A transformation of the street, concepts for building a mixed-use neighborhood, and how best to tie into the river and future MAPS 3 park are all set to be studied at an upcoming series of design sessions to be held July 9 through July 16 to be overseen by Victor Dover, a renowned expert on livable communities and sustainable development and author of “Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns.”
A new community
Where others might see a barren former airpark, Dover sees the bones for a great new community that is already connecting to the city thanks to a temporary riverfront concert venue and a weekly bicycle and food truck festival on the property’s former runways.
Dover, who previously met Humphreys during his stint at the Institute for Quality Communities, was recently introduced to Oklahoma City via a bike tour from the airpark to downtown. On that bike ride, Dover saw a future community that is in close proximity to downtown, venues along the river, trails and thousands of jobs.
“I felt like we were seeing the city in the process of moving through the aftermath of its urban renewal phase,” Dover said. “You could see the lights are coming back on downtown, people are filling in the empty properties, streets are getting changed to be more friendly to pedestrians and businesses.
“Oklahoma City is pregnant, and it’s in the midst of giving birth to a whole new generation of positive place-making,” he said.
A listening process
Together, Humphreys and Dover hope to gather ideas and visions from residents of adjoining neighborhoods and from urban dreamers in drafting a new plan that could include a redesign of Western Avenue, a mix of housing to serve an array of incomes and interests, shops and businesses.
Cycling and pedestrian friendly streets, Humphreys added, will definitely be a part of the mix.
“This will be an organically grown community,” Dover said. “It’s not a corporate monolith — one big super-project done by one architect and managed and controlled by one corporation. This group is into the small-is-beautiful movement, that a lot of projects in a lot of designers’ hands is better. It’s the idea that you end up with a community with more of a blend.”Wheeler District Charette
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The choice of “Wheeler” as the new name for the area at Western Avenue and the Oklahoma River is intended to tie to the redevelopment of the former Downtown Airpark and surrounding properties, 150 acres in total, to Wheeler Park, which is one of the city’s oldest parks. The land for Wheeler Park was donated to the city by James Wheeler in 1902, and it was once home to the city’s zoo, several baseball fields, and the adjoining Delmar Gardens amusement park.
Blair Humphreys, developer of Wheeler, is hosting a series of planning sessions, open to the public, that will be held July 9-16. More information about meeting locations and topics, and about the development can be found online at www.wheeler