If you seek his monument, you're parking on it


I see that Dean Van Trease, outgoing president of Tulsa Community College, is getting a block of Boston Avenue double-signed in his honor. It would have been better to name the Downtown campus's vast swath of surface parking in his honor -- the Van Trease Treeless Expanse, perhaps. TCC has a single block of buildings, but four blocks of parking. No single institution has done more damage to downtown's urban fabric in the last ten years than TCC under his leadership.

You have to wonder how downtown benefits from TCC's presence and vice versa. When TJC (as it was then) had only its classroom building and no parking of its own, a nearby cafe or snack bar might hope to attract students for meals. A nearby variety store might hope to sell school supplies. Now TCC's downtown campus is a self-contained world with its own cafeteria and bookstore, and there are no nearby merchants because of TCC's vast moat of parking. So people zoom into downtown, park, go to class, maybe eat at the cafeteria, and zoom back out. If TCC were to relocate, there would be an opportunity to redevelop those parking lots into something useful and attractive. The only reason I can imagine TCC would want to stay downtown is for ease of access to the Tulsa Transit bus system, but surely bus service could be provided to, say, the TCC northeast campus if sufficient demand exists.

I will give TCC credit for their adaptive reuse of Central High School's Manual Arts building, which fronts Cincinnati. On the other hand, TCC tore down the old Cadillac dealership -- a multi-story building designed to hold cars -- for surface parking.

TCC is by no means the only guilty party in the deconstruction of downtown Tulsa, but it is the single biggest offender. Long ago some mayor or some other city leader should have sat down with TCC, the nearby churches, and businesses and come up with a parking plan that would meet everyone's needs while stopping the continued conversion of the southern part of downtown into a desert.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 17, 2004 11:52 AM.

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