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Both urban core and suburbs are vital parts of Oklahoma City

Oklahoman business writer looks at how growing tension between downtown and suburban Oklahoma City hurts entire community.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: July 9, 2013

Readers are sometimes surprised to learn that while I've spent most of my career writing about downtown Oklahoma City and enjoying its revival, I actually live in a suburban neighborhood.

Have no doubt — there's a part of me that would love to live downtown. But my own situation, my kids, my wife's work, led me to live in north Oklahoma City.

I'm not alone among suburbanites whose hearts are downtown. With the passage of the original MAPS in 1993, it appeared as if Oklahoma City residents had concluded that downtown was a neighborhood shared by all.

And when that neighborhood hit rock bottom in the 1980s, people throughout Oklahoma City felt as if it were in a death spiral that wouldn't come to an end.

Twenty years after the first MAPS was passed, downtown is an altogether different place. Bricktown continues to evolve as a vibrant entertainment district, the Oklahoma River has become a recreational hub, Deep Deuce and MidTown are rapidly becoming fully developed mixed use downtown neighborhoods, and the Central Business District is livelier than ever.

Add in a revived Film Row and Automobile Alley, and the picture looks pretty good.

Over the last year, however, a growing voice of discontent with echoes from the 1970s is being voiced from suburban neighborhoods:

“Too much investment is taking place downtown. Quit worrying about the urban core, and fix the streets, hire more police.”

This time around, however, grumbling is taking place among downtown's growing population as well:

“Quit allowing development in suburban Oklahoma City. Suburban sprawl is inherently bad, and nobody is going to want to live in these new housing developments in a decade.”

The grumbling is being heard by city council members, who then struggle with approving further investment in the urban core. It even creates a backlash against projects like the flourishing development along the Oklahoma River that is transforming the city's image and attracting new residents.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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