Even McDonald's can blend in


Saw the following recent post (about halfway down) by Keith Mooney in one of the Tulsa Now forums:

After being out of town for a few months, I was really disappointed to see that generic looking McDonald's being built on the sw corner of cherry and peoria. What nimron allowed that to happen? It totally disgraces the character of the neighborhood. Who allowed that to happen? Whoever it was, they were on some sort of sedative when they allowed that plan to go through. It's not that I'm annoyed that is was a McDonald's, but surely someone could have designed a McDonald's that would have blended in with the neighborhood, although we have the Whataburger and Long John's across the street that are eyesores just as well. But still, Cherry Street could be so much nicer if we had developers who would keep in mind the integrity and architecture of that corner. To the poster who posted that Cherry Street and Brookside are lost causes, well I disagree. These are small neighborhoods, not mega entertainment districts (i.e. OKC's Bricktown or Dallas' WestEnd), But surely from now on, we need to be more stringent as a city regarding architectural and aesthetic developments being constructed in these otherwise charming neighborhoods. But that McDonalds is a total waste of space and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Many people have expressed surprise that a garden-variety McDonald's could be built in a historic, traditional, pedestrian-oriented shopping district, next to two historic neighborhoods. Folks who have visited historic districts elsewhere have seen chain stores and restaurants redesigned to fit in with the existing architecture, and they are surprised that that doesn't seem to happen here. I remember on a trip to Germany finding Mickey D's in the heart of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a beautifully preserved walled city. But the McDonald's, right on the market square, was in a historic building, with signage adjusted so it didn't stand out like a sore thumb. (No drive-thru, of course.)

At 15th & Peoria, you could have had a lot worse than McDonald's, by right. You could have a giant windowless metal barn topped by an enormous sign, because the parcel is zoned CH -- commercial high-intensity. CH zoning was applied to most of the shopping districts in Midtown, even though high-intensity is not an apt description for the small shops and cafes you find in this areas.

Other cities expect better and they get it, because they set their expectations in writing, in the form of design requirements. Design requirements are used in residential and commercial areas to maintain the character of an area, without imposing the more stringent standards of historic preservation. Design requirements are a component of "neighborhood conservation" or "urban conservation" ordinances. Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth, Little Rock are just a few among many cities in our region and nationally which have enabled the creation of conservation districts.

Meanwhile, Tulsa lags behind. Conservation districts were considered by Mayor Savage's 1999 Infill Task Force. INCOG planning staffers even had a draft neighborhood conservation district ordinance for the task force to consider. In the end, the concept was watered down by the members of the development community who dominated the task force. I recall one developer saying that national chains would not want to locate in Tulsa if we imposed any sort of design requirements. This is baloney -- as the experience of other cities demonstrates -- and it reveals a lack of confidence in Tulsa's desirability. If a company wants to target a given neighborhood because of its demographics and spending patterns, they will be willing to adapt to meet the requirements for the location they want. It is certain that they will build their cookie-cutter standard design, unless there is some requirement to do otherwise.

Here is a page that tracks news stories about urban design guidelines.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 13, 2003 5:14 PM.

Howie Carr, scourge of hacks was the previous entry in this blog.

Who will design the arena? 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?]