Posts tagged with downtown

Why I Voted YES For MAPS 3!

December 4th, 2009


I heard an ad on the radio today explaining that a vote for MAPS 3 is a vote for: more jobs, healthy living, and public safety.  The ad was paid for by the YESforMAPS campaign, so I guess it makes sense that it seemed carefully engineered to convince people to vote yes. In the midst of a major recession, who doesn’t like more jobs. And when you live in America’s #2 Fattest City, supporting healthy living seems like a good idea.  And public safety, who could vote against public safety.*  But I didn’t like the ad.  In fact, I hated it.  Because in the midst of the calculated message they failed to focus on the primary reason people should vote yes for MAPS 3.  In fact, it is the only reason I voted yes (I voted early), and it is a major factor in me and my wife’s recent decision to move back to Oklahoma City.  That is – MAPS has improved and will continue to improve quality of life in Oklahoma City!

MAPS 3 will add streetcar transit to downtown

The original MAPS was an effort to enhance quality of life in Oklahoma City and it has been an overwhelming success.  The laundry list of development, investment, and improvements that have occurred as a result has been recounted so many times that it serves little purpose to create one more such list.  But let me sum up the impact like this: Everday my life in Oklahoma City is made better as a direct result of MAPS.  If you live or work near downtown, or enjoy attending sporting events, or own a house that has a appreciated as a result – MAPS has made your life better too.  And our improved quality of life has brought with it a new sense of community pride.  People all over the city are proud of what we have accomplished, are working each day to make our city better than the day before, and, like me, look to the future with a hope and optimism that only a few quixotic visionaries might have had 16 years ago.


MAPS3 can build upon this success and ensure that our hopes and dreams today become line items on tomorrow’s laundry list of accomplishments.  MAPS3 will – without a doubt – improve the quality of life in Oklahoma City!  MAPS3 could provide our city with a park capable of serving as a physical heart and a gathering place for the whole community, something which has been conspicuously absent since the hastily planned grids laid out 120 years ago.  And after enduring almost a half century of a over-engineered drainage ditch, and only just now beginning to appreciate the benefits of having a waterway with actual water, MAPS3 could transform the Oklahoma River into, not only an elite international rowing venue, but an incredible recreational playground for the entire city to enjoy – whether as participant or spectator.  Finally, MAPS3 could provide the beginnings of a meaningful transit system by making areas around downtown accessible sans automobile.  Hopefully the future will bring a regional system that provides broader service, but either way, a legitimate downtown transit system will be a necessary first step for making a more expansive solution possible.

That is why I am voting yes for MAPS3.  Do I like all of the projects?  No.  But this is not MAPSforBlair; MAPS is an exercise in successful community compromise and MAPS3 is the most aggressive test yet of this principle.  You might not like all of the projects either, or are perhaps insulted by the simplistic rhetoric being spewed by both sides, BUT if you believe the city should continue working to improve our quality of life, you should vote yes for MAPS3 on December 8th.

* ironically it seems the answer is – according to the radio ad – police and firemen.

What national retailers do not understand about OKC

August 29th, 2009


Just read over at OKC Central that Wholefoods is planning to open a store in Oklahoma City at the Classen Curve, the Aubrey McClendon funded retail vision of Rand Elliott. This is great news!  My wife Maggie (who is an amazing cook) has always been frustrated by the options Oklahoma City offers on things like cheeses, produce, and other specialty items.  In truth, her first choice would be Trader Joe’s – great selection and great value.  She assures me OKC people would like Trader Joe’s more too,  but either way,  a Whole Foods will certainly increase the selection available in Oklahoma City, which is definitely a good thing.

The Classen Curve

What is not a good thing in my opinion, or at least not the best thing, is the apparent location of the new store.  The Classen Curve is hidden away, comparatively poorly accessible, and does not address the need for better grocery options closer to downtown.  My guess is the people at Whole Foods have studied the situation and determined that this location is better than than anything else available, but I don’t think they fully understand our city.  One thing about OKC, that few national retailers seem to grasp, is that the city consists of a patchwork of neighborhoods with varying socioeconomic attributes. And, while there is not a conical epicenter of wealth (Nichols Hills? No, it drops off considerably in almost every direction), there are a number of higher-income nodes that are very accessible to each other, due to: minimal traffic congestion, efficient (i.e. overbuilt) roads, and ample highways. While the immediate demographic ring study may not compare favorably for an area like 10th and Broadway, the location remains very accessible to anyone working downtown, anyone living throughout the historic central city neighborhoods, and anyone as far north as downtown Edmond who wishes to shop at Whole Foods and is willing to drive approx. 15-20 minutes on Broadway Extension to get there.  A typical demographic ring study that might make a more congested and more consistently segregated city look good for retail, will not demonstrate, what is really, a collectively strong buying power available in Oklahoma City.

A study that disproves the weaknesses of Oklahoma City’s income demographics, by proving that the accessibility of buying power is favorable (even if the proximity is not), might help the City to attract similar retailers in the future and draw them to locations that make more sense.  Who knows, maybe it would even convince another grocer like, oh, say….Trader Joe’s to open a store downtown.

By the way, Napa is beautiful.  We are having a great time!…And I still very much look forward to the day we move back to Oklahoma 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:

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.

Read Jeff Speck’s OKC Walkability Report

June 29th, 2009

If you haven’t already, check out Jeff Speck’s recommendations for downtown Oklahoma City. This report will be at the center of much discussion over the next few years and I think it is important for everyone interested in downtown to become familiar with the concepts – whether you agree with his recommendations or not. I have uploaded it so that you can view it online (just click below) without having to download it, or if you prefer to download it, that option is available as well.

Click here to download the report in .pdf

Why public-transit is falling off the MAPS 3 track

May 18th, 2009

Just four months ago, Mayor Mick Cornett laid out the priorities for MAPS 3 in his State of the City address.

The Mayor said:

“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.”

The third project mentioned in the speech was for a non-quality of life element: a new convention center.

But fast forward four months later and you might be wondering what has happened. The campaign for a new convention center has been ratcheted up with the “release” of a pro-convention Chamber study and a coordinated media blitz, all topped off by a carefully orchestrated Mayor’s Development Roundtable that featured multiple “experts” (i.e. industry insiders that are unapologetically bias) brought in to propagate the pro-convention message. Meanwhile, public transit has received less, and less attention.


On April 16-17, members of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce gathered in Stillwater for their annual Chamber Board Retreat. At the retreat, members of the Chamber’s board and board of advisors, along with top city hall officials, were presented a range of projects to be included in MAPS 3. It doesn’t appear that regular members of the media were invited to attend, but Leland Gourley, owner of the Friday newspaper, is a member of the Chamber board and offered this overview of the retreat in a April 24 editorial entitled, “Time to act on Maps 3.”

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has heard presentations on a number of projects that could be included in MAPS 3.

Five of them are [numbering and bold-type added for legibility – bh]:

1. Development of the South Side of the Oklahoma River;
2. Building a new, large Convention Center;
3. Create a huge, several block downtown park;
4. Add some needed buildings at the State Fair Park; and
5. Build a new research building in the Health Sciences Center.

1. The River Plan would cost $100 million and would be for development of the South Side. The North Side already is booming with private investors building boat houses and vendor shops. It already has built a national reputation. It has become, in the view of many rowing competitors, the best rowing facility in the nation. Ivy league colleges love it. It is a mecca for boaters with more boat houses.

But we need to develop the South Side of the River with emphasis on spectators. We can build a stadium to accommodate huge crowds to watch the races. Improvements could include family-type facilities. The plan calls for a foot bridge across the river, and within a proposed $100 million budget there would be $20 million to complete the American Indian museum on a hill by the river.

2. The New Convention Center proposal would cost $400 million and would put Oklahoma City up to the next tier of convention cities. We could keep the Cox Convention Center for mid-sized conventions, and draw on a whole other growing group of major size conventions. Lots of them.

Scores of professional convention locators have visited Oklahoma City and have been overwhelmed with the wonderful attractions we have here. They WANT to come to Oklahoma City but we are way down the list in size of accommodations, meeting space and exhibit space. So they just can’t come here. Millions of dollars are lost to our OKC economy because of this. Thousands and thousands of new jobs would be created by a new, large convention center. This is a top priority need for Oklahoma City’s future growth benefitting all.

3. A new downtown park is a vital need for Oklahoma City. We do not have a huge downtown park like most progressive big cities already have. A giant park, with underground parking the same size under it would be a great draw and an A-plus for our city. Initial studies say it could be accomplished for $100 million.

4. State Fair Buildings. To stay at the top in the type of competition in which our State Fair Ground is engaged, some new, enlarged buildings, estimated to cost around $76 mil would keep us in the running for year-around events.

5. Health Center Research Building. For $24 million, we could have a facility that could attract millions of research dollars from outside.

Other projects. After the above suggested projects, $300 million would be left for others.

Wait, why isn’t public transit on this list? And where the heck did the river plan come from?

It is not a coincidence that Mr. Gourley failed to put public-transit on the list. Rick Caine, Director of the Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority (COTPA), gave a presentation of COTPA’s MAPS 3 proposal at the meeting. A presentation that apparently failed to inspire the business leaders in attendance. In contrast, Mike Knopp, the “driving force behind the development of rowing” on the Oklahoma River, dazzled the audience with a presentation of ideas for redeveloping the river.

So river plan in, public-transit out.


Of course, we could have seen this coming. Knowing that public-transit was a top priority for MAPS 3, perhaps we shouldn’t have relied on the planning, leadership, and vision for the system to come from COTPA, a transit authority that specializes in parking, and has a long, long record of poor performance.

I have long suspected that COTPA would not be up to the task of overseeing the implementation public-transit for MAPS 3. On February 3, I commented at OKC Central the following:

Any idea how many of the more successful urban transportation departments are also charged with providing downtown parking? Or leasing bad retail space?

COTPA is broken – period. I can only hope that we won’t let this organization influence the planning and management of the new transit improvements that are to be included in Maps3. We need to take a step back and think about what it is going to take to have an effective transit system, focused on moving people, and doing so with excellence.

It is not all COTPA’s fault that they perform poorly. The duties they are given, along with a severe lack of funding, have set them up to fail. But fail they have and it is time to move on.

I say all of this with the full knowledge that there are
great people there, some of whom are working hard and doing a great job. Still, moving forward, we need something better than what COTPA has to offer.

Unfortunately, COTPA was chosen to oversee the MAPS 3 transportation pitch and has failed to deliver. If things continue at the current pace, then the people of Oklahoma City – who overwhelmingly supported transit in the MAPS 3 online survey – will be left with nothing more than a token gesture and unfulfilled transit dreams reminiscent of the original MAPS.


In my opinion, the focus of a MAPS 3 transit system should be to create a transit-connected downtown. The immediate need is for an streetcar network that connects to existing assets (e.g. Bricktown, CBD, hotels, ford center, etc) and emerging assets (housing, Devon, Automobile Alley, new convention center, new Central Park, etc). This downtown streetcar system would represent a first step towards a more comprehensive metro-wide system with light-rail/commuter-rail to Norman and Edmond, and an enhanced BRT bus-network servicing a broader area of the city.

Plus, in the meantime, the system would benefit people living and working in downtown, as well as visitors, by providing a “park-once” environment. Basically, the idea is that once people park their car, they are able to experience everything downtown has to offer without getting back into their car between stops.

Jeff Bezdek and Mark Gibbs have stepped up the campaign for public-transit with Modern Transit Project. Transit proponents still have some work to do. The route recommendation that came out of the fixed guideway study is insufficient. The single meandering line proposed attempts to do too much, resulting in a system that: is overally costly, hinders future expansion, and fails to activate areas of potential. Regardless, there is still time to refine the plans. The first thing we need to do is ensure that transit is a meaningful part of MAPS 3, so people need to get behind the efforts of Jeff and Mark, and ask City Hall not to do a repeat performance of the original MAPS, delivering all that was promised except for public-transit.


I think it is time for city leaders to make some commitments on MAPS 3. So here are a few questions that I would like to see answered sooner, rather than later.

Convention Center
It is clear that a convention center is a major priority. I am not campaigning against it and I am really not against the idea; I have reservations about the process and location, but let’s save that for another post. Here are my questions for now:

– How much will be spent? (if you haven’t noticed the cost of a convention center has dropped $150 million over the last few weeks from $400mil down to $250milI guess we found a coupon)

– How much public money will be spent on the planned convention center hotel?

– How much of the $100 million planned for the MAPS 3 downtown park, will be used for the parking structure which will serve the needs of both the downtown park and convention center.

The River Plan

I think the river is a tremendous asset and excited to hear there are good ideas flowing, but it is time for all of this to be made public.

– What will it include?

– Why haven’t we seen or heard anything about it?

Public Transit

– If public-transit is really a major priority, as the Mayor earlier claimed it is, then doesn’t it deserve the effort and funding being put forth for other projects set to be included in MAPS 3?

Say what you want about the old Cox Convention Center, but its level of insufficiency pales in comparison to the sorry state of public-transit in Oklahoma City. If the request of city leaders is going to be granted in the form of a MAPS3 convention center, then the request of the people should be granted in the form of a MAPS3 public-transit system.

It is time for a commitment. It is time for a plan. It is time for public-transit in Oklahoma City. Anything short of a complete downtown streetcar network, is simply not good enough.

The Flatiron

February 27th, 2009

Thought you might enjoy seeing the new video of The Flatiron project being developed by Humphreys Company.  In case you didn’t already know, the Humphreys Company is headed up by my brother Grant and father Kirk.  They are working on some really exciting developments including the adaptive re-use of this historic flatiron building.  I have also posted an email sent out by Grant (with his permission) letting you know how the economy is affecting the development schedule and how you can help get this project going.  Check it out and if you are interested then follow the link to their site and find out more.

Have a great weekend!


The Flatiron: Oklahoma City, OK from imagiNATIVEamerica on Vimeo.



From: Grant Humphreys
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 5:03 PM
Subject: THE FLATIRON – A SYMBOL OF RESILIENCE – of our downtown, of our city, of our Oklahoma spirit

Across the nation, the economic crisis has forced many development projects to be put on hold or brought to an end. Yet Oklahoma City, despite some very real economic downturns, continues to prove itself as one of the most resilient markets in America.

After almost three years of design and due diligence, our project known as ‘The Flatiron’ is poised to become a reality. When the construction of this project begins at the gateway of downtown OKC, The Flatiron will deliver the message that Oklahoma City is still in the game. Watching this new 5-story mixed-use project be built will boost confidence in our market and help maintain or increase property values as well. No doubt the Devon Tower will deliver this same message around the world, but we’re the small business version that is ready to go. But we need YOUR help.

We need YOUR help to meet our pre-leasing hurdle. The Flatiron will create more than 73,000 RSF of Class ‘A’ office and retail space ideally located at the gateway to downtown, Bricktown and the Oklahoma Health Center. Our asking rates are $22/RSF (gross) for loft office and $22/RSF (net) for street level retail (with CPI bumps). We need credit tenants willing to sign a 5-year lease. Local tenants are great. Once we’ve pre-leased 50% of this space, we will move towards an exciting groundbreaking event. We want to work with brokers. So bring me a deal. With your help, we can meet this goal . . . and you’ll be the first invited to the party!

All the information you need is available online at You can find floor plans, marketing brochures and a video of the project. Make a point to watch the video. It’s awesome.

Dave Ortloff, our Director of Marketing, is handling the broker relations. He’s here for you. If you’d like to arrange a tour or receive more information about this exciting project, just call Dave at (405) 228-1000 (ext 4). His contact information is also on the website referenced above.

Let’s work together to show everyone that, despite the rest of the nation, the real estate market in Oklahoma City is alive and well. I appreciate your help!



Find out more by visiting their website at:!

Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square

February 18th, 2009



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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.



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)


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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


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

ULI Oklahoma: Bringing Retail to the City

January 21st, 2009

Before I headed north for grad school, I had the pleasure of getting involved with ULI and the new District Council in Oklahoma City.  ULI – yes, the same ULI hosting the competition in which I am currently participating – stands for the Urban Land Institute and they are without a doubt the premiere land planning and development organization in the world today. Over the last few years ULI Oklahoma has come into being and is now putting on a number of great events that bring relevant development, land-use, and urban experts to Oklahoma City, creating: a source for great information, a forum for the exchange of ideas, and a platform to influence the future of OKC’s development for the better.

ULI’s latest event is a can’t miss for anyone interested in bringing retail to OKC’s urban neighborhoods – especially downtown – or if you are just wanting to hear Jane Jenkins’, the new Executive Director of Downtown, Inc, thoughts on urban retail.  The event is in two weeks on Wednesday, February 4th from 11:30am – 1:00pm. Check out the description below and then head to sign up.  Tickets cost $40.

Urban Land Institute, International Council of Shopping Centers and Commercial Real Estate Council Presents


February 4, 2009 11:30am – 1:00pm
Skirvin Hilton Hotel, Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City is at the center of national attention. The debut of Oklahoma City’s new NBA franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder, has the community excited. Successfully hosting the Beijing Olympic qualifying trials for kayaking and canoeing along the Oklahoma River has solidified the city’s big league reputation. Devon Energy Corporation recently announced the construction of the state’s tallest building, a 54- story skyscraper in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City. The U. S. Conference of Mayors and the National Main Street Center have scheduled their respective annual conventions for 2010 in Oklahoma City. Now, the impact of Oklahoma City’s bold new development plan, Core to Shore, is just beginning to unfold!

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett

Oklahoma City Mayor, Mick Cornett, stands for efficient government and responsible leadership, and has worked to promote an inclusive and optimistic vision of Oklahoma City, one driven by bold ideas. Join Mayor Cornett to become a part of this vision, as we explore the future and challenges ahead for Oklahoma City. Cornett’s humble nature, intense work ethic and optimistic attitude have become emblematic of a city that, as Cornett says, “works hard and dreams big.” As the global economy changes, Oklahoma City is positioning itself to become a national leader in urban development.

For the last two years, Mayor Cornett has championed an effort to transform over 1,000 acres of underutilized and vacant properties between the downtown core and the Oklahoma River. His community-wide steering committee created a plan to expand downtown to the river. The plan is called Core to Shore. The bold new plan positions Oklahoma City to become a tier-two convention city with a new convention center, convention center hotel, grand scale park flanked by high density retail, office and residential communities. Complimenting the plan are multi-modal areas for walking, biking, scooters, public transit, biking trails, promenades, an events center, a renovated Union Train Station, a pedestrian bridge spanning the relocated Interstate-40,schools and areas to support expanded services like daycares, cultural centers, and health and wellness centers. The plan also strengthens links to Oklahoma City’s newest river developments, including the American Indian Cultural Center, the Chesapeake Boathouse, University Boathouse Row, and the Dell Corporation headquarters.


Brad Segal will present the:

“Top 10 Global Trends Affecting Downtowns and How to Respond at Home”

Brad Segal is president of Progressive Urban Management Associates (P.U.M.A.), a consulting firm specializing in strategic problem-solving for downtowns and communities. The firm has developed an unprecedented body of research that analyzes the top changes, draws conclusions and recommends tangible actions. In consultation with the International Downtown Association, the firm has identified ten major trends affecting American downtowns. Segal will present these trends by demographics, lifestyles and global competition.

PANEL DISCUSSION moderated by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett:

Hear from a panel of highly successful urban retail/business district executives from various regions and cities about creating, implementing and managing a highly strategic and successful business marketplace operation in spite of today’s issues and challenges. Learn what it takes to survive and thrive, and what the future of the district organization will look like in order to be successful.

Participants will learn:
· The most creative ways to make your district a destination
· How to attract the retailers and businesses you want
· How to enhance your district’s competitiveness both locally and nationally
· The hottest strategic creative business development trends
· Investor/developer marketing and membership development strategies
· How to retain those retailers and businesses you’ve worked so hard to get

Panelists include:
Jane Jenkins, Downtown Boulder Business Improvement District. and incoming Downtown OKC, Inc. President
Kourtney Garrett, Downtown Dallas
Midge McAuley, Downtown Works, a retail consultant to cities nationwide, including Downtown Austin

Who Should Attend:
Elected officials, municipal, county and state officials; urban residential and mixed-use developers; government and community leaders; urban redevelopment and economic development specialists; architects, engineers and urban planners; retail,cultural, entertainment, film and music professionals; Main Street and neighborhood district organization managers and board members; real estate brokers, consultants, advisors and managers; and, public art and cultural facility directors.

The NEW I-40 Pedestrian Bridge

September 6th, 2008

Congratulations to Hans Butzer and his team at the Butzer Design Partnership on their competition winning design for the new I-40 pedestrian bridge! I spoke to Hans about a month ago and he said that he was very excited about the design they were submitting for the competition – and now I know why. The bridge is beautiful, with a dramatic stretch towards the sky and a silhouette that evokes imagery unique to Oklahoma. I didn’t have to see the design concept to know that it was inspired by the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, the state bird of Oklahoma. While the inspiration can be easily deduced, the design maintains an elegance of form that is wholly unique.

Some Guy (that is his name “Some Guy”) commented on a forum at

Having seen all of the final presentations and models, I believe the winning team simply out-designed everybody else — including one worldwide architectural firm who does nothing but bridges and another worldwide firm who has designed many of the new structures you’ve seen as part of the Beijing Olympics. The local guys went toe-to-toe in an international competition and won…Who knew we had this kind of talent right here in Oklahoma City?

Actually, a lot of people have already recognized the talent of Hans (and his wife Torrey) after their design for the OKC Memorial beat out 623 entries from around the world. When they submitted their memorial designs they were living and working in Berlin, then Hans completed much of the work during his graduate program at the Harvard GSD. After graduating from school, they settled down right here in OKC. Hans is someone I really admire and has taught (and I hope will continue to teach) me so much about planning, architecture, and urban design. I really feel like we are lucky to have him in Oklahoma City, and it is nice to see him again involved in a dynamic design project that will greatly contribute to the architectural richness of Oklahoma City.

Still, Some Guy does make a good point, we do have more talent in Oklahoma City than we often realize. One thing that makes this project so wonderful is that Hans was only one member of a much larger team that all contributed to the design; a team that includes some of the best young architects our city has to offer. Hopefully local developers, organizations, institutions, and philanthropists will take note of the design, and of the fact that we have a wealth of architectural talent that goes largely untapped on major projects.

The future is bright for Oklahoma City! When this bridge is complete, the city will have a new landmark. A landmark that will be seen by thousands of people everyday. Even those persons that pass through on I-40 without stopping will be forced to see and no doubt enjoy the beauty of the design. The good times are rolling in OKC – I can’t wait to see what is next. Congratulations to the design team, to the city for running a successful competition, and to the people of Oklahoma City who who will get to enjoy this bridge for decades to come!


More on the I-40 Pedestrian Bridge
Includes a video interview with lead designers Hans Butzer and Stan Carroll, as well as more information on the design team and pictures of a scale model.

Top Ten Must Haves for our new Downtown Park
A month ago I posted this list of my “top ten must haves” for downtown’s new park. Must have #6 was beautiful bridges, and while the new I-40 bridge is not exactly in the park, it does help connect the park to the river – so it will do. Click the link to check out the other nine!