Let the pain begin. Or rather, let it truly soak in now.
I’ve mentioned before that despite fuzzy memories to the contrary, the original Metropolitan Area Projects initiative was once reviled by residents, a political thorn in the side at City Hall and generally a four-letter word (MAPS!) all over town.
And in the darkest of days for MAPS (which my calendar shows took place in 1997), it had a long-serving mayor, Ron Norick, and city manager, Don Bown, both retiring from long-exhaustive tenures. The projects were seemingly forever behind schedule and over budget.
I like to remind readers, especially younger readers, of this history as they fret over the current status of MAPS 3, and as they ponder questions about where various projects might be located, how operations will be funded and whether correct decisions were made during early planning.
History tells us these growing pains are actually quite normal when it comes to MAPS. Consider what might have happened if original decisions were not second-guessed, if even those voices deemed to be perpetual “discontents” hadn’t been given a chance to pitch their own visions of downtown Oklahoma City, circa 2010.
Imagine the four-story Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, and not the 50-story Devon Energy Center, overlooking the Myriad Gardens. Such was the thinking in the mid-1990s as some sought to reserve a surface parking lot at Park and Hudson Avenues, where the library was built, for future expansion of county government offices.
Consider also that the first plan for the Bricktown Canal was to build it in a totally undeveloped area south of Reno Avenue and that the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark was to be built surrounded by surface parking. And if the city had taken the approach of proceeding with projects “exactly” as promised to voters, visitors today would not be treated to boat rides traversing between century-old warehouses renovated into shops and restaurants. At best, the entire ride would more resemble what folks see as they pass through the newer Lower Bricktown.
Today’s boat ride also would not have been possible without a decision late in the planning stages by the city council to stop design work on the canal and consider a plan to create the existing mile-long segment instead of three distinct segments with the first one ending just south of Reno Avenue.
The source of the proposal to raise the ground under the “middle segment” to allow for a longer continuous canal was none other than Moshe Tal, a longtime litigant against the city. The man who championed his idea on the city council was former Councilman Jack Cornett — not always the most popular guy on the council horseshoe.
Downtown’s development over the past 20 years reflects numerous examples of debates, challenges and second-guessing. Not everyone would agree with the challenges and second-guessing that took place with the arena (some wanted it shelved, which would have certainly prevented Oklahoma City from ever landing an NBA team). And plenty of transit folks complain about the successful opposition former Rep. Ernest Istook staged against the original MAPS plan for a downtown streetcar system (which is now funded, independent of federal appropriation this time, as part of MAPS 3).
So just remember, controversies, debates and second-guessing are in the DNA of MAPS. And to quote early-day MAPS promoter Devery Youngblood one more time, what we are witnessing, ugly as it is, is the “butchering of the steer” that must occur before the serving of any great steak dinner.