Things I should have posted over the last 3 weeks (5 of 10)

June 3rd, 2009

This is the map destroyed OKC. Produced by I.M. Pei and Carter & Burgess for the 1965 Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Plan, the map shows the areas of “CLEARANCE & REDEVELOPMENT” that helped create a downtown with a healthy supply of surface parking.

Okay, so the map itself doesn’t appear so destructive at first glance.  So here I added a little extra color to highlight the areas with the crosshatch designated to be cleared:

Certainly sheds some light on the areas of downtown today that are hurting for density.  In fact, old plans can tell us a lot about how the city came to be the way it is.  One of the side benefits of my thesis research (and countless hours crouched over a scanner) is that I have copies of a number of important Oklahoma City plans, including the:

– 1910 Dunn Parks and Boulevard Plan,

– 1930 Hare & Hare Plan,

– 1949 Harland Bartholomew Plan,

– 1965 Pei Urban Renewal Plan, and

– 1975 Gruen Central City Plan.

In addition I have over a hundred pages of correspondence between George E. Kessler’s firm and Oklahoma City leaders dating back to 1893.  Kessler’s firm was involved with projects including Fairlawn Cemetery, Belle Isle Park, Classen Boulevard, 1910 Dunn Parks and Boulevard Plan, and was hired by the city in 1920 to produce Oklahoma City’s first comprehensive plan, but unfortunately passed away in 1923 before completing the process.  I hope to make all of this available online eventually.  Not sure when, likely a project for a another day, but stay tuned.

10 responses

  1. Michael Bates comments:

    Thanks for this. This sort of thing is why everyone should be skeptical of massive civic “improvement plans.”

    I recognize the Civic Center in the area to be spared. Any idea about the criteria for the few parcels to be left untouched.

    I look forward to seeing older plans posted online. I have some c. 1957 planning documents I need to upload somehow.

  2. Ernest comments:

    Devastating. Are we being too swift and sweeping with Core to Shore? It’s been said that nothing significant remains in that area besides Union Station and Little Flower Church. From my own “windshield survey”, I agree.

  3. Chad Reynolds comments:


    Amazing. Thanks for digging these up and posting them. What I’d like to know is, did everything in the shaded area actually get razed? Was Pei’s plan fully realized? What was going through these dudes heads in the 60s? It’s kinda like when Boston opened the Central Artery right through downtown in 1959. Can you imagine what MTA had to clear to make room for that monstrosity? According to MTA’s website, 20,000 residents were displaced by the project that cut off the North End and the Waterfront from downtown and eventually spawned the Big Dig, the costliest fix to the dumbest error ever. But at least the fix happened. I guess MAPS was OKC’s Big Dig, insofar as it was created to address and correct a mistake. Ernest asks a good question above…would Core to Shore repeat the mistake of Urban Renewal? I also agree with his answer: some things are worth preserving, some aren’t. But who makes this judgment call? The tastes and aesthetics of those who decide what stays and what is razed change drastically from decade to decade. The Urban Renewal folks thought they were saving downtown. Inadvertently, they nearly killed it. Thanks again for posting these maps.

  4. Lindy Adams comments:

    Blair, Thanks so much for posting this online. I’ve been fascinated with the mistakes of the I.M. Pei plan for years. Once my husband, Ken, and I were hosting a group of exchange students from Japan for Oklahoma Christian University. This was in the early 70s. We took the group downtown, which was at the worst of the post-I.M. Pei era. The Japanese students’ professor, named Dr. Saito, took a look around and said, “This reminds me of Tokyo after the war.” We’ve laughed about that for years. Thanks for all your interest in this. But, I have great hope for the future, and really love Block 42, which I think was developed by your brother – or other relative.

  5. » Planned to death pings back:

    […] already did this once, didn’t […]

  6. BillTunell comments:

    This is a great map. I’d liek to insert this on wikipedia’s artcvile for the Pei Plan if it’s all right with you. Let me know.

  7. Blair comments:

    Bill – Sure. Please do. Citing the map is appreciated, but not necessarily required.

  8. BillTunell comments:

    Thanks, Blair. I’ve loaded on Wikipedia with copyright standard attribution-release viewable at I can change these terms if you want, just let me know. Interesting stuff you’ve put together. I look forward to seeing more.

  9. BillTunell comments:

    BTW, the Pei Plan wikipage is

  10. Blair comments:

    Thanks BIll! Appreciate you taking the time to help make wikipedia an excellent resource. Please feel free to use anything you find on this blog.

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