The Oklahoma City Council tomorrow will be asked to spend $168,000 to make a pedestrian passage more “inviting” and “aesthetically pleasing” for visitors.
This news might please the hundreds of residents who call Deep Deuce home and see a large fenced in grate along NE 2 that blocks their path to and from the central business district. Maybe, just maybe, this improvement is aimed at moving the water meter under that grate and restoring it as a normal sidewalk. Developers investing tens of millions along the street to build a hotel, apartments and a grocery can’t be blamed if they get excited thinking this city-created eyesore is about to eliminated.
As reported previously, the grate along NE 2 just west of Oklahoma Avenue was installed about five inches above the sidewalk surface when construction plans for the adjoining Second Street Lofts didn’t match up with those of the Oklahoma City Water/Wastewater Department for installation of a water meter below the grate.
Water utilities director Marsha Slaughter said the grate level couldn’t be altered without endangering her employees. She said the fenced area, which blocks off the center of the sidewalk, was the best solution, and that to move the water meter would cost “about $100,000 and a high annoyance factor during construction.”
Aesthetics, she said, did not merit that sort of investment to fix the mistake.
So what area is more important in terms of aesthetics – at least in the minds of city staffers who are submitting this proposed $168,000 expenditure?
The rest of the story is as follows: when voters approved MAPS 3, they approved spending $120 million on a park in the area known as “Core to Shore” (the area being focused on, however, is really between the current Interstate 40, the new highway alignment, Shields Boulevard and Walker Avenue).
The park will be built west of Robinson between a boulevard that will replace the current highway and the new highway. No other investment for the area has been announced to date. The area is blighted, has no housing, no retail and soon, no offices or agencies other than the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, which is in the historic Union Station.
To date no developers have pitched plans for the area. The downtown development community has been, and continues to be, most interested in Deep Deuce, Bricktown and MidTown.
If the city council agrees with city staff today, the $168,000 will be spent on an ornate arch design for a pedestrian tunnel that will go east under Robinson Avenue to an area that at this time has no definite future use.
Eric Wenger, director of the MAPS 3 office, points out by making this investment (the tunnel is being paid for by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation), the crossing will be more “inviting” and “aesthetically pleasing” to pedestrians – the very sort of investment deemed unworthy for Deep Deuce.
Tomorrow we’ll find out if the city council agrees with city staff’s judgment and priorities.