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Will engineers decide the future of Oklahoma City's Core to Shore park?

by Steve Lackmeyer Published: April 3, 2012

Paul Brum and Garner Stoll are distant memories at City Hall these days, but their legacies serve as a reminder of the stark differences between city engineers and planners.

Brum, who served a long stint as Oklahoma City's public works director until he died a few years ago, was all business. He rose through the ranks at the public works department and, as with his predecessors, the priorities seemed clear: pave the roads, get traffic moving as fast as possible and don't worry about trees — people don't like them anyway.

Stoll, meanwhile, was a bit the revolutionary when he was hired as planning director in 1993.

He arrived from Boulder, Colo., itself a relatively progressive community when it came to planning. Stoll encountered resistance when he suggested redevelopment of the urban core could be assisted by going beyond repaving of streets, and instead going with a more elaborate design with landscaping, street furnishings and other amenities aimed at creating a sense of place.

When Stoll suggested cutting down on city investment in infrastructure in fringe areas to slow sprawl, one city councilman, Jack Cornett, didn't just want to see Stoll fired. He unsuccessfully sought to abolish the planning department. The effort failed by one vote.

Stoll's ideas persevered, though his career in Oklahoma City came to an end a dozen years ago when he sought to give planning a bigger role in the city's operations via a revised master plan.

Now, planning is still perceived by City Hall observers as taking a backseat to public works. Witness the process under way for the hiring of an architect for a planned $120 million park in Core to Shore.

The park is hailed as the key to sparking development in the blighted area between the Oklahoma River and downtown. Mayor Mick Cornett has called it the city's chance at establishing its version of Chicago's Millennium Park or Houston's Discovery Green.

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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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