Advisory Services Panel — Oklahoma City, OK

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Date: December 3-7, 1995
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Chair: James Klingbeil
Subject Area: Disaster Recovery, Economic Development, Sustainable Development

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The Assignment
On April l9, 1995, a terrorist bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, injuring hundreds more, and damaging scores of buildings in the vicinity of the blast.

The legacy of death and destruction represented by the vacant lot at the Murrah site added a sense of immediacy and urgency to the problems of economic development that Oklahoma City had faced for many years.

The effects of the decade-long economic depression in Oklahoma City were readily appar-ent: low incomes, a dearth of new housing and apartment construction, empty lots and commercial buildings, and a general lack of economic vitality, particularly downtown–the very heart of the community.

It is the purpose of this Urban Land Institute Advi-sory Services panel report to help realize a new vision for downtown Oklahoma City.

Summary
The panel believes that Oklahoma City can go further by encouraging and implementing a variety of strategies and approaches that include the following:

  • Develop rental housing in downtown at a variety of prices and densities. Downtown Oklahoma City could absorb 170 to 270 units of rental and for-sale housing annually over the next five years. To achieve the identified potential for development, down-town must overcome several short-comings. These include lack of a single organization responsible solely for downtown development and improvement; lack of a comprehensive development strategy and plan for downtown revitalization; and lack of specific implementation roadmaps for achieving successful growth in each of the land uses that must be part of a successful downtown: housing, retail, offices, hotels, entertainment, culture, transportation, and parks and open space.
  • Recommended transportation actions include: designating and improving some streets to accommodate pedestrians as well as automobiles; returning some streets to two-way traffic: adding on-street parking wherever possible: eliminating pedestrian-activated crossing signals: rebuilding 1-40 along its current alignment or slightly to the south; expanding the planned MAPS trolley route to include the Murrah site: enhancing the trolley with a strong entertainment-oriented design; and generally improving transit links into downtown.
  • Define a concrete image for downtown. The existing land use pattern is fragmented into districts that lack identity. Districts that need definition and strengthening include the urban core, the Bricktown urban entertainment district, the cultural district, the downtown retail (Galleria) district, four residential districts, two mixed-use/residential districts, a flex district, and a medical center district.
  • Link together downtown districts and activities by creating a greenway loop that includes parks and streetscape improvements. As part of this linkage, the panel recommends that the city create a large park north of the Murrah site along Robinson Avenue to acknowledge the importance of the memorial itself and to provide a major cen-tral park for downtown. The panel recommends that the park include, at a minimum a 22+-acre site.
  • Gradually eliminate of the city’s pedestrian concourse and tunnel system because of its ad-verse impact on street life. Closing the concourse should start with tunnels that function exclusively as thoroughfares. Those with ac-cess to restaurants or other retail establishments should remain open until the CBD has achieved the level of street life and ameni-ties desired by the community.
  • Improve signage throughout downtown, particularly on the freeways leading to downtown, so that people can locate the area’s attractions and activities and move about easily within various districts

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