Envision 240 is already singing planOKC's song.
“Quality retail is essential for quality communities” — that's the refrain.
Envision 240 is the mostly grassroots effort to rethink, reinvest and redevelop Interstate 240 between Interstate 44 and Interstate 35, while planOKC is Oklahoma City's new master planning document, which is in its final stages of adoption. Updates on both were presented Wednesday at the 12th annual Mayor's Development Roundtable at Cox Convention Center.
City planning director Russell Claus talked about retail and housing studies that back planOKC.
The three biggest issues facing retail here, he said, are burgeoning e-commerce, shrinking store sizes and an oversupply of older shopping centers.
Dealing with those must be part of meeting planOKC's broad goals: to sustain robust retail; to attract specialized one-in-a-market stores; and to sustain and rebuild commercial-neighborhood relations.
It's that last part that is most similar to one of Envision 240's most important challenges: encouraging cooperation between retailers and residents wanting more lifestyle retail opportunities as opposed to yet another big-box store.
“It's not just structures and buildings. It is an image. We must change the mindsets of those around us,” said Elaine Lyons, president of the South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. “We have to make sure a paradigm shift occurs. Specifically, we want people to get up, get out and get connected. We want people to work, stay, play and live in one community.”
City sales tax money and infrastructure, as well as aesthetics, walkability and lifestyle issues, are at stake, Lyons said of the aims of Envision 240, an effort organized by the city, the Urban Land Institute, the South Oklahoma City Chamber and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
For example, she said, the city of Moore saw its annual tax receipts grow from $10 million to $50 million between 1992 and 2012, “precious dollars lost to another municipality because our residents went there to shop.”
Revitalizing the I-240 corridor, she said, is important for all of Oklahoma City because of lost sales taxes — but I-240's reputation must change as its appearance improves and its function evolves from a way to get across South Oklahoma City to a way to get to destinations along the Interstate.
“We must overcome previously held perceptions about our community. One area of town can affect other parts of Oklahoma City. And re-engaging means rebuilding trust,” Lyons said. “I-240 is a critical corridor between Will Rogers (World Airport) and Tinker (Air Force Base). It is important to all Oklahoma City, not just South Oklahoma City. And Envision 240 must excite and engage external audiences to attract residents and businesses and retail to move back into our community.”
I-240 is not the only part of the city that could use a new shine.
Claus noted some of planOKC's policy guidelines:
• Reaffirmation for high-performing retail centers such as Quail Springs Mall.
• Revitalization for areas such as around Northpark Mall.
• Revision for areas such as Penn Square Mall, which is healthy but surrounded by areas that need retail improvement, and Northwest Expressway, where challenges to commercial-neighborhood relations include stores with deep setbacks from the street and stores disconnected from other stores.
Meeting housing demand over the next 20 years, he said, will require different kinds of building. He said 90 percent of housing being built now is designed for families with children, but that demographic represents just 34 percent of the population and is in decline.
More condos will be needed, Claus said. A city survey showed 9 percent of respondents wanting to live in a condo or town house, but those kind of homes make up less than 1 percent of the housing supply in Oklahoma City.
Another survey statistic sounds like Envision 240's vision: Claus said 70 percent of respondents said they would pay up to $200 more per month to be able to live, work, shop and play in one neighborhood.