Core to Shore development south of downtown Oklahoma City, once poised for quick implementation, is facing a growing chorus of critics who want to see the effort slowed and subjected to further scrutiny.
In the past few weeks the most vocal proponent of Core to Shore, Mayor Mick Cornett, has seen some of his plans for the area rejected or questioned by city council members and influential citizen's review committees.
Those plans include:
• Unanimous rejection by a MAPS 3 citizens review committee and consultants of Cornett's favored Core to Shore site for a convention center at SW 3 and Robinson;
• City council opposition to Cornett's proposal to relocate an Oklahoma Gas & Electric substation at SW 4 and Robinson with $30 million of the $280 million approved for the convention center regardless of where the new convention center might be built;
• Suggestion by the chair of the MAPS 3 park subcommittee and several city council members that a park planned as the centerpiece of Core to Shore be delayed from first in line, as desired by Cornett, to being built last.
Convention center site
It was Cornett, without a city council vote, who repeatedly declared during the 2009 MAPS 3 campaign that the convention center should be built south of the arena. In those same stump speeches he declared the park would be built across the street and opening in conjunction with the completion of a new boulevard taking the place of the current alignment of Interstate 40.
Cornett has since indicated he might support a different site for the convention center — the former Bob Howard Ford dealership immediately south of Myriad Gardens as chosen by the MAPS 3 citizens subcommittee and consultants hired by the city. But he's not surrendered on using $30 million for the substation, which he argues needs to be moved to improve the area's appearance. And he's not interested in considering a delay in opening the proposed Core to Shore park.
“During the campaign we repeatedly communicated the park should open along with the boulevard,” Cornett said. “The park needs the boulevard and the boulevard needs the park. The park is a defining element for MAPS 3. It has a lot of buy-in and it shows that MAPS 3 is meeting expectations.”
Those opposed to the 2014 park completion point to the recently re
“The Myriad Gardens has a profound implication on the Core to Shore park,” said Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid. “It seems to me it will be in direct competition with the Core to Shore park on some of the presumptive revenue generators in terms of an ice-skating rink or a restaurant. … After the Festival of the Arts, the Myriad Gardens is seen as a wonderful urban park, and we need to ask whether the Core to Shore park is even viable.”
Ward 4 Councilman Pete White argues the opening of the Myriad Gardens isn't “a shot across the bow” but rather a “coup de grace” (death blow) for the Core to Shore park.
“I don't see how it can possibly happen,” White said. “If the park is not going to be feasible in a short period of time, and this is one reason why it's not, any argument that it must be done by 2014 goes down the tubes.”
Plans are 5 years old
Cornett argues the park must be opened along with the scheduled completion of the boulevard to keep the faith of the voters. When asked about the downside of delaying the park's construction and opening, Cornett responded: “We'll be behind schedule — and we don't want to be behind schedule.”
Cornett also dismissed a suggestion by White that the corridor along the boulevard be landscaped and that the $130 million park be delayed until the end of the MAPS 3 program.
Former Mayor Kirk Humphreys, a member of the original Core to Shore task force, is among those who say too much time has passed and too many new developments have transpired to blindly stick to a plan that dates back to 2006.
“We have to take Core to Shore for what it presented itself to be — a multi-decade planning document,” Humphreys said. “In the document it said it would take 20 years or longer to come to fruition. It's a plan from 20,000 feet — it's not a matter of go and do likewise.”
Humphreys urges Cornett and others to consider the history of the original MAPS program, specifically the Bricktown Canal.
The 1993 MAPS campaign showed the canal being built south of Reno Avenue with three separate segments. A series of revisions brought the canal to California Avenue, where it went between a series of old warehouses. Yet another revision allowed the canal's elevation to be raised south of Reno Avenue to allow for a longer continuous waterway that has accommodated a successful water taxi operation for the past 12 years.
“We've invested a billion dollars north of Core to Shore since that plan was done and we really need to revisit that document,” Humphreys said. “We need to be good stewards and not plow forward simply because these were plans made five years ago.”
Worries of ‘dead park'
To build the park as originally envisioned with an opening in 2014 is to risk creating a “dead park” that no one will visit, Humphreys said.
“Time will benefit the park,” he added. “If we build the park right now, people won't come any more to that than people would have come to a 25-foot ditch south of Reno.”
Cornett responds that enough study has gone into Core to Shore and the proposed park that no further evaluation is needed.
“I think it's important that the park and boulevard open simultaneously,” Cornett said. “We've had 10 years since the route was chosen for the new Interstate 40. We need to have an appropriate response to the boulevard opening and it's always seemed to me we have an appropriate timeline. We're building this not for the city as it is today, but for what the city will be tomorrow.”
some city officials
Core to Shore was launched in response to the relocation of Interstate 40 a few blocks south of its current alignment. Plans call for the current alignment to be replaced with a new boulevard.
The new highway is on schedule for opening by mid-2012, with demolition of the current elevated Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway to immediately follow.
Brenda Perry, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the $85 million boulevard is expected to be designed, built and opened by 2014 if current legislative funding levels for highway construction are maintained. Contract negotiations are under way with MacArthur & Associates to design the boulevard. The design requires the boulevard to be six lanes wide, with each lane spanning 12 feet. Critics say the width is equal to Northwest Expressway at Council Road.
Gary Ridley, director of the state Department of Transportation, told The Oklahoman in October city leaders can file an appeal with the Federal Highway Administration on the boulevard's width. Perry said this week that city officials have expressed concerns about the boulevard.