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Oklahoma City's Civic Center park makeover challenged

A Project 180 makeover of the Civic Center park is being delayed because of design concerns.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: January 22, 2012

City Hall fought City Hall this week and both sides finished the discussion confused and exasperated.

Public works officials and consultants overseeing the Project 180 reconstruction of downtown streets, sidewalks and parks were seeking approval Thursday from the Downtown Design Review Committee of final plans for a makeover of the Civic Center park, which is between the Civic Center Music Hall and City Hall.

The city already has accepted construction bids for part of the park in front of the music hall, while plans call for the park area surrounding City Hall to be added to Project 180 projects that, for funding reasons, are being delayed to future years.

Plans by Tulsa-based PDG Inc. and Oklahoma City's Elliott Associates call for removal of all sculptures, monuments and landscaping.

A series of benches and landscaping would be added, along with a “fountain stage” consisting of spray jet portals.

Potential improvements also included in the design application, but pending private-sector funding, include new signs, a gateway arch, a series of spinning rods called “Spinner Towers,” and shade pavilions.

A report written by Scottye Montgomery, an assistant city planner, advised the committee several parts of the application conflict with the city's design ordinance.

“The Gateway arch, while possibly reflecting the curve of (adjoining street) Patience Latting Circle, is not reflective of the history, architecture, or significance of the site,” Montgomery wrote. “The proposed Spinner Towers are a strong visual element. However, they also serve as a visual and physical barrier dividing the site in two. The Spinner Towers may not be appropriate within the grounds of the Municipal Building, where a more sedate environment would be considered more fitting to the gravity and significance of the structure and activities taking place within.”

Montgomery also noted no relocation plans were provided by public works officials for the site's sculptures and monuments, which have historic and civic merit, and that the new design distracts from the prominence and significance of the Art Deco Civic Center buildings constructed in 1937. She also noted the project proposed to eliminate the original City Hall fountain.

“This assembly of multiple disconnected features neither preserves the historic connection nor allows for easy circulation and flexible utilization of the pedestrian spaces,” Montgomery wrote.

Montgomery reiterated her concerns at Thursday's meeting and suggested the project, funded through a tax increment financing district created through the construction of the new $750 million Devon Energy Center, be delayed.

Laura Story, a former assistant city engineer who now works as a private consultant for the project, repeatedly pleaded with the committee to approve the project design and let construction begin.

Story, joined by the city's Project 180 coordinator Michael Clark, said she wanted to submit the park plans to the committee last fall, but was rebuffed by Montgomery and told to wait until the project design was complete.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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