Tornadoes and Midwest City Urban Renewal


Hearing news of a large tornado hitting the southern Oklahoma City metro area, nearly four years to the day after an F5 tornado cut a wide swath, like an expressway right-of-way across the southern and eastern suburbs of Oklahoma City.

Last weekend's Oklahoma Republican Convention was in Midwest City at the newly opened Reed Center, built in the midst of an area cleared by the 1999 tornado. Just a mile east on I-40 is Tinker Plaza, a now-rundown shopping center with a few tenants still in business, including Atkinson Development, the company that developed Midwest City after the opening of Tinker Air Depot. . I vaguely remembered going there once or twice as a child while visiting my cousins in town.

The center is surrounded by empty, razed blocks, another result, I assumed, of the same tornado. As I drove through I marveled that the tornado had spared the massive water tower -- tallest thing for miles -- and Tinker Plaza, but had destroyed everything in between. Turns out it wasn't the tornado's work after all, but a redevelopment project to create a "new urbanist" city center on 83 acres at the heart of the original 1940s development.

Does devoting half the area to surface parking lots disqualify the plan as new urbanist? Looks more like a slightly modified power center (like Southroads or Mingo Marketplace in Tulsa), but the architect for the project describes it as a "power hybrid", combining "big boxes" and "lifestyle" shopping. He rejects the term "power town" for this kind of development, because it lacks residential, office, and governmental uses, although by connecting to the street grid, it does provide something like a downtown.

If I read the site plan right, Tinker Plaza will vanish completely, so here's a photo with links to a couple more:

Tinker Plaza

Tinker Plaza, Atkinson Properties

Movie theatre, water tower and emptiness in between

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 8, 2003 11:23 PM.

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