When life hands you lemons

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There are some interesting conversations taking place over at the TulsaNow discussion forums about the design of the arena.

(Funny how the item that was downplayed the most before the vote has now become the center of attention, perhaps because it's the most expensive. It's tempting to suggest that this is one project it would be safe for the trust authority to cancel, because by design few people realized they were voting on it. They could use the freed-up money for education -- which had star billing on proposition 3 -- or just end that 4/10ths of a cent after 6 or 7 years.)

But if an arena is to be built downtown with taxpayer dollars, we can at least be sure that it is placed and built in a way that enhances the urban environment, to help recreate downtown as (to use Jim Kunstler's phrase) "a place worth caring about."

Over on tulsanow.org, Jack Blair has posted two topics, one with photos of recently built arenas and how they fail to enhance their environment, and the other showing arenas built before World War II and how they connect to the street and their surroundings. This has spawned a third topic, pointing out that the distinction is not so much the age or the style of the buildings, but whether they stand aloof or connect with their surroundings. Jack is proposing a design task force.

The mission of the task force should be to (1) monitor the convention center and arena design process from its earliest stages, (2) debate the elements that will mark successful designs, (3) research failures and successes in other cities, but not be bound by them, (4) provide quality information, ideas, and expertise to key decision makers throughout the design and construction process, and (5) report back to the citizens of Tulsa, through all available media, on the progress, successes, and/or failures of the design and construction process.

And Jack goes on to list some of his ideas:

Here are a few of my ideas, just to throw into the pot to get things rolling:

  • We should demand that the new facilities close as few streets as possible. We should further demand that the city consider opening up 3rd Street to two-way traffic (and taking down the awkward divider that redirects eastbound traffic around the Federal Building to 4th Street). Can we restore 4th Street between Frisco and Houston?

  • We should demand that the design address the streets and sidewalks, and that it work at street-level. Why canít the design incorporate street-front retail space?

  • We should demand the use of good materials, not yard after yard of bland concrete, with a huge, yawning glass maw in the front.

  • We should demand that the arena and convention center (and the attendant parking) be designed with an eye toward promoting private investment in nearby retail and residential development.

These facilities donít have to be exclusive of, and incompatible with downtown street-life. They must be a vital component of it.

And someone linked to this set of design guidelines for a new arena in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina as a good starting point for Tulsa.

I have written elsewhere (scroll down to the end) that I believe city-owned land at Archer and Elgin would be a better choice for an arena location, in terms of creating synergy with already existing entertainment districts. Another possibility is between 1st & 2nd, Elgin and Greenwood -- working around the only remaining building on that superblock. But I confess that I don't know what kind of footprint would be necessary for an arena of the proposed size, and if it would fit in either space.

From the feasibility study, it appears unlikely that we will host conventions large enough to require a 20,000 seat arena adjacent to our convention facilities, so I'm skeptical of the notion that the two must be linked. Perhaps by using urban renewal land, we can save enough on land acquisition costs to build the ballroom on the north end of the exhibit hall. Another thought -- I think you could fit the ballroom in half the space of the existing arena. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.) So convert the south half into a ballroom and keep the north half in a theatre configuration that would seat about 4000 people for plenary sessions. (Have we ever hosted a larger convention?)

Here's a map if you would like to see the areas I'm talking about.

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TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.batesline.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/119

» Batesline on Arena Location from bitweever.com

Over at Batesline.com, Mr. Bates discusses possible locations for the new convention center: I have written elsewhere (scroll down to... Read More

» Batesline on Arena Location from bitweever.com

Over at Batesline.com, Mr. Bates discusses possible locations for the new convention center: I have written elsewhere (scroll down to... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 11, 2003 7:07 PM.

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