The process of adding public input into the development of downtown may not always be neat, it may not make everyone happy, but recent changes to big projects show debate and feedback are being heard.
The Downtown Design Review Committee will see plans this week for a new downtown elementary school that are markedly different from the renderings that failed to capture their enthusiasm a few weeks ago.
At that presentation, committee members tasked with overseeing design of new buildings and existing structure renovations downtown lamented that the school facade included too few windows, a harsh institutional feel and little interaction with Sheridan Avenue.
The new renderings show a facade with more windows, designs more reflective of the Art Deco feel of nearby Film Row, and openings into the schoolyard facing Sheridan.
While the design committee is set up for such review, engineers overseeing planning for a new downtown boulevard were not eager to change their drawings on a project they hoped to start this winter.
But when the designs showed an elevated roadway extending from Western to Walker avenues, a grassroots protest fermented via Facebook at the community forum www.okctalk.com drew serious attention from city council members, civic leaders and legislators. Engineers who initially saw no way to change their plans regrouped and agreed to the hiring of an outside consultant.
The compromise plan now shows far more of the boulevard at grade, with just a bridge crossing at a combined Western Avenue/Classen Boulevard corridor. The plan has the backing of the engineers, and while it still has critics, most agree it is an improvement over the elevation they feared would kill any chances of developing the surrounding Farmers Market area.
More public debates are certain to continue into 2013 as the fate of the landmark Stage Center is set to be decided and chances for more mid- to high-rise tower development increase.
The critics won't always like the outcomes — but if they speak loudly enough, have no doubt, based on recent history, their voices will get heard.