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Tulsa's downtown development reflects pride of those involved

History, architecture lead to differences in development in Oklahoma City's Bricktown, Tulsa's Brady Arts District.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: February 12, 2013

I manage to trek up along the Turner Turnpike to Tulsa about once or twice a year. Those visits are turning into revealing snapshots of how different approaches to downtown development often result in unexpected outcomes.

On my visit last week to check on progress in the Brady Arts District, I saw a downtown that had changed dramatically since my previous visit in early 2012.

Early impressions of the city's downtown Brady Arts District consisted of observations of disjointed development, a lack of a grand entrance, a lack of public spaces and too little investment by the city.

All of that has changed with the addition of the ONEOK Field ballpark, the Guthrie Green park and a nice array of new restaurants, shops, housing and a hotel.

Key differences

In past columns, I sometimes drew comparisons between the Brady Arts District and Bricktown, and was promptly chastised by residents of the state's largest city. They were right; the two districts are very different.

Let's start with what the two areas have in common. They both are among the oldest downtown business districts in the two cities; they feature redeveloped warehouses, and Spaghetti Warehouse was among the first restaurants to open in both areas.

Bricktown, however, never boasted a historic performing arts venue like the Brady Theater or a genuine heritage concert hall like Cain's Ballroom.

Most of the industrial properties in Bricktown ceased operations more than a decade ago, while industry still thrives in Brady.

One might guess that since Bricktown has a design review ordinance that governs new construction and exterior renovations, the Oklahoma City district would have the edge over Brady when it comes to new development.

That bet, however, isn't a sure win.

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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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