MIDWEST CITY — The square mile of homes at one time was referred to as “America's Model City.” Now, many parts of Midwest City's “Original Mile” no longer evoke the promising boomtown populated by Tinker Air Force Base recruits.
The nostalgic 1940s- and '50s-era neighborhood is now seen as a blighted area in need of an overhaul. Many parts are plagued by crime and largely in disrepair.
“Our problems are in the old part of the city. We need economic development and for families to move into these areas,” Mayor Jack Fry said.
With more than 2,100 homes in the area bounded on the north by SE 15, on the south by SE 29 and on the west and east by Air Depot and Midwest boulevards, the wartime housing now is home to young families and renters, including many who live below the poverty line.
Fry said his hope is to clean up the neighborhood and turn an area dominated by rental properties into one full of homeowners.
The city was awarded a $40,000 grant in 2010 to study the area's infrastructure needs, traffic patterns, lighting, housing and other issues. That study resulted in a revitalization plan for the “Original Mile.”
The report concluded the neighborhood “has reached its expiration date and would greatly benefit from significant upgrades.” It is lacking in investments by homeowners as well as public investment in infrastructure.
The report recommends placing signage in the area to brand its historic significance and adding more green spaces and parks.
Fixing dilapidated streets, raising curbs, building crosswalks and sidewalks and finding ways to ease traffic also were recommended. Finding a way for homeowners to update their homes' interiors and exteriors is also a part of the plan.
The company hired to conduct the study estimated it will cost about $68 million to accomplish all the renovations.
“We're looking at a long-term solution,” Fry said. “This is really about changing the thought process of the community and how it can benefit all of us, especially our
City officials are working on plans for possible tax incentives and grants and how to get private money into the project.
Fry said he's not worried about residents not buying into the concept. He said it's time to make the “Original Mile” a priority, to make the old look new and clean up the area.