The Chamber's infill report and the big picture


An earlier entry contains a report on infill development by a Metro Tulsa Chamber committee. Here's how it fits into the bigger picture.

Infill development is often controversial, because it involves changing the use or size or appearance of an already-developed area. It puts at risk the investment made by neighborhing property owners -- good infill can enhance property values, bad infill can destroy them.

The bottom line for some developers is this: We should be able to build anything we want, tear down anything we want, anywhere we want. We want government to clear away any obstacles that stand in our way, including existing zoning laws. If a a property owner won't sell us property we want to redevelop, we expect government to declare the property as blighted, seize the land (paying "compensation" or course), and sell it to us. This document says that this is the only way our city can move forward economically, the only way Tulsa can halt the decline of retail in Tulsa caused by new retail development in the suburbs, the only way Tulsa can halt the decline of sales tax revenues.

Neighborhoods are unfairly identified as an obstacle in this document, a barrier to new retail and residential development in Midtown. Government is identified as a tool to be used, gearing deparments, boards, and commissions to "fulfill the mission". To gain the cooperation of the citizens, they must "become terrified of continuing the status quo".

In fact, homeowners are usually glad to see new shops and restaurants move in, and happy to see houses beyond repair replaced with new homes, as long as the changes are done in a way that maintain and enhance the character of the neighorhood. In planning parlance, this is called "sensitive infill" -- infill done in a way that respects the investments made by neighborhood property owners, consistent with the qualities that made the neighborhood a desirable place for an infill project. Many cities have worked hard to strike this balance, and more enlightened developers in those cities have cooperated in the process, realizing that they are thereby enhancing and protecting their own investments.

These developers don't want to build on vacant land downtown, or to the north or west. Specifically, the report suggests six-laning Riverside Drive, then demolishing much of the land between 33rd & 51st, west of Peoria, to make way for high rise development and retail. Many of the homeowners that this report wishes to displace are the very people who moved into old homes and fixed them up -- in many cases well-educated people with disposable income -- their presence has made Midtown attractive for retail development and brought Brookside back to life.

The report also wants to allow commercial development to encroach deeper into residential areas along 15th and 21st, Peoria, Utica, Harvard, and Lewis. They would accomplish these through blanket rezoning of residential lots to commercial, but the process is already well underway through spot rezoning. The result would be the steady erosion of property values and neighborhoods, and a disincentive for owners to maintain and improve their homes.

Rather than frightening the voters into accepting the developers' preferred outcome, there needs to be an open debate contrasting this vision with an approach that accommodates new businesses without suburbanizing Tulsa's only urban neighborhoods. How suburban areas develop and redevelop is a part of this picture as well. This report and the issues it raises should be the focus of our upcoming city elections. The elections ought to be a referendum on competing visions for our future development. The Chamber will try to keep that from happening -- why that is in a later entry.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 3, 2003 12:16 AM.

Chamber wants to remake Midtown was the previous entry in this blog.

A week of bleatage: Chernobog, the Atkins diet, the Hokey Pokey, K-TEL records is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]