The Downtown Design Review Committee unanimously approved revised plans for a makeover of the Civic Center park despite protests it will eliminate decades-old trees and may be too modern for the site.
Architect Rand Elliott and landscape architect Jim Crosby with Tulsa-based PDG told the committee they have permanently eliminated a series of metal “spinner towers” from the project, and that it also will proceed without an arch planned along Walker Avenue.
The $3 million project is being funded through the Project 180 makeover of downtown established through a tax increment financing agreement with Devon Energy Corp.
“We think we've really done an appropriate job and done service to the historical integrity of the park,” Crosby said.
“What you see now is not the original park; it was redone in the 1970s … There was an original vision, and now we're looking at a new vision for the 21st century.”
Elliott, who has been criticized for bringing too much of his “modernistic” design style to the park, said the plans are truer to the park's original landscape and reflect the Art Deco features found in the adjoining City Hall and Civic Center Music Hall.
He said the design also better respects the historic grand lawn that connects the two buildings.
“We're trying to go back to the historic nature of the park and tie the whole thing together,” Elliott said.
Those speaking against the project included planning commissioners John Yoeckel and Bob Bright, who questioned whether the design had gone through adequate public scrutiny.
Public works director Eric Wenger told the committee the designs were previously presented to the city council and design committee last year and that the project was not being rushed through approval.
But Wenger also told committee members that city council members critical of the makeover had not yet been given a full presentation on the project and that one will be delivered Tuesday.
“What's been obvious as of the last couple of weeks is there are a lot people in the community who have not had the opportunity to see this presentation,” Yoeckel said. “The public in general simply did not know anything about this in any broad context until now.”
Concerns about design
Bright cited the remaining features, including two transparent neon signs and a fountain stage, as “high tech silliness.”
“The first time I saw this was in January,” Bright said. “To say this is historical; it really isn't. What needs to happen is everybody should take a big, big breath. Use some elements of this? Fine. But to have the neon signs, to have dancing fountains with Elvis music? No.”
Before making a motion to approve the designs, committee member Gigi Faulkner told architects she was concerned the park would become “passive” and not connected to the surrounding neighborhood.
“I understand it is an elegant, very beautiful design, especially from an aerial view,” Faulkner said. “It lacks the connectivity we're looking for that is mentioned in Project 180. I don't see this as where people are invited into the park. The design itself doesn't ensure this will be a place that will be inhabited, a place that will be used on a daily basis. And that is our purpose — to ensure parks are used on a daily basis.”