If one were to assign generations to the wave of changes hitting downtown Oklahoma City the past two decades, one might say that the original Metropolitan Area Projects plan was a last-ditch effort by younger Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) to set things right after their older peers struggled with stagnation throughout the 1980s.
One might also argue that Generation X (1965 to 1981) helped sweep in the next major initiatives — most notably the arrival of the NBA, the revival of the Oklahoma River and also created a demand for housing downtown.
The Millennial Generation (1982 to 2000) of twentysomethings, meanwhile, may have had its own coming out party Friday and Saturday with the successful launching of Better Block OKC.
The two-day event started Friday night with the opening of pop-up shops — a bookstore, florist, farmer's market and art gallery — along with sidewalk dining, street entertainment and a dog park. The single block of NW 7 between Hudson and Walker Avenues was transformed from a relatively sleepy stretch of empty storefronts anchored only by Ludivine restaurant and bar and Cadence Yoga into what was, temporarily, one of the city's liveliest streets.
The experiment also included a re-striping of the street to show how back-in angled parking can be implemented downtown, curb cuts for extended seating areas from the sidewalk, and vertical gardens. Major vendors like Pelco supplied street lighting and furniture while Charter Oak Landscape and Tree Farm supplied street trees and plantings.
It all went up very quickly — and disappeared just as fast Saturday night.
Who else but the Millennials could imagine such an effort? Their intention was not just a big party, but to show to the older generations what changes they want to see take place — rules, zoning, codes and regulations be damned.
Better Block OKC represents a “block by block” approach to urban revitalization — a local effort inspired by similar initiatives elsewhere. It was a virtually flawless display overseen by a respected group of up-and-coming prominent twentysomethings that includes Blair Humphreys, Allison Bailey and Kristen Vails.
They're young. They're ambitious. And while the older generations may continue to fight to keep control over the city's direction, have no doubt, the Millennials are ready and able to make their own mark on Oklahoma City's future.