we are ready to connect the two areas with a new highway.

OKC is young....SUPER YOUNG. Look at cities around the country that have the 200 year age and how they have managed. I would say hold on to it now, because you never know if in 100 years, the entire OKC area is full. Those far outlying areas may be the next Gallardia in another 50 years. They don't really drain funds, and the city can support them, so why toss them?

01-04-2007, 10:57 AM
Who would have guessed 50 years ago about Moore and Edmond? That's really only been in the last 20 years.

That's what's funny. That's exactly what they were trying to guess and blew it. With over half of the city undeveloped, the suburbs still grow at a faster pace and the city pays for the roads and infrastructure to those places.