Oklahoma City's Paseo district, blighted and filled with boarded-up properties 30 years ago, is on the American Planning Association's "10 Great Neighborhoods for 2010."
The list, released Tuesday, marks the first such designation in Oklahoma.
The American Planning Association singled out the neighborhood for its historic architecture, colorful and Spanish-
"This significant designation is a result of years of dedication from local artists, entrepreneurs, investors, neighbors and people passionate about The Paseo," Ward 2 Councilman Sam Bowman said. "This extraordinary architectural and artistic haven is the envy of cities across the country."
The Paseo is on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally developed by G.A. Nichols as Spanish Village, the first shopping district north of downtown. The district joins 40 neighborhoods, 40 streets and 30 public spaces designated in 47 states by the association.
The planning association also noted that in response to the neighborhood's rising property values and growing reputation as a coveted place to live or locate a business, the nonprofit housing advocacy group, Positively Paseo teamed up with the city to provide housing for low- and moderate-
"The brightly colored architecture, vibrant street life in the Spanish Village, and thriving art scene help create a strong sense of place," American Planning Association CEO Paul Farmer said. "City officials, business leaders, community activists and residents are to be commended for creating a place of such value and liveliness."
John Belt, who led redevelopment of the main strip starting in the mid-1970s, said the honor goes to the district's artists, merchants and residents who host festivals and bring life to the neighborhood.
"It lends credibility to the neighborhood, which is an important aspect of what we've sought for a number of years," Belt said.
Oklahoma City planner Susan Miller agreed, noting Paseo is joined on the 2010 list by notable places including Denver's LoDo district, Oak Park's Frank Lloyd Wright Historic Neighborhood and Hyde Park in Cincinnati.
"This places the Paseo and Oklahoma City in a very prestigious group," Miller said. "Hopefully the Paseo can build off this distinction and bring more residents and businesses into the area."
Miller said the award also indicates the city is on the right path with its approach to design review and mixed-use zoning.
"Mixed-use zoning allows people to live, work, and play in proximity," Miller said. "People are able to build community because they see each one another more often, they interact face-to-face instead of spending time in their cars."
Both Belt and Miller agree that Paseo is far from being complete. Still, most of the boarded-up buildings that left the area blighted 20 years ago have been fixed up, and Belt is renovating the last eyesore on Paseo Drive — the old Spaghetti Factory building.
"The Paseo is not without its challenges," Miller said. "The neighborhood does not have a fresh-food market within walking distance, and the majority of its business uses are specific — arts and food and entertainment. The diversity of uses could be broadened so that the area is active throughout the day, not just during lunch or dinner."
2010 Great Neighborhoods