Uptown’s NW 23 corridor, one of the city’s busiest urban thoroughfares, will shut down Sunday as people take over the street with bikes, yoga mats and skateboards.
“Open Streets,” an initiative in cities across the country, is being launched in Oklahoma City by a coalition that includes the Oklahoma City/County Health Department, the Uptown 23rd Merchants Association, Spokies, Integris, the Lynn Institute, Oklahoma City University, the Oklahoma City Barons, the Oklahoma City Energy (soccer team), the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG), METRO Transit/Embark, ASTEC Charter Schools, NewView Oklahoma and the OKC Boathouse Foundation.
“It started last summer as a conversation with the Wellness Now partnership, ACOG and myself,” said Kristin Culver, Wellness Now supervisor. “We were talking about Open Street initiatives across the country that were really starting to pick up steam as ways to generate interest in public transportation, physical activity, while also promoting local businesses and building up civic pride.”
Culver said she and another Wellness Now coordinator attended national training on Open Streets in Minneapolis at a time when that city was hosting an event along a three-mile stretch.
“There’s never been anything quite like it in Oklahoma,” Culver said. “So the idea is you temporarily close streets to traffic so they can be used for anything – walking, jogging, biking, dancing – anything that is human powered. The intent is to create a car-free public space where communities can connect, families and friends can play, and businesses can engage the public.”
Kurt Shewmaker, director of restaurant management for A Good Egg Dining Group and president of the Uptown 23rd Merchants Association, said the Open Streets event is well timed as the district is seeking to deal with parking and traffic issues.
The street was a dead zone just five years ago, but following the opening of Big Truck Tacos, an array of restaurants, bars and shops have opened in renovated buildings making NW 23 the newest urban entertainment corridor in Oklahoma City.