A years-long effort to make Automobile Alley a less hostile place for pedestrians became a reality over the weekend as contractors eliminated a rarely used fifth center turn lane and created about two dozen angled parking spaces.
Sitting in Coffee Slingers at 1015 N Broadway during rush hour Monday, I saw no chaos, no confusion, no major traffic back-ups. I did see, however, people enjoying an easier walk across the narrower street and a very changed appearance.
The arguments for elimination of a traffic lane and switch from parallel to angled parking were based on the idea that such a realignment would calm traffic and provide more parking spaces desperately needed by the growing number of retailers along Broadway.
What I’m not quite sure many expected was how paint — that’s all we’re really talking about — would dramatically alter the character of Automobile Alley.
Broadway has always had tremendous potential as an urban district and is filled with old buildings with great storefront windows that once showcased Packards, Cadillacs, Buicks and Chevrolets. But the wide street created a superfast thoroughfare that far exceeded the 30 mph speed limit.
Some great retailers and restaurants have filled up those storefronts in the past few years, but the lack of parking threatened to end Broadway’s potential as a retail corridor before it really got started. But retailers including Plenty Mercantile, Rawhide and others kept faith that the district would succeed in working with City Hall to create the much needed change to angled parking spaces and a narrower road.
From what I saw Monday, the parking situation is just right now for retail on Broadway. But other surprises awaited me. The headquarters of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation always appeared to be disconnected from the street, even though it was built up to the sidewalk and in accordance with downtown urban design standards. I can’t quite explain it, but just the addition of angled spaces in front of the building erases that disconnect.