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…
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.
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.