Posts about parks and open space

OETA Core to Shore Feature3

September 25th, 2009

Just took the time to watch this OETA video on Core to Shore all the way through.  Great production with a lot of people I respect and admire – basically every voice you hear speaking.  Gets you excited about the possibilities for the future of Oklahoma City!   There are still a number of details that need to be worked out with the Core to Shore plan and some “interesting” premises that need prodding, but we can save those conversations for 2010 following the passing of MAPS3 and a lovely Christmas holiday with the family.  Enjoy!

Picture 6

Click above image to go to the OETA site to watch video.

(via lasomeday at okctalk)

Year 2050: Day in the Life of Panorama Station

February 22nd, 2009

Hey everyone!  Here is another piece of our 2009 ULI Urban Design Competition proposal that was named one of four finalists competing for the $50,000 first prize.  We were asked to come up with a single tabloid sheet describing a day in the life of the project in the year 2050.

I decided to use a comic book format to tell the story.  First I put together some basic perspectives for each scene and then used a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator techniques to produce the “comic book” look and feel.  The information is structured using the same heirarchy found in our “15 minute car-free lifestyle” diagram.

Click on the image below to enlarge.

ULI Competition 2009: We’re in the top 4!

February 20th, 2009

Got some great news yesterday and wanted to share it with you.  We are one of four finalist teams that have made it through to round two of the 2009 ULI Hines Urban Design competition. Which means we will travel to Denver in April to compete for a shot at the $50,000 first prize.  Really excited and look forward to working some more on this project. Also, now that the results of round one have been announced, I can share with you everything we worked on.  And I am sure to say we, as it was definitely a team effort.

THE TEAM

Sarah Snider, Master of City Planning / MIT
Eric Komppa, MBA / University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jesse Hunting, Master of City Planning / MIT
Duncan McIlvaine, M.Arch / MIT
Blair Humphreys, Master of City Planning / MIT

ABOUT THE PROJECT

This is our complete design board.  The board measures 51″ x 22″ – or six 17″ x 11″ sheets.  In addition to this we were required to turn in two separate 17″ x 11″ sheets, one with financials and one “day in the life of” sheet conveying life in the year 2050 (click here to see it).  I have chopped up the board pictured above into separate images to fit on your screen below.  The proposal is for an approx. 80 acre site surrounding Denver’s Alameda light rail station.  The northern portion of the site is currently a fairly typical big box retail layout, while the southern portion has a range of tenants connected to the Denver Design District. The primary challenge was to redesign the site to take advantage of the light rail station without displacing any of the existing tenants.  The boards are meant to be self-explanatory (i.e. we weren’t present when the judges viewed them), so I haven’t provided any commentary but if you have questions, just let me know.  Thanks!

note: this post is image heavy so it may load a bit slow.

Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square

February 18th, 2009

VIDEO





SITE LAYOUT



Pioneer Courthouse Square is rated as one of the top public spaces in the country by both the Project for Public Spaces and the American Planning Association.



URBAN CONTEXT







The Square is located just northeast of the heart of downtown Portland, in close proximity to much of Portland’s downtown retail.




PIONEER COURTHOUSE




The beautiful courthouse is just over 50,000 square feet in size. It was first completed circa 1875, and is listed as a National Register of Historic Places Landmark Structure. Its stately presence frames in the square, while in return, the open space contributes to the courthouse’s visual prominence.



VISITOR’S INFORMATION CENTER

A visitor’s information center is built right into the side of the square and surrounded by a large water feature.



“PORTLAND’S LIVING ROOM”

Providing not only a great destination, but also the perfect place to stroll while passing through


Whether you are catching a concert, eating lunch, or just people watching; the space’s flexible design provides plenty of seating.


The layout provides an excellent space for community festivals, performances, and movie nights!


The Square is considered the nerve center of downtown Portland—with some 26,000 residents, workers, and tourists interacting with it daily. And holds as many as 191 events in a single year!



MAX Light Rail







Pioneer Courthouse Square’s success was in many ways buoyed by a partnership with the local transit authority. Planned concurrently with the MAX light rail system, the Square functions as a vibrant transit hub.



HISTORY


The Square sits on a site that was once occupied by the “glorious Portland Hotel”, but that building was torn-down in 1951 to make way for a new surface parking lot. Pioneer Courthouse Square was officially opened on April 6, 1984 after years of planning and fundraising – including the sale of thousands of personalized bricks with which the Square was ultimately constructed.



sources:




FEEDBACK

What do you think? Would people in Oklahoma City use a public space like Pioneer Courthouse Square? Do you think we already have a downtown public space of this caliber? If we did try to build such a space, where should it go? What should it be near? Could it be built alongside the transit being considered for Maps3?



Oklahoman Park: OKC’S First Great Public Space

February 13th, 2009

In December 1902 Edward King Gaylord, upon the advice of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, ventured from St. Louis to Oklahoma City and purchased an interest from Roy Stafford in The Daily Oklahoman. He quickly set to work, applying his talent and expertise to improve and expand the paper.  By 1909 he had established himself as a valued civic leader, working with men like John Shartel and Anton Classen to establish Oklahoma City as the capitol of the new state and participating in other efforts that brought railroads and industry to the burgeoning prairie city.  He had also proved his abilities as a newspaper man, growing the business at a rapid pace.

A New Headquarters Building

The expanding paper outgrew its previous building, and in 1909 began construction of a new 5-story headquarters at the corner of 4th and Broadway. Designed by Layton & Smith, the same firm credited with the design of the Oklahoma State Capitol building,  the Oklahoman Building offers a majestic neo-classical facade that’s beauty endures to the present day. The paper continued to thrive and by 1923 was considering its future facility needs, buying up a series of lots between the Oklahoman Building and the Santa Fe tracks. This is the land that would become Oklahoma City’s first great public space!


On March 18, 1923, Edward King Gaylord offered company land to serve as Oklahoma City’s first downtown park (click to read)


A CLOSE IN PARK

In the 1920s Oklahoma City’s population doubled from 91,295 to 185,389 – moving up from the 80th to the 43rd largest city in the United States.  Despite the addition of large parks on the edge of town constructed as part of the 1910 Parks and Boulevard Plan and the existence of other quality open spaces, such as Belle Isle Amusement Park north of the city and Wheeler Park on the banks of the North Canadian River, the city still failed to provide the adequate public space for people living and working downtown.  This fact was not lost on E.K. Gaylord.  On March 18, 1923 he made this announcement on the front page of his paper:

“One of Oklahoma City’s greatest needs is a close in park.”

A search of the files of The Daily Oklahoman disclosed the fact that that statement had been published editorially more than a score of times in the last ten years.

And in order to “practice what it preaches,” The Oklahoma Publishing company has decided to help establish teh first down town park immediately



The park was located on the half block behind the Oklahoman building, starting at the alley on the west and extending east 275 feet to the publisher’s warehouse along the Santa Fe tracks. The depth of the park, from 4th street on the south to what used to be an alley running east-west through the center of the block on the north, was 140 feet, resulting in a park just under one acre in size.

This rendering shows the location of Oklahoman Park and the surrounding development (based on 1922 Sanborn Map – PDF).

Over the next six years Oklahoman Park greatly enhanced the quality of life in downtown, serving residents as an everyday park, and also as a central meeting place that hosted numerous downtown events, such as: sports broadcast, concerts, memorial services, and more.  It was so popular in fact that it once attracted more than 15,000 people for a single event, with crowds overflowing into the streets and blocking traffic.



Oklahoman Park Time Line


To give you an idea of how this park space served Oklahoma City over the years, I have put together a time line of some notable events.

OPENING DAY / July 11, 1923

On Wednesday, July 11, 1923 at 4:00pm, Oklahoman Park officially opened and treated those in attendance to a play-by-play presentation of the Oklahoma City Indians game versus Wichita, on a large “magnetic baseball board” that relayed the movement of the game from information provided by direct wire service.  The park was an instant success, as demonstrated by this photo of the crowd that was published in the next days paper.

MEMORIAL SERVICE / August 10, 1923

On this day Oklahoma Citians gathered in Oklahoman Park to pay tribute to President Warren G. Harding following his death.

BEDLAM FOOTBALL BROADCAST / October 27, 1923

The introduction of a new Football Gridgraph, a magnetic football board that displayed the game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the sound of the radio broadcast.  The Football Gridgraph (see below) was  used to display all of the college football games for the fans that couldn’t catch the train to Norman.

DRAPED IN WINTER REMNANTS / January 11, 1925

Oklahoman Park covered in snow.  This is only the second picture I have found of the park and gives some sense of how it fit behind the OPUBCO headquarters.

WORLD SERIES / October 6, 1926

Each year fans would gather to watch and listen to the broadcast of the World Series.  On this day they got a special treat as Babe Ruth set a World Series record by hitting three home runs in Game 4 of the series.

THE BATTLE OF THE LONG COUNT / September 22, 1927

On this day, crowds of Oklahoma City residents – between fifteen and sixteen thousand – turned out to listen to a broadcast of what would be known as The Battle of the Long Count, a boxing rematch between Heavyweight champion Gene Tunney and former champion Jack Dempsey, that was broadcast live from Soldier Field in Chicago.  The crowd was so large in fact that “long before the gong sounded on the first round, the crowds had overflowed across the streets,” blocking traffic on surround streets.  “It was an outing for Oklahoma City.”

THE END OF OKLAHOMAN PARK / July 7, 1929

From the start Mr. Gaylord knew that as some point the Oklahoman would need the land for the expansion of their facilities.  In 1929 that day finally came when the paper announced that construction of a new modern publishing plant was set to take place on the site of Oklahoman Park.  Oklahoman Park served the City’s residents for six years thanks to the generosity and vision of a great city leader.



A GREAT NEW PUBLIC SPACE


This great public space was a major amenity to downtown Oklahoma City.  It was more than just another park.   It helped meet the public space needs for surrounding residents and broader Oklahoma City community.  Just as E.K. Gaylord noted of the city in 1923, today Oklahoma City lacks high quality urban spaces like the Oklahoman Park. While we may no longer gather for radio broadcast or magnetic board displays, a small urban park at the corner of 4th and Broadway would be a welcome amenity to this area of downtown and would be utilized both on a daily basis and for numerous events and festivals.

Thankfully, the construction of the new Chamber Building provides the perfect opportunity to create a great new public space.  We can create a place that helps us meet our planning objectives and captures the essence of OKC’s first urban public space.  This public space will not compete with the planned Core 2 Shore park as it is quite some distance away and much, much smaller in scale.  What this place can do is improve pedestrian connectivity, provide a gathering place for festivals and events and offer a great place to eat lunch for CBD workers. This park would redefine this portion of downtown and enhance the potential for new development in all of the adjoining districts – especially Automobile Alley!

To get a better idea of how public spaces of this size can benefit urban communities today, we will next take a look at one of the United State’s great public spaces.

For more on the planning of the Chamber site:

1. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal
2. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II
3. Re-visioning the Chamber: Defining Objectives
4. Oklahoman Park: OKC’s First Great Public Space

Sources:

1. “Close In Park Offer of Paper to Citizens,” The Oklahoman, Mar 18, 1923, page 35
2. “Chance to See Ball Game Free is Offered in Daily Oklahoman Park,” The Oklahoman, Jul 11, 1923, page 1
3. “Crowd See Action of Game at Oklahoman Park,” The Oklahoman, Jul 12, 1923, page 1
4. “Heads to Bow for Memorial,” The Oklahoman, Aug 9, 1923, page 1
5. “Something New for Football Fans,” The Oklahoman, Oct 23, 1923, page 12
6. “Draped in Winter Raiments,” The Oklahoman, Jan 11, 1925, page 41
7. “Super-Service For Super-Series,” The Oklahoman, Oct 1, 1926, page 1
8. “Crowd in Park Cheers for Fight Winner,” The Oklahoman, Sep 23, 1927, page 1
9. “Modern Newspaper Home Soon to Rise in Oklahoman Park,” The Oklahoman, Jul 7, 1929, page 1

Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal

January 30th, 2009

By Blair Humphreys
August 2008
(for an explanation of the delayed posting, see here)

In 1939 Angelo C. Scott, an ‘89er and early civic leader, wrote in his book The Story of Oklahoma City:

“The Chamber of Commerce is the heart that pumps the life blood into the veins of the city. It is the hand-maid and the agent of the city, as vital to its progress as the city government is to its protection and control.”

These words are as true today as they were the day they were written. Following in the footsteps of men like Anton Classen, John Shartel, and Stanley Draper, today’s Chamber leadership has helped push Oklahoma City to new heights. The Chamber has been at the forefront of the City’s dramatic renaissance over the last fifteen years and now hopes to contribute directly to the revitalization of downtown by building a new headquarter’s building at the corner of Fourth and N. Broadway. Their vision calls for an iconic design capable of elevating the status of the Chamber and the City alike, while utilizing a site plan and layout that integrates the project into a rejuvenated downtown and provides for the growing needs of a 24/7 urban community.

The successful development of the new chamber building is critical to the sustained success of Oklahoma City’s ongoing renaissance. For many visitors to Downtown, the new Chamber building will shape their initial impressions of the City, as pointed out by civic leader and current Chamber Chairman Larry Nichols:

“The chamber is often the first place a new company comes when they look at investing in Oklahoma City, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomes tourists from all over the world.  The new chamber building will truly be a front door to our community, a way to make a lasting first impression of this dynamic and vibrant city.”

More importantly, the Chamber building will be a model for future downtown development. This is one of the first major projects to be implemented under the City’s new Downtown Design Guidelines and will establish precedents responsible for shaping the future of Downtown’s urban environment. While the soon-to-be-constructed Devon Tower will certainly have a more noticeable effect on the City’s skyline, the new chamber building’s potential to positively influence the experience of pedestrians downtown is unmatched. The building will sit in a pivotal location at the nexus of multiple centers of downtown activity and the project presents a rare opportunity to improve downtown mobility by mending the historic urban fabric that was severed nearly four decades ago by the Pei Plan.

It is clear that improving the pedestrian experience downtown is now a major priority of the city. The aforementioned Downtown Design Guidelines were adopted with the intention of making OKC’s downtown a “vital mixed-use area” containing “a network of pleasant public spaces and pedestrian amenities.” The Chamber has thus far embraced this idea; Chamber President Roy Williams has indicated that he wants this project to be the start of a discussion on how to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

“The reality is that’s a troublesome intersection there,” Williams said. “When Gaylord was put through (in the early 1970s) it created unusual pieces of property and an unusual traffic configuration. It’s not pedestrian friendly. It’s not friendly for crossing. And we see where people might want to walk to us from their offices downtown or from the convention center.”

The Chamber has gone out of their way to ensure that the design for the site would live up to these lofty expectations. They reviewed design concepts from a handful of architects before selecting Allen Brown with Frankfurt-Short-Bruza. Brown’s architectural talent has already been demonstrated by his design for the Donald W. Reyolds Visual Arts Center. The project, which was completed in 2002, is home to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and can be credited with helping to rejuvenate the city’s Arts District.

Despite the best efforts of the Chamber, the recently released designs for the new building (see below) do not meet their stated expectations, nor are they in keeping with the spirit of the city’s Downtown Design Guidelines.

The proposal calls for a 50,000 square foot building to be positioned away from the street, near the center of the three-acre site, and flanked by an expansive surface parking lot. The resulting density is problematic. With a floor area ratio (FAR) less that 0.40, the site will be less dense than a typical two-story suburban office complex. Further, the area’s need for pedestrian amenities and usable public space are not effectively met. The lack of density seemingly leaves a significant amount of area for this public space, but instead the land is either utilized for surface parking or is rendered useless to pedestrians as one of the small landscape buffers, each isolated by retaining walls that will prevent pedestrian use.

While the “Commerce Circle” appears to represent a significant pedestrian improvement, it is little more than an attempt to dress-up the six lanes of traffic that pedestrians will still be forced to cross. [Note: This aspect of the original plan is not present in the most recent site plan (shown above) and what remains of the circle has been renamed "Commerce Plaza".]  In the end, the proposal does little to improve pedestrian friendliness in the area and may even be seen to exacerbate the existing problems for persons walking to downtown from the Flatiron District by adding more surface parking and creating new barriers.

In truth, the majority of the responsibility for the current proposal’s problems belongs to neither the Chamber nor their very capable architect, rather it is a result of the fundamentally flawed planning done by I.M. Pei all those years ago. Pei’s plan was focused on making the central business district car-accessible. He never imagined that pedestrians would be attempting to cross what is now E.K Gaylord, so while he envisioned a pedestrian friendly central business district, the area east of Broadway was planned for cars. Fred Kent, the Founder and President of Project for Public Spaces, who spoke at Oklahoma City’s 2007 Mayor’s Development Round Table says:

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”

This has certainly been the case with this area of Oklahoma City. The only way for the objectives of the Downtown Design Guidelines to be met and the full vision of the Chamber leadership be realized is for I.M. Pei’s planning for “cars and traffic” to give way to new planning for “people and places.” The Chamber cannot be expected to fix these problems alone, but requires the partnership of the City – and the support of all those that desire a vital urban center – in boldly re-visioning this portion of downtown. Time is certainly an issue, and such a re-visioning will require some delays, but the new chamber building is of such importance that we must take whatever time is necessary to ensure that it is done right!

Continue reading: Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II

For more on the planning of the Chamber site:

1. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal
2. Re-visioning the Chamber Proposal, part II
3. Re-visioning the Chamber: Defining Objectives
4. Oklahoman Park: OKC’s First Great Public Space

Monday Morning Quarterback

January 27th, 2009

From The Oklahoman’s Monday Morning Quarterbacks discussing my post on Oklahoma City’s #2 fattest city ranking:

Talking, not walking
We beat Miami! Um, no. Not in basketball. Miami was the only city Oklahoma City beat in recent fattest cities list from the magazine Men’s Fitness. Blogger Blair Humphreys, an Oklahoma City native studying in Boston, wrote at imaginativeamerica.com that despite the citywide diet, our fair city bumped up the list and is “just a few burgers away” from taking the cake. Humphreys wrote that Mayor Mick Cornett’s diet plan didn’t seem to help the ranking and that better-performing cities seemed to have planning and policies that encouraged more activity. “As for OKC,” he wrote, “we are talking the talk, but we are simply not walking anywhere.”

Well, not sure if this is the post I would have preferred to get press for and I take offense to being called a “Monday Morning Quarterback” as I have been pushing for better planning and improvements in walkability since before the citywide diet was created and certainly before the Men’s Fitness rankings were released. But oh well, I guess it will have to do.

I think one of my earlier comments sums up my take on the whole thing:

I will join you in tipping my hat to the Mayor for creating more awareness of the problem, but also encourage anyone and everyone to take serious the impact that our built form and public infrastructure has on the health of OKC residents!

Hopefully, this will be the start of a bigger conversation about the limitations of our wholly auto-focused infrastructure and how it hinders people’s ability to live a healthier lifestyle.  I am really not worried about what Men’s Fitness thinks of us, but I am worried about improving the quality of life in OKC!  And we need to take seriously the health consequences associated with the way we are currently planning and developing our city.

If this is your first time to visit – welcome – and please check out my best posts of 2008 to get a better feel for the regular content.  Thanks!

Classifying Open Space: Small or Neighborhood Parks

January 20th, 2009

This is part 4/6 in a series overviewing The Normal Requirements of American Towns and Cities in Respect to Public Open Spaces, an article written by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and John Nolen that appeared in Charities and the Commons journal of social work in 1906.

Boston’s Public Garden is a wonderful neighborhood park enjoyed by people from across the city.

Under this heading may be included grounds of from 10 to 100 or even 200 acres in area. Except in extent such parks are not essentially different in the purpose they serve and the character of their design from city squares and gardens. But this difference in extent affords an opportunity for a degree of breadth and freedom that is unobtainable in the smaller grounds.

Hundreds of acres seems rather large for a “small or neighborhood” park.  Oklahoma City’s new “Central Park” will only be around 30 acres, so it would fall into this class in terms of size, but will likely include programming that serves a much broader audience than would be normal.

On the other hand the seclusion from the city and the broad and beautiful natural scenery that characterize the larger “rural” parks can not here be had.  Yet small passages of interesting and agreeable scenery are often possible. This scenery can seldom be natural in appearance but it can often be quite beautiful, a certain elaboration, elegance and even magnificence taking the place of the more quiet and restful simplicity of the large park in a way that appeals yery obviously to many people. And there is, therefore, more or less tendency to develop large parks in the same direction. It is unfortunate that it should be so, for these ends can be attained almost as well upon small parks as upon large, and therefore it is clearly a mistake to treat a large park in this style. It is because more cities have small parks of this elaborate and what might be called gardenesque character than have large and simple rural parks that many people have a perverted conception of what constitutes a park.

Okay, so small parks are more formal and programmed, while large parks do not have to be so programmed.  Rather wordy, but apparently the point was important in the park design and planning world of the early 1900s.  And it is a point well taken: it is difficult to create a pastoral experience in a small park that is of any use.  You can’t hide the fact that you are still in the city.  Likewise, it is all but impossible to formally program every inch of a large park, which is more suited to serving as an escape from the city.

These small parks are frequently used for the display of interesting and showy flowering shrubs and trees and make a feature of fountains, statues and other sculpture. In moderation such objects, together with terraces and other architectural work, are entirely appropriate and desirable in parks of this class and add much to the effect of elegance and richness, for the enjoyment is closely related to that offered by architecture and decorative design and other pleasures forming a part of daily city life.

The neighborhood park is thus one that provides a place for contemplation, memorialization, the appreciation of beauty, etc; but remains connected to the urban fabric that it serves.  The park may be a garden, such as Boston’s Public Garden.  Or, contain a mixture of programming that includes some elements of a playground, such as Oklahoma City’s Memorial Park on the corner of 36th and Western:

This is one category in which Oklahoma City seems to grade fairly well – at least in the close in parts of the city developed prior to WWII.  There are actually a number of great neighborhood parks and even more that have all of the potential and just need a little TLC.

Maps 3 Coming Soon…

January 16th, 2009

Checking out the Mayor’s state of the city address, it is exciting to see him talk about the need for public transit, stating that “the time has come.”  It looks like Maps 3 will focus on:

  1. Public Transit
  2. The Core to Shore Central Park
  3. And a new convention center

Here is a lengthy excerpt from Mayor Cornett’s speech:

But today, I am here to tell you that there is much work to be done. And while our momentum is still moving, and our position relative to the rest of the United States is strong, now is not the time to slow down.

So now let us view the city with fresh eyes, concentrating not so much on what we have but what we don’t have. To begin with, look around the country. From a quality of life perspective, there are two high profile shortcomings, two areas that, if addressed, would dramatically further our ascension as a city where people want to live.

The first is public transportation. The second is a centrally located, large public park. Let me expand on these two topics.

Providing quality public transit in Oklahoma City is a difficult task. We were built around the automobile, and as a result, we are spread out. We don’t have the density to easily do it well. We don’t have the density to do it efficiently. So, we have built-in excuses. We have developed into a city where if you don’t own a car, you are out of luck.
But if we truly want to progress as a city, we have to do better.

I have told you that in these addresses before. During my five years in office, I have used this platform to push this conversation forward. Today, I am here to tell you that the time has arrived to take another step.

I urge each of you to check out the Fixed Guideway Study that provides our blueprint for a 21st Century transit system. It can be found at on the Internet at OKFGS.org.

Fully implemented, it calls for a greatly enhanced bus system, including Bus Rapid Transit, and there are also light rail and downtown streetcar components. This blueprint is complete. You may recall we spent a year and a half on the study.

We now know enough to get started, and there are a number of places we can start. But the key is that we need to get started. Not so much for today, because we are not in a public transit crisis. But transit programs take years, if not decades, to implement. Most cities wait until their highways are at gridlock before they begin taking action. Our city has a history of planning for the future, and now is the time to get started. It will take vision from each and every one of us. When gas if affordable and traffic runs smoothly, it can be difficult to gather support for public transit. I will need your help.

The large central park in the Core to Shore project is also critical to our city’s future, and necessary to our ability to adapt to the relocation of Interstate 40. A year ago, in this State of the City address, I showed you the first conceptual images of the Core to Shore project.

Since then you’ve seen them in many other places, and you’ve probably followed the announcement of the first signature project, the Oklahoma City SkyDance pedestrian bridge over the new I-40.

We have never built anything like this before in Oklahoma City, and this bridge will become an iconic image for the millions of motorists who pass through our city. Let this be the first signal that we are serious about Core to Shore, and it also serves notice that we are raising the standards for design in this city. But there is much more to Core to Shore.

The Core to Shore plan is the result of a large and inclusive civic planning process, and it illustrates the benefits of building a large central park that connects the core of downtown to the shore of the Oklahoma River. Also central to the project is the at-grade boulevard that will replace the current I-40. This boulevard won’t just be a street that gets you from point A to point B. With this boulevard, we have the opportunity to create one of the most special streets in the United States.

This opportunity comes upon us because of the relocation of I-40. That relocation will remove the physical barrier that has separated downtown from the River and everything in between. Now, we have the opportunity few cities ever get. We can create a new urban center, just blocks from our central business district. The park and the boulevard are the lynchpins, and they serve as the catalyst for future retail, housing, and a potential Convention Center, which I’ll discuss in a moment.

A fully programmed urban park that ties to the Myriad Gardens and retail development along the new boulevard will be yet another eye-popping signal that Oklahoma City is moving forward. Combined with a public transit system that we can be proud of, a citywide sidewalk program that is already under construction, and a growing trend toward density in the inner-city, the park can be another giant step towards creating the pedestrian-friendly community that we desire. The timeline is doable. Keep in mind, the interstate should be relocated in 2012. The resulting boulevard that will be built along the current interstate alignment should be in place by 2014. The park, ideally, needs to be ready at the same time, roughly five years from now. But like an expansion of public transit, the park is not currently funded.

Together, better public transit and the creation of the Core to Shore park are significant “quality of life” amenities. You have heard me say before that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I suggest that for transit and the Core to Shore park, that time has come.

You have heard me say before that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I suggest that for transit and the Core to Shore park, that time has come.

The only decisions left are how we proceed and how soon.

And while these two initiatives are focused directly on the quality of life for our residents, we have a third important opportunity that focuses directly on our economy and indirectly on job creation. And that is a resolution to our undersized, and thus underutilized, convention center. We are in it today. This building was constructed in 1972 and was last improved in 1999. In 1999, we had one downtown hotel and it wasn’t doing all that well. Now we are soon to have seven downtown hotels and counting. And it appears they are all healthy. But we are currently losing convention business we could otherwise obtain because of the size of this facility.

Kudos to the Mayor for taking a stand on public transit.  The time truly has come!  Designing the park and deciding on the details of the transit system will give us plenty to discuss in the coming months.  And I look forward also to arguing why the placement of a new convention center along the length of the eastern edge of the new park is nothing short of a terrible idea!  You would think one under utilized downtown park ruined by an adjacent convention center would be enough, but apparently we want another one.

Time is of the essence – if they are going to put this to a vote in the fall then the plans will have to be nearly complete sometime this summer.  But for now, Maps3 is on the horizon and public transit is coming with it – enjoy it.  It is a good day!

OKC #2 Fattest City in America (without the P-H)

January 15th, 2009

This just in…Oklahoma City has been ranked the #2 Fattest city in America by Men’s Fitness.  That means amidst all of the dieting we have been doing, we have still managed to slide six spots in the rankings and are just a few burgers away from becoming #1.  A couple of the magazine’s comments that hit closest to home:

Basketball courts are practically nonexistent here, among the fewest per capita in our survey. There’s just one court here for every 12,162 residents; the national average is one court per 6,909 people.

Even recreational walking – about the easiest fitness activity anywhere – can’t attract participants in Oklahoma City, where people are 14 percent less likely than average to go for a walk, the 4th lowest rate of any city in our survey.

Hmm…are planning and public health related?  It appears so.  This does remind me that I need to get back to finishing the series on parks and public-space.  But until then, here is more info on the rankings…

OKLAHOMA CITY’S FITNESS REPORT CARD

  • Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: C+
  • Nutrition: F
  • Sports Participation: C+
  • TV Viewing: F+
  • Overweight/Sedentary: F
  • Junk Food: C-
  • Air Quality: B-
  • Geography: F+
  • Commute: A
  • Parks & Open Space: F+
  • City Rec Facilities: D-
  • Access to Healthcare: A-
  • Motivation: F+
  • Mayor & City Initiatives: C-
  • State Obesity Initiatives: D+

They add:

Oklahoma City lost points in our Motivation category for poor participation rates in running, biking and walking despite high air quality.

Ouch Charlie! That hurts! And a F+ in parks and open space!  That really hurts and its still hurting.

ALL THE FATTEST CITIES

So who was number one?  Miami, yeh, who would have thought.  We are fitter than Miami!  Hooray, this is great news! I mean Miami has the sun, the ocean, and salsa music…and we still dominated them.  But other than that, all of the news for OKC is pretty dismal.  Here is the complete list of fattest cities:

1. Miami, FL
2. Oklahoma City, OK
3. San Antonio, TX
4. Las Vegas, NV
5. New York, NY
6. Houston, TX
7. El Paso, TX
8. Jacksonville, FL
9. Charlotte, NC
10. Louisville-Jefferson, KY
11. Memphis, TN
12. Detroit, MI
13. Chicago, IL
14. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
15. San Jose, CA
16. Tulsa, OK
17. Baltimore, MD
18. Columbus, OH
19. Raleigh, NC
20. Philadelphia, PA
21. L.A.-Long Beach, CA
22. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
23. Indianapolis, IN
24. San Diego, CA
25. Kansas City, MO

Obviously, Dallas and Houston are expected.  Also interesting to see Charlotte and Indianapolis, two cities we seem to want to emulate.  But maybe it has something to do with being in this part of the country…?

Perhaps.  It does seem to have some correlation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome it.

AMERICA’S FITTEST CITIES

1. Salt Lake City, UT
2. Colorado Springs, CO
3. Minneapolis, MN
4. Denver, CO
5. Albuquerque, NM
6. Portland, OR
7. Honolulu, HI
8. Seattle, WA
9. Omaha, NE
10. Virginia Beach, VA
11. Milwaukee, WI
12. San Francisco, CA
13. Tucson, AZ
14. Boston, MA
15. Cleveland, OH
16. St. Louis, MO
17. Austin, TX
18. Washington, DC
19. Sacramento, CA
20. Oakland, CA
21. Atlanta, GA
22. Fresno, CA
23. Tampa, FL
24. Nashville-Davidson, TN
25. Pittsburgh, PA

Wait, why is Omaha in the top ten?  Surely we can be as fit as the people in Omaha.  I mean, we beat them in football.  Seriously though, there seems overall to be a very strong correlation between the type of urban form a city has and the fitness of its people.  Obviously there are a few anomalies that give us pause – like why is NYC on the fattest and Atlanta on the fittest – but there are a host of other factors that likely account for these discrepancies.  Variables such as climate, geography, age of population, ethnicity, and policy might all impact the fitness of a city.

Some cities are regulating eateries to help citizens make more informed, healthier eating decisions (click to enlarge).

Unfortunately, I don’t see anywhere that we got bonus points for our city-wide diet campaign, apparently the people conducting the test don’t know the inherent health benefits of Taco Bell’s fresco crunchy tacos!  There seems to be a higher priority placed on policies that affect measurable change.  So give credit to NYC for helping consumers make more informed eating decisions and for using its street infrastructure to encourage health and activity.  And to Boston for its city-wide ban on trans fat. And to Portland for their focus on providing first-class bike lane infrastructure.

As for OKC, we are talking the talk, but we are simply not walking anywhere.

For more details on the rankings, click here.