After obliterating Main Street during the 1970s heyday of the Urban Renewal era, Oklahoma City planners are hoping to recreate what was lost by converting Park Avenue into a central downtown retail corridor.
The Oklahoma City Planning Department is set to hire two consultants to assist in an analysis of how to promote and recruit retail along Park Avenue between Harvey Avenue and Broadway, and another to help with redesigning the street as part of the upcoming Project 180 improvement and to work with adjoining property owners.
The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust agreed Tuesday to pay $40,000 toward the study, with the remaining $40,000 to be paid by Downtown Oklahoma City Inc., The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
Such an effort is welcomed by Jan Smith, who opened 200 Park for Her in the Robinson Renaissance building in March 2013. Smith, a resident at City Place Tower across the street, said she chose to open the clothing store, a first-time venture, after noticing the former florist shop in the corner storefront was for lease.
“There used to be a flower store there, and I thought that downtown needed more retail,” Smith said. “I was a shopaholic. I knew all the lines, I am very familiar with clothing. And we’ve done very well.”
Smith re-introduced store-front window displays largely missing from the Central Business District since the departure of stores like Harold’s and Streets decades earlier.
Smith, whose shop also opens from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, said she wishes the empty storefront next to her shop was leased to a shoe store. She wishes nearby restaurants would join Kitchen No. 324, which is two blocks north of Main Street at 324 N Robinson Ave., in staying open on Saturdays.
“A lot of people from out of town shop here, and they come here on a Saturday, and they ask where all the other businesses are and there’s nothing else really open,” she said. “We get a lot of businesswomen who shop here, and we do really well with our jewelry and denim lines. We also get men who come in for last-minute gifts.”
Ian Colgan, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Division Manager, cautions that recasting Park Avenue as a retail corridor won’t be quick or easy. But he believes the street has the best shot at becoming the retail corridor demanded by locals and visitors. Park Avenue is home to Floral and Hardy Florist, a Thunder team store, B.C. Clark Jewelers, and a gift shop operated by Feed the Children.
Long time coming?
The Central Business District has not had a retail corridor since the 1960s, when Main Street between Broadway and Walker Avenue was home to several theaters, John A. Brown’s Department Store, a Zale’s Jewelry store, clothing stores, shoe stores, coffee shops and restaurants.
The buildings were acquired by Urban Renewal and demolished, and Main Street itself was removed as the city pursued development of a Galleria shopping mall. That dream went unrealized, and the former shopping corridor now is the site of two parking garages and Devon Energy Center.
Colgan said the Central Business District has failed to develop a new retail corridor despite a growing workforce, several hotels, and venues that include the Myriad Gardens, a library and convention center. Park Avenue, meanwhile, has a string of storefronts at First National Center, City Place Tower, Robinson Renaissance and other buildings that, with upcoming street improvements, can be better promoted as a unified shopping corridor.
“The Central Business District has lacked a cohesive and concentrated retail and dining component since Main Street radically transformed decades ago,” Colgan said. “It’s an under-served market both in terms of demand and in comparison with other cities. This is a perfect place to create a confluence of retail and dining opportunities.”
At a glance
Deadline set for proposals
Consultants will have until March 7 to submit proposals to complete a study of enhancing Park Avenue between Harvey Avenue and Broadway as a retail corridor. The request for proposals asks that the consultants create a plan to guide future city involvement, examine the potential of making Park Avenue an upgraded urban retail street capable of capturing existing and future demand, drive higher sale tax revenue and become a “great street” that enhances prominence and desirability of the Central Business District.
One consultant will be tasked with advising how to recruit and sustain retail and what kind of space will be needed. A design consultant will be hired to assist the city and partners in creating a supply of well designed retail spaces within existing buildings, utilize outdoor plazas as amenities, streamline building improvements with planned street improvements as part of Project 180, and integrate other components such as signage, awnings and way finding.