Construction is set to begin soon on the makeover of Kerr and Couch Drive Parks as SandRidge Energy prepares to complete work on the adjoining Parkside Building.
The park was first built by Kerr-McGee more than 40 years ago, but by the 1990s, the pavement was buckling, many of the fountains were broken and it was largely forgotten by downtown workers.
When SandRidge Energy bought the nearby Kerr-McGee headquarters in 2007, the company pledged, along with Chesapeake Energy, to build a new park. Aaron Young, an architect with Rogers Marvel, gave a recent update on the project that includes an estimated completion date of the fall of 2014 for the park and Parkside Building.
“We started with the question, ‘How do we make more park out of this?'” Young said. “The overall idea, through simple material continuity, is that we can create the idea of there being one single park.”
That continuity begins with two statues that will be retained from the original park — the Pioneers of 1889 on the west end and the Air Force Monument on the east end.
Both statues were created by noted artist Leonard McMurray.
“To have the park bookended by this same artist is pretty important,” Young said.
But the statues, he added, suffered from less than ideal presentation.
The Pioneers of 1889 will be taken off its current 7-foot-high pedestal and reset on a slightly raised grassy mound and encased in light at night. The Air Force Monument, meanwhile, will be set inside a grove of trees with a lit up path leading up to it.
A new display also will be created for a separately designed bust of former Oklahoma Gov. and U.S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr, which was set just a couple of feet off the ground.
“It's been displayed unfortunately,” Young said. “It's difficult to understand why this bust of a man who was 6-foot-four is only 3 feet high.”
The entire park will be lit up at night to serve as a “soft” beacon, Young said. Trees and other plantings throughout the park are designed to act as wind breaks and shade against the summer sun to allow for greater use throughout the year.
Greg Dewey, spokesman for SandRidge, said the design team worked with the company to look at other parks throughout the urban core to ensure it doesn't duplicate offerings already underway.
“We wanted to come up with a design that is very accessible,” Dewey said. “We wanted to create a downtown environment that accommodates a lot of different programming … we want it host everything from small to large crowds.”