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Oklahoma City Council takes cues from peer cities Fort Worth, Texas, Charlotte, N.C.

The Oklahoma City Council held a special meeting Tuesday to hear presentations from officials in Charlotte, N.C., and Fort Worth, Texas, which are further along in major urban redevelopment programs than the city. The peer city officials stressed patience, partnership and compromise.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Published: September 19, 2012

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber President Roy Williams echoed Campbell's remarks when sharing lessons the chamber has learned from its own visits to peer cities.

“You build transit for the city you want, not the city you have,” he said.

A patient and well-detailed planning process with the long term in mind also has been key in Charlotte, Campbell said.

Fort Worth

The redevelopment project in Fort Worth most similar to an effort in Oklahoma City is the relocation of Interstate 30 in downtown Fort Worth. The new alignment is a few blocks south of the previous roadway, which is similar to what Oklahoma City has done with the new alignment of Interstate 40.

Images shared by Randle Harwood, Fort Worth's director of planning and development, showed what Oklahoma City leaders hope to see take shape here: An ugly, elevated roadway transiting over a blighted area has given way to an elegant boulevard that has already spurred redevelopment, with more planned in the near future.

But Mike Brennan, president of Fort Worth South Inc., a nonprofit development advocate similar to Downtown OKC Inc., cautioned Oklahoma City leaders that “tough compromises” will have to be made. For example, planners in one Fort Worth district hoped for a code requirement for multistory buildings, but compromised when some developers were willing to invest only in single-story buildings for now.

Still, Fort Worth's mixed-use development successes should be encouraging to Oklahoma City's civic leaders looking for a broader range of development in the urban core. Clearly written city codes, investment from public-private partnerships and clear vision similar to some projects in Oklahoma City have yielded small businesses in Fort Worth that occupy the first floor of some buildings, many that take design cues from regional history, with residential loft space overhead.