When the first Metropolitan Area Projects was launched in 1993, coordinators of the public improvements faced the daunting prospect that such an ambitious, pay-as-you-go approach hadn't been previously attempted.
But at least those planners had plenty of empty land to work with downtown, thanks the stalling of the Urban Renewal implementation of the I.M. Pei plan back in the 1970s.
Figuring out how to assemble the latest MAPS 3 puzzle isn't so easy, especially when one looks at challenges involved in planning for a $250 million convention center.
The empty lots left behind by Pei's failed vision are long gone, most of them built up with housing, retail or in one notable instance, the new $750 million Devon Energy Center.
When site selection was under way, the choices were pretty much limited to sites in Bricktown or in the area between the new Interstate 40 and the Central Business District dubbed “Core to Shore.”
All along, the political pressure was to place the new convention center in Core to Shore, and the site ultimately chosen was one not originally envisioned — south of the Myriad Gardens.
Planners last week confirmed the site works in terms of building the exhibit halls and loading docks underground. But a clear message also emerged: The ideal setup would be to build an adjoining conference hotel to the east on the western edge of the current Cox Convention Center.
The hotel, with a minimum of 600 rooms, is seen as a critical component to the new convention center. But no hotel deal has been struck, and no site for a hotel has been chosen or really even studied.
In talking with City Engineer Eric Wenger, it appears the west exhibit halls at the Cox Convention Center could be cleared separately from the remaining structure to make way for a new hotel. But such an action could hamper future redevelopment of the block, and even the temporary loss of such exhibit space is seen as jeopardizing the city's hard-fought gains in the convention business.
Add into the mix of uncertainty the question of where to either build a large garage, or as suggested by planners, a series of smaller garages to serve the convention center and hotel.
Another murky issue is the ultimate outcome for an Oklahoma Gas & Electric substation southeast of the convention center and east of the new Core to Shore park (also being built as part of MAPS 3).
Finally, consider that questions persist as to the ultimate design of a new downtown boulevard that is to be built between the new convention center and park on the old alignment of Interstate 40.
Engineers hoped to have boulevard construction under way by now, but design was paused when a grassroots movement arose against plans to build it elevated west of Walker Avenue. Engineers say construction isn't set to begin until either late 2015 or early 2016.
And the design could still change, now that it is undergoing a new review by the Federal Highway Administration. The current proposed design would have the boulevard curve a bit south into the old alignment of the adjoining SW 3, allowing for a bigger footprint for the convention center.
So with all this said, the current timetable calls for all these issues to be resolved, and for construction on the new convention center to begin by 2016.
Good luck with that. And just remember, the original MAPS program, now beloved and heralded as one of our city's finest moments, was horribly behind schedule, over budget and hardly resembling the original water colors presented to voters.
Most of those involved in that bit of history now look back and say such changes all resulted in a downtown that far exceeded their original vision.