Norman residents embrace design process

Urban design experts are in Norman this week for an intensive, interactive charrette to develop a long-range design plan for downtown, Campus Corner and the residential corridor that connects the two business districts.
by Jane Glenn Cannon Modified: May 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm •  Published: May 14, 2014
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— Urban design expert Dan Parolek says Norman has all the right ingredients for a vibrant “center city” that would connect downtown to Campus Corner and incorporate the residential neighborhoods in between.

Parolek and other urban designers are working with Norman residents this week to come up with a vision of what that vibrant environment could look like.

Norman has a unique “prairie style” architecture downtown and on Campus Corner, the University of Oklahoma campus and beautiful, older neighborhoods that all lend themselves to an overall center city design, he said.

“There’s a lot of brick buildings, of a certain shade of red, that kind of ground the architecture,” Parolek said. “It’s a regional type of architecture, but it has elements unique to Norman.”

Parolek is with the design firm Opticus of Berkeley, Calif. He is joined by designers Geoffrey Ferrell and Mary Madden, from the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Ferrell Madden, and Bill Lennertz, executive director of the National Charrette Institute in Portland, Ore.

The designers have set up shop this week in the LoveWorks building at 127 W Main St. They are participating in a weeklong charrette co-sponsored by the city and OU, aimed at coming up with a long-range design that residents can endorse for the downtown and Campus Corner business districts and the residential corridor that connects them.

Charrette is a French term for a high-speed, multiday intensive workshop in which professionals work with residents to look at design problems and come up with solutions, said city planner Susan Atkinson.

“It’s very much community-based. It’s built around what residents and property owners — the stakeholders — want to see happen,” Atkinson said.

Residents have turned out in droves to participate in the process. At an opening session, the LoveWorks space was “packed with people,” Atkinson said. Residents, property owners and business owners also drop by daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to watch the designers work or participate in brainstorming sessions. A final public presentation is set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday.

“The level of participation in this process, on a scale of one to 10, is a 10,” Ferrell said. “People here are very vocal and very energetic. We’re here to listen to them and take their ideas and turn them into a workable plan.”

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by Jane Glenn Cannon
Senior Reporter
A native of Oklahoma, Jane Glenn Cannon is an award-winning reporter who has covered everything from crime, courts and government to entertainment and features. She wrote a popular personal column for many years. She is a former associate writer...
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