It’s been a good dozen years since I first noticed a trend in how cities are perceived. There were urban turn-around stories – Austin, Portland, Charlotte, Denver and so on – that began with mentions among academic circles, then hit speaking circuits, and then, the capping moment: when the stories hit publications like the New York Times.
I don’t know what this whole pattern is called. I call it “buzz.” Sure, it’s great to see downtown Oklahoma City get mentioned during the NBA Finals, or when national news organizations recognize our river redevelopment and so on. But I’ll declare this following blurb in the New York Times story about urban parks as a hint that Oklahoma City is truly at a tipping point:
The New York story is a national one. In the center of Oklahoma City, a revitalized park complex, Myriad Botanical Gardens, recently took root. In downtown Houston, there’s Discovery Green. Dallas is building a park on a deck over a downtown freeway, and Los Angeles is looking at how to gussy and green up an old concrete river bed.
“We’re living in an era of re-urbanization,” said Catherine Nagel, executive director of the City Parks Alliance, which is sponsoring the conference in New York. And the increased population density means that “we need green space,” she said.
Amazingly, we’re getting it: because citizens have demanded as much; because governments have made it a priority; because public and private partnerships have been cultivated. New York is the bright flower of all that.
Now, think about this for just a moment. In arguing the case for the new urban parks movement, this New York Times writer noted Oklahoma City along with Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles. Folks, it’s getting real ….