An Oklahoma City urban revival meeting prompts cheers

Urban planning expert John Norquist brings his message to Oklahoma City
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: August 21, 2012
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“You don't need these big roads jammed into where you have a lot of people,” Norquist lectured. He then detailed how Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped a plan by traffic engineers, one approved by his predecessor, that would have ended pedestrian crossings along the busy Lakeshore Drive.

“It is so cool that the pedestrians can cross a street with 200,000 vehicles a day — it's too bad the vehicles have to wait,” Norquist said to a loud cheer. “It's a beautiful day — just wait. What's your rush? It's the city. If you don't like it, you can go out to the suburbs and eat at Olive Garden instead.”

At this moment the crowd went nuts.

When Norquist added: “The city doesn't bow to you,” one might have assumed many in the crowd were on the verge of a religious conversion.

The debate over the design of the downtown boulevard likely will continue for weeks if not months. Driving away from this revival, I was surprised to see the old Farmers Public Market in a new context — at night, with its facade accentuated by the warm, glowing lights from the room where Norquist spoke.

A series of store fronts, most of them boarded up, lined the streets leading back into downtown. The sidewalks were crumbling, and there were no streetlights to make one feel as if this short distance back into downtown could be traveled in anything but the safety of one's car with the doors locked. This is an area where street engineers have not focused their attention in a very long time.

“If you own real estate in the corridor, work in the corridor, live in the corridor — what's going to add value?” Norquist asked toward the end of his speech. “And if it doesn't do that, it's not worth doing.”


by Steve Lackmeyer
Reporter Sr.
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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