ther than shaping the spaces around them, they proudly declare their own shapes. As a result, the space between them — the public realm — becomes residual and poorly formed. There is a place for sculptural object buildings, but it is not in the city, except well above street level where the upper stories of a tower can cut back from the lot edges without eroding the street edge. The Stage Center is one example of an object building in Oklahoma City. The proposed Chamber of Commerce building is another.”
His recommendation: Speck suggests the chamber building does not encourage walking and that its car drop-off area endangers pedestrians. He also notes the parking lots facing NW 3 and NW 4 make the links between downtown residential areas and the central business district less inviting than they are now to pedestrians. Speck recommends a possible redesign that would have parking surrounded by a U-shaped building. He also suggests following a plan first suggested by Blair Humphreys and Hans Butzer that would reconnect NE 3 and Robert S Kerr Avenue, straighten Broadway, and have E.K. Gaylord dead-end at NE 3. He also urges the city to narrow E.K. Gaylord and add curbside parking along both sides of the street.
Roy Williams, chamber president: “With regard to the streets, we have not advocated what should be done with it. We recognize that it is six lanes and not pedestrian oriented. We would like to see it more pedestrian oriented. We don't know from a technical standpoint how it should be. If there should be street parking, so be it. With regard to the building, you can move the building up to the street. But then you have all that space behind it and beside it. Then you don't have frontage on NW 4 and you've abandoned it. It's a two and one-half acre site. It will never be developed corner to corner to corner with buildings. We wanted to create some green space where people can gather and it can be used for multiple uses.”
New Downtown Boulevard
Background: Plans developed in conjunction with Oklahoma City Beautiful and Core to Shore planning committees call for six lanes of through traffic plus left-hand two lanes with parking on both sides of the street. Actual streetscaping enhancements have yet to be finalized.
Jeff Speck's observations: “The reconstruction of Interstate 40 five blocks south presents an opportunity to replace its trajectory with a new boulevard that forms a beautiful edge to the heart of downtown and a park-like center for future high-value growth. A great deal of energy and ambition has gone into the design of this new thoroughfare, but its current plan unfortunately does not achieve the City's stated objectives.”
His recommendation: Narrow the boulevard and create a wide park area in the median similar to Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
Anthony McDermid, boulevard design consultant since 1999: “The boulevard is part of the I-40 relocation and as such it has to meet certain engineered parameters for moving traffic — and that is all linked with funding for the boulevard ... it had to under the environmental impact the statement carry a certain amount of traffic. As the boulevard evolved out of the Core to Shore steering committee process, many, many things were weighed ... including the option of a wide median. It was the decision of the steering committee that the big median idea would create a space that couldn't be used and had no practical use. The idea of going with no median — a Champs-Elysees — you have the cars moving next to each other in opposite directions. The conventional wisdom is that when you have cars moving next to each other in opposite directions, it has a calming effect. If you have a split road, the cars speed up.”
Background: Over the past 30 years downtown's street grid was rebuilt with one-way streets, wide avenues and highway lane widths. The Oklahoma City Council asked staff to pursue conversion of some one-way streets to two-way traffic in 1999, but work was delayed by several years and wasn't started until Dennis Clowers took over as Public Works Director in 2005. Even then, some street reconstruction projects, most notably the streetscaping of Walker Avenue between Robert S. Kerr Avenue and NW 6, retained one-way traffic. Major one-way traffic arteries downtown include Walker, Hudson and Robinson Avenues. On Robinson Avenue, travelers encounter one-way signs between Sheridan and NW 6, two-way signs from NW 6 to NW 13, and one-way signs again between NW 13 and NW 18. Early on, Speck was critical of downtown's street widths and remaining one-way grid. He singled out the five-lane wide, one-way Hudson Avenue for some of his harshest criticism.
Jeff Speck's observations: “This network of many large streets has the capacity to handle much more traffic than is currently present, and therefore encourages speeding and unnecessarily endangers pedestrians ... any urban lane width in excess of 10' encourages speeds that can increase risk to pedestrians. Many streets in downtown Oklahoma City contain lanes that are 12' wide or more, and drivers can be observed approaching highway speeds when using them. Drivers tend to speed on multiple-lane one-way streets because there is less friction from opposing traffic, and because of the temptation to jockey from lane to lane. Whichever lane you are in, the other seems faster. In contrast, when two-way traffic makes passing impossible, the driver is less likely to slip into the ‘road racer' frame of mind.
On-street parking provides a barrier of steel between the roadway and the sidewalk that is necessary if pedestrians are to feel fully at ease while walking. It also causes drivers to slow down out of concern for possible conflicts with cars parking or pulling out. On-street parking also provides much-needed life to city streets, which are occupied in large part by people walking to and from cars that have been parked a short distance from their destinations ... the lack of on-street parking capacity has contributed to the proliferation of unattractive surface parking lots.”
His recommendations: Make all one-way streets two ways, including the recently rebuilt section of Walker Avenue. Narrow NW 4 in Deep Deuce and allow for parallel parking on both sides of the street. Eliminate center turn lanes on Reno and Sheridan and add parallel parking on one side of each street. Add angled parking on one or both sides of Broadway.
Public Works Director Dennis Clowers: “You can't have high traffic volume on your streets and expect people to walk, as well. Engineers have historically tried to get as much traffic through the system as possible. I think Walker where it's one way will be revisited. We've still got to have ways to get people in and out of downtown after events, but we could do this with better planning. I can see Sheridan and Reno going from five to three or four lanes each.”