“Envision 240”? First, envision a new name.
That's one of a passel of suggestions a panel of experts came up with to rejuvenate retail business and improve the looks of South Oklahoma City's Interstate 240 corridor. Interviews with more than 40 property owners, business owners, residents and elected officials found that the area lacks an identity.
“It needs to be more than a freeway number,” former Mayor Kirk Humphreys said Thursday, presenting the panel's early findings at Willow Creek Country Club, where plans for a clubhouse reoriented toward the interstate are part of I-240's future.
Humphreys is chairman of the volunteer Envision 240 Technical Assistance Panel formed by Urban Land Institute Oklahoma, the South Oklahoma City of Commerce and the Oklahoma City Planning Department.
The groups are using an $18,000 grant from ULI national with support from BancFirst and other local businesses.
Envision 240 is looking at economic development and appearances a half-mile north and south of I-240 between I-44 on the west and I-35 on the east. It's a stretch of just under five miles, six miles south of downtown. Panelists hit the high points of a report to be out this summer.
The former mayor, a developer, emphasized that the stakeholders in the area have the business and community leadership needed to keep I-240 current with ongoing improvements in other parts of the metro area.
But they don't have the organization or unified voice needed to get the kind of attention required, whether from potential developers, redevelopers, City Hall or the state, he said. State transportation officials, especially, are more likely to respond to demands for changes along the highway and its rights of way if an organized group asks for them, he said.
Humphreys listed other challenges: highway infrastructure in bad shape; unappealing appearance; a “harsh atmosphere” for pedestrians; the perception that crime is high, although police and crime statistics do not show it; unattractive “seas of concrete” for parking; lower-than-average retail rates and property values; and several used car lots.