With construction set to begin next year on an Aloft hotel, an apartment complex and a mix of restaurants and retail â€” all along NE 2 â€” it stands to reason that the link between the Deep Deuce neighborhood and the central business district soon will become a prime pedestrian corridor.
And with that in mind, one has to wonder why a brand-new sidewalk features a large fenced-in utility grate that forces people to walk along the curb.
Just a couple blocks away, one of the most visible intersections downtown is home to new pieces of public art. Broadway and Park Avenue is home to the Skirvin Hilton Hotel, host to thousands of visitors every year.
Those visitors can now enjoy a view of sculptures of an American Indian (â€œThe Guardianâ€) and a cowboy on a horse â€” with the Indian and cowboy's backs turned toward each other.
After almost two decades of remarkable transformation of downtown, the newest wave is going at an even faster clip with city leaders committed to finishing the Project 180 makeover of streets, sidewalks and public spaces within the next two years.
Add to Project 180 the construction of Devon tower, MAPS 3 and Core to Shore, and the current transformation tops $1 billion. With so much being done, are the sculptures and the NE 2 sidewalk a cautionary tale of what can happen if the finer details are overlooked?
The folks at City Hall have had a proud track record of working with developers, business and property owners in remaking downtown into what it is today.
But mistakes happen. Decisions are made that are later regretted. When the city launched the streetscape of Walker Avenue between Robert S. Kerr and NW 6, I asked why they weren't going to convert the street to two-way traffic. The folks at Public Works and Planning insisted it could only function as a one-way street.
Two years after the project's completion, the city is now planning to convert the street to two-way traffic as part of Project 180 â€” much to the joy of area businesses and property owners.
Going back even further, there was briefly a time when a rebuilt Broadway along Automobile Alley was going to include no curbside parking spaces. The spaces added, after complaints from property owners, remain unusually big (long enough for two cars per space). Property owners recently released an engineering study showing how the street can be re-striped to allow for up to 200 added parking spots.
A call to the city's planning department reveals that despite the â€œGuardianâ€ sculpture and the cowboy sculpture both going through downtown design review, their relationship to each other was not discussed. The city's public works department, meanwhile, referred calls about the fenced-in grate on NE 2 to Oklahoma Gas and Electric, but a utility spokesman responded the matter wasn't related to any of its infrastructure.
With $1 billion being invested downtown in a relative short period of time, oversights will occur. But with a watchful public ready to ask â€œwhy,â€ maybe, just maybe, the Indian and cowboy will end up friends and sidewalks won't be fenced off to pedestrians.