STILLWATER — Although a timeline isn't in place yet, officials with Oklahoma State University and the city of Stillwater say a plan to connect the campus to downtown could benefit both parties.
University and city planners worked together recently on a plan they hope will guide development southeast of campus. One of the highlights is a pedestrian corridor running from OSU to the downtown area.
The corridor would offer multiple routes downtown. Two legs would run from the southern end of campus south to 4th Avenue, then east on 4th Avenue to Husband Street and south to downtown on 7th Avenue. Another route would run a few blocks east of campus, following Husband Street from Hall of Fame Avenue to 7th Avenue.
Sidewalks along the route would be widened to allow for pedestrians and cyclists to use the corridor together. The route would include amenities such as trees, bicycle racks and benches.
The idea behind the project is to bring foot traffic from campus into three of the city's commercial areas: downtown, the Strip along Washington Street, and Campus Corner along Knoblock Street, said Paula Dennison, development services director for the city of Stillwater.
The city has worked to develop downtown in recent years, creating a business improvement district in 2007 to foster growth. Since then, Dennison said, the area has seen a great deal of development. But those efforts have been hampered by the fact that it's difficult to walk or bike from campus.
Unlike the Strip and Campus Corner, which border the campus, downtown Stillwater has no easy pedestrian route from OSU, Dennison said, making it difficult for students to walk or bike from campus to downtown shopping and dining areas.
Because the project mostly hinges on attracting private investment rather than public funding, Dennison said, the plan is more of a guideline for future developers than a project the city would implement, she said.
Mike Buchert, OSU's director of long-range planning and a member of the Stillwater Planning Commission, said the plan would give students better pedestrian access to downtown. Once the route is complete, he said, the downtown area would be a five-minute bike ride or a 15-minute leisurely walk from campus.
Although no timeline is in place for the pedestrian corridor project, the city has begun looking at widening sidewalks in areas where sidewalks needed to be repaired or replaced.
The city also hopes to attract student apartment complexes and other businesses to the area, Dennison said. Part of the plan includes expanding zoning districts that would allow for high-density apartment buildings, including structures up to seven stories high.
The plan isn't the first development proposal to be made. Last year, the city council approved plans for a 164-bedroom student apartment complex near 4th Avenue and Hester Street, about two blocks south of campus. OSU officials also are planning a new performing arts complex adjacent to Campus Corner.
Dennison said those plans prompted the city to take a harder look at the area and create a master plan for development.