A first draft of a master plan for a $130 million Core to Shore park suggests demolition of all remaining structures on the site other than Union Station, and construction of a cafe, lake, gardens, fountains and a grand lawn.
Mary Margaret Jones, project architect with Hargreaves Associates, said the master plan was developed after going through citizen comments made on several possible designs presented to the public in October.
The park, part of the $777 million MAPS 3 initiative passed by voters in 2009, will span an area bordered by the future downtown boulevard, Robinson and Hudson avenues, and the new Interstate 40. A second section of the park will continue south of the highway and narrow to a stretch between Harvey and Robinson avenues.
The area, which is between the Central Business District and the Oklahoma River, was dubbed Core to Shore by the city in 2006.
The proposed master plan by Hargreaves Associates, not yet finalized, calls for the north half of the park to include a grand lawn that can host 20,000 people, a cafe, a lake and gardens. The south half would include a discovery walk with a fitness area, sculptures, sports facilities, a dog run, prairie and wetlands.
The park is one block south of the revamped Myriad Gardens and duplicates several attractions at the park. Jones noted the Myriad Gardens is smaller than the proposed park and will draw different visitors.
She noted the grand lawn at the proposed park will be 6.4 acres compared to the lawn at the Myriad Gardens, which is just under one acre. The largest outdoor venue in the city, the Zoo Amphitheater, can host up to 10,000 people, she said. The new grand lawn also will accommodate informal soccer and other sports.
Jones said the lake at the new park will be large enough to accommodate paddle boats.
“Being a large park, being 70 acres, it can create a whole different kind of use and landscape,” Jones said. “That makes it very different than the Myriad Gardens.”
Jones said the cafe, which she said likely will cost more than $1 million, isn't comparable to a restaurant built at the Myriad Gardens, which has gone empty with repeated failed attempts to attract an operator.
The Myriad Gardens restaurant was designed for “white linen table” fine dining without any operators chosen before it was built and despite warnings by local restaurant owners that the Myriad Gardens couldn't support an upscale eatery.
“There are things to learn, and be done differently,” Jones said. “That's why in Phase 1, there might not be a building. We also will be meeting with operators early.”
Despite prior concerns by some MAPS 3 citizen review committee members that some buildings on the park property, notably the Salvation Army Citadel chapel, are historic and worth saving, her plan calls for demolition of all structures except the Union Station (which is not scheduled for remodeling as part of the MAPS 3 park budget).
“They're just in the wrong place,” Jones said. “It would be hard for a restaurant to make them work. The location of the boulevard is important for the restaurant.”
Timing of the project, questioned multiple times over the past two years, was again challenged Wednesday by the citizens' committee.
Committee member Anthony McDermid questioned whether the park might suffer if it opens as planned in 2014 when “from 2014 to 2018 everything north of the park is a construction site.”
“Except for the boulevard,” Jones responded.
McDermid challenged that assumption and warned the park will “literally feel like an island.”
Kimberly Lowe, chair of the committee, assured McDermid the boulevard is on schedule for a 2014 opening.
“Every time I meet with the mayor (Mick Cornett), he assures me the boulevard will be open and operating in 2014,” Lowe said.
The Oklahoma Transportation Department warned earlier this month that redesigns of the boulevard will cause the project construction to be delayed until 2014, with an opening not set until 2016. Brenda Perry, department spokeswoman, confirmed to The Oklahoman Wednesday that construction bids won't be sought for the project, including the stretch of the road that will pass the park, until later 2013 or early 2014.
“It seems to me it would be worth reconsidering the timing of the park to do it all in one phase in 2018, when the convention center (planned for the block immediately north of the park) is done and the boulevard is done,” McDermid said.
Jones said a delay on the boulevard might impact the park schedule.
“It's something we will have to work through,” Jones said. “The idea of the park is to dovetail with the boulevard, so as they change, we'll change with them.”
Meeting set for today
A preliminary master plan for the MAPS 3 Core to Shore park will be presented and Phase 1 improvements will be discussed during a community meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the fourth floor auditorium of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, 300 Park Ave.