Bringing fresh eyes to huge downtown Oklahoma City project

BY STEVE LACKMEYER Published: February 28, 2010
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/> "Downtown is a pretty complex organism with a lot of different pieces,” he said. "And everybody is going to have a different point of view.

"Bricktown is going to have a different perspective from the central business district, which have a different perspective from Automobile Alley. You have people who have made a big investment and they want to find out how they can enhance their city without jeopardizing the investments they’ve made,” he said.

Full package
Planning Director Russell Claus notes the panel won’t be starting from scratch — that members already have been provided an extensive workbook filled with information about existing downtown development, plans for Core to Shore, a planned central park, Project 180 and the recent passage of MAPS 3.

"We’re wanting an affirmation or otherwise of what the Core to Shore plan has specified for development of the area,” Claus said.

"We’re not married to everything. We think the plan makes sense. They may see some avenues on how to improve on it, or suggestions on how to best implement it,” he said.

Frantz, meanwhile, looks back at the 1995 visit as a critical step toward reversing the fortunes of what is now known as Automobile Alley.

Even before the bombing, he said, the stretch of north Broadway was littered with boarded-up buildings and crumbling sidewalks.

"You had buildings that were painted either white or gray,” Frantz said.

"It was an area you drove through as fast as possible. There was no street life. ... It was pretty grim.”

Revitalizing action
Frantz said the visit brought together property owners, architects and planners who hadn’t known each other previously and sparked an ongoing coordinated effort that helped create the revitalized district that today boasts lofts, shops, restaurants and offices.

The outsiders, Frantz said, also sparked discussions that might otherwise have not occurred.

"Sometimes it’s the things we can’t see for ourselves, or we can’t say because it would be politically disastrous for us. We can’t always say ‘this place is really ugly,’ ” he said.

"They come with a fresh perspective. They’ve done things in other places. We may feel it’s hopeless, but they come in and say, ‘you’re light years ahead of what’s been done in Pittsburgh ... .’ They can give us the confidence we lack.”

Frantz advises local participants to come prepared — and to have fun.

"Really know the facts about the area,” Frantz said. "Know the facts about buildings that are historic. Know the facts about buildings that are deteriorated beyond repair.

"Come for a fair decision, and listen to ideas,” he said.

"Don’t go to the mat every time; be open to fair discussion. Be willing to realize it’s not as awful as you think it is — that your dream can really happen.”