When Debbie Shiflett locks the doors to her shop at closing time, she’s usually doing so on a deserted street.
Debbie’s Barber Shop has been at the same location near the corner of SW 25 and Robinson Avenue in the heart of the Capitol Hill District for the past 25 years.
“We love this spot and we love all of our customers,” Shiflett said. “During the day we are as busy as we can be, but everything clears out after five or so. It’s kinda like a ghost town.”
This is the problem facing the Capitol Hill Main Street Association, says Randy Quiroga-King, chairman of the organization. He knows the largely Hispanic population in the surrounding neighborhoods has to be going somewhere after work. Now he’s trying to figure out how to make their spot a destination for others.
Quiroga-King, publisher of the El Nacional Spanish-language newspaper with offices in Capitol Hill, says revitalization efforts are underway to facilitate a more community-oriented approach that he thinks will draw more businesses and customers back to Capitol Hill.
“We are going through a bit of a renaissance,” he said. “We have a bustling business district with a Hispanic flavor to it. We hope it will be more of a destination point within the city.”
Driving though the heart of the district, it’s easy to see where improvements need to start. Many buildings sit vacant while other more historic ones look beyond repair.
But Quiroga-King said the key to urban renewal is to get the surrounding community interested in spending their time and money back on Main Street.
The construction of the new Capitol Hill Plaza is in the works at SW 25 and Robinson. It will provide a spot for live music, farmers markets and other community events. A new satellite campus for Oklahoma City Community College and plans for more retail shops also should bolster business in the area.
Jorge Hernandez, executive director of Capitol Hill Main Street, said it’s been a difficult job convincing people outside of the area that Capitol Hill is changing into a place where they will want to spend their time.
“To get to the point where we are today has been a long process,” Hernandez said. “Changes have been slow as we have a lot of obstacles; the location and some of the ownerships we have in the area, absentee owners that have inherited buildings.
“It has been a challenge but I think things are changing around in the area. New businesses have opened in the area, our festival is growing, the streets are cleaner, new owners taking more pride in presentation of stores; little by little we are getting there.”
Core to Shore
Quiroga-King said he thinks the Core to Shore initiative will help spur attraction to the district.
“Some of our energy will feed off the Core to Shore development and the central park,” he said. “We will be just a hop, skip and a jump from the park, and hopefully that will feed a lot of new businesses our way.”
Hernandez said the history of the community has to be taken into account when trying to make changes. To be successful, they will have to look to the past to plan for the future.
“We are trying to find creative and unique ways to promote the area,” he said. “Honor the past and heritage while promoting the community of today. That’s how we will take the next step in Capitol Hill’s future.”