When Project 180 was launched in 2009, city officials tasked with implementing the makeover of downtown streets and public spaces repeatedly insisted the entire program needed to be finished by 2014.
Officials regularly cited an agreement with Devon Energy Corp. that established the tax increment finance district established in connection with the company's construction of a $750 million headquarters to pay for Project 180. It was a strict timetable that city officials, including then-Assistant City Manager Cathy O'Connor and Project 180 coordinator Laura Story, insisted had to be followed and couldn't be delayed to wait for construction of a downtown streetcar system.
By last fall, the area to be improved and the timetable no longer followed those ambitious initial plans. Both O'Connor and Story have left their jobs at City Hall, though both still work closely with the city with Story working as consultant on Project 180 and O'Connor heading up the new Alliance for the Economic Development of Oklahoma City.
Streets cut from Project 180 include Broadway, with the exception of the block between Main Street and Sheridan Avenue; all of E.K. Gaylord Boulevard; and sections of Main Street, Robert S. Kerr Avenue and NW 5 — between E.K. Gaylord and Broadway.
Other streets are likely to be delayed for years beyond the original 2014 completion target, including Park Avenue between Broadway and Walker Avenue. And while plans for the revamp of the Civic Center park include the area surrounding City Hall, those improvements are now being pushed back to an unset future date as well.
City officials blamed an unexpected $10 million shortfall in sales taxes being collected as part of the tax increment financing district, as well as cost increases on street and sidewalk reconstruction after unexpected complications, including old building basements that extend under public easements.
Those surprises also are blamed for streets being torn up and unfinished beyond original schedules.
Businesses along Main Street, including Coney Island Hot Dogs, 428 W Main, have seen deadlines for street construction go from November to December to January and beyond.
Film Row along the 700 block of W Sheridan Avenue was substantially completed months ago, but the sidewalks remain dark at night as streetlights, promised to be installed in September, have yet to materialize.
Public Works director Eric Wenger reported recently that an end is in sight with both projects, and that he is hopeful that other key closed streets, most notably Robinson Avenue between Main Street and Park Avenue, will be reopened as early as next month.