July 2009 Archive

The Oklahoma Gazette overviews MAPS 3

July 25th, 2009

Three articles worth perusing over at okgazette.com.  My thanks to Grant Slater for the opportunity to contribute to his piece on the Central Park.

Urban boom in a non-walkable city?

July 23rd, 2009

Perhaps this has something to do with the challenges facing urban housing developments in downtown Oklahoma City.

Daily Links

July 18th, 2009
  • County Commissioners were shown two conceptual designs. One conceptual design depicted the current Oklahoma County Jail facility combined with an annex next door at nearly 1.3 million square feet. The preliminary cost estimate for this project is $436 million, said Fred Schmidt, Frankfurt-Short-Bruza director of architecture and project manager.

    The second design layout combining the sheriff’s office, intake center, laundry and food service area, warehouse and social support depicts a new 1.1-million square foot facility with an estimated cost of $391 million, Schmidt said. This proposed new facility would be built on a 50-acre site within five miles of downtown. Property is not available downtown to accommodate the plan, Vaughn said.

Sitting in LEED GA study cours…

July 14th, 2009

Sitting in LEED GA study course. Turns out, sustainable development is really difficult to do in a poorly planned city.

Just a comment on MAPS 3 and the Canal Extension

July 11th, 2009

This is, or at least was intended to be, just a comment on MAPS 3 and the canal extension.  In fact, it wasn’t supposed to be posted here, but was originally going to be a quick three sentence contribution to a sinuous discussion over at OKC Central.  For better or for worse,  I am really amped up about all things OKC and MAPS 3.  I actually laid awake in bed last night thinking through it all until the sun came up this morning.  Though this post started as a response to NaptownEd’s  comment below, the combination of a lot of thinking, sincere passion, and nervous enthusiasm spilled over into something much longer than intended…

NaptownEd said:

Here is an example that OKC can possibly replicate. Click on link to the Indy canal that is align with various development: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=874282

Here are a few of the pictures to give you a sense of the Indy Canal Walk that Ed is referencing:




That is a very nice canal. I like the variation in form and scale.

However, the execution of the urban fabric that borders the canal is very poor. Heavy facades, a lack of transparency on sides and entrances of buildings, concrete retaining walls, and vastly over-sized setbacks, create a place that is ill suited for an urban environment and offers very little utility for anything other than glorified recreational paths.  I think the results speak for themselves.

Indianapolis Canal

Downtown Oklahoma City’s two most glaring weaknesses are the lack of pedestrians and lack of retail storefronts. The two go hand-in-hand; you cannot sustain one without the other. The City does not manage retail stores, but it has the power and the obligation when it comes to providing a public realm that attracts pedestrians.


A canal connection is a sad substitute for a well-designed street. I don’t mean this as a rebuke of the proposed canal extension, but am, affably I hope, calling into question the process(es) and underlying logic of many proposed MAPS 3 projects.  In fact, as we move down the list you see that pedestrian concerns continue to take a back burner.  A convention center will certainly detract from the pedestrian’s experience of the Central Park.  This super-block structure will significantly damage the pedestrian realm, so it very important that it is placed accordingly.  The boulevard, as designed, will, ironically enough, actually hinder pedestrian’s ability to walk from the Core to the Shore.  Further, all boulevards, especially wide boulevards, are not well suited for retail and can can only hope to sustain retail in the very densest cities that have the ability to fill wider than average sidewalks with pedestrians.* These projects are not strategically focused on enhancing Oklahoma City’s quality of life.

But what if we wanted to strike at the heart of Downtown and Bricktown’s problems? MAPS 3 could employ a thoughtful strategy of interventions ALL intended to improve the pedestrian experience: adding streetcars, improving public spaces, planting street trees, widening sidewalks, and more.   MAPS 3  could boost both Downtown and Bricktown by increasing the number of pedestrians and unleash a number of opportunities for retail currently lying dormant within the fabric of the city.  Joining with the MAPS 3 investments, we could step up efforts to build out undeveloped and surface parking lots, which would contribute greatly to the pedestrian experience while increasing density.  Activating the city we have today with people and retail would do more to enhance the city than any project or combination of projects that has been proposed to date.

*This is due to the fact that a narrower street allows for shoppers to connect visually with stores on both sides of the street, and cross back and forth relatively quickly.  The distance and visual disconnectedness of a wide boulevard makes it necessary for stores to rely on the foot traffic supplied by only one side of the street, possible only if the sidewalks carry substantial pedestrian traffic.

Where to search for a tessellation city?

July 10th, 2009


So, in a moment of inspiration while thinking back to 6th grade math and our study of tessellations, I thought there may be some significant applications for cities design using tessellations that I have never previously considered.  I am sure this wasn’t an original idea, everything from sidewalk patterns to block patterns require tessellation type patterns, but I figured the intentional combination of the two might offer some new insight.

Anyway, what happens when you plug “tessellation city” into Google?  In my case, you see a friendly face – err, friendly blog – at #5 on the list.  Oklahoma’s longtime blog master – Charlie Hill at Dustbury.com – claims the spot with a short post entitled “It’s that new tessellation defensez.”  While his post does not offer up the type of physical planning theory I was searching for, it did offer a nice pre-NBA draft blurb and still managed to slide in a reference to another branch of mathematical theory covered in 6th grade.  When I say covered, that is to say, we made Möbius strips out of craft paper.

Journal Record: “Congestion in…

July 9th, 2009

Journal Record: “Congestion in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Texas was more than 10 times worse than Oklahoma City…”

Daily Links

July 5th, 2009
  • KONG-TV's anchor replied by saying it's been painted as a different picture in the Seattle area.

    Thunder fans across the metro said the slanted story coming from Seattle is a lie. Some called call it jealousy while others said Seattle is behaving like a bitter-ex.

    Meanwhile a reporter for The Seattle Times paid a visit to Oklahoma for the one year mark of the Thunder franchise in Oklahoma City and now he's catching a lot of heat for an article he wrote called "How I Learned to Kinda, Sorta like Oklahoma City"

    The reporter admitted he came to Oklahoma City with the intentions of tearing it apart, but after being here for a while, he said he learned to like it, a lot.

Daily Links

July 3rd, 2009
  • The populations of older, major U.S. cities have rebounded in recent years, largely the result of people arriving everywhere from overseas to nearby suburbs.

    He also cited urban renewal projects in such places as Oklahoma City, which increased its population by 9 percent from 2007 to 2008.

    "People want to play and live where they work," he said. "Driving from one end of a mall to the other, or across a four-lane highway to get to another mall, maybe people don't want to live like that anymore."

Jeff Speck: “Make a residentia…

July 2nd, 2009

Jeff Speck: “Make a residential neighborhood better, and its residents benefit. Make the downtown better, and the entire city benefits.”