Comprehensive planning -- looking to Dallas and Kansas City

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A vision is a "compelling description of your preferred future," not a collection of public construction projects. This week's column is about comprehensive planning and developing a real vision for Tulsa's future. Tulsa's comprehensive plan is about 30 years old, but the process to get a new one is underway. Kansas City redid theirs in the '90s, and they have an ongoing effort to implement it. Dallas has unveiled a draft comprehensive plan with a strong theme of making more of Dallas pedestrian-friendly. Tulsa could learn a lot from these cities, but the scorched-earth approach of the development lobby may stop Tulsa from having the kind of visionary leadership we need.

I first learned about the Dallas plan thanks to this topic on the TulsaNow forum.

Some supplemental links:

The report of Comprehensive Plan Process Task Force: transmittal letter, draft report, and draft process.

Tulsa City Council's resolution adopting the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan Process Task Force.

ForwardDallas, Dallas's comprehensive planning effort.

ForwardDallas's draft comprehensive plan documents.

The urban design element of ForwardDallas (14.5 MB PDF).

Dallas Morning News (free registration required) story on the plan: "Pedestrians, not cars, star in draft of plan, but code changes sought"

Dallas does moratoriums, too. One example: building permits and certificates of occupancy within 1000 feet of a section of Fort Worth Avenue were halted for four months, to allow time for a development study to be completed. This is much stricter, although shorter in duration, than the eminent domain moratorium being proposed for Tulsa.

The big infill development battle in Dallas has been over McMansions -- tearing down smaller homes in older neighborhoods and building houses that fill their lots and dwarf neighboring homes. Here's a blog devoted to the fight against McMansions. (In Tulsa, it's been more typical to replace a sprawling ranch home on a multiple-acre lot with several multi-story houses.) is an interesting community blogging effort at creating an alternative news presence online. I intend to explore it further.

Here's the home page for FOCUS Kansas City.


S. Lee said:

Maybe somebody can explain this to me: What is wrong with downtown being the business center and the (or a) religious center of Tulsa? The word "revitalization" keeps getting kicked around and around and around and around and .... Being one who lives only three miles west of the joint, who is in downtown frequently, and who used to work downtown (the old (pre-Ebbers) WilTel), I can say that downtown is and has been quite an active place in the day time. I fail to understand what is wrong with it being day time activity. Nobody has explained -- or even tried to explain -- why having the place bustling with activity around the clock is supposed to be such a great thing worthy of spending tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollar to achieve.

One glaring omission in all this scheming (glaring to me anyway) is Home Depot at 11th and Elgin. I used to live only two blocks from the old Warehouse Market building and know very well the difference that Home Depot made. It brings gobs of people into the area from morning until night. But ... alas ... it isn't chic and glamorous (and we *SO* like to think of ourselves as chic and glamorous).

So let's see: We want a downtown that is bustling from 6AM to 2AM at least six days a week; the bustling being the result of chic stuff (Lord help us if it is the result of a WalMart. Egads!!); with primarily pedestrian transportation (We'll have Scotty beam everyone in from Southeast Tulsa so there will be no need to accommodate cars).

Hmmmm. No wonder money keeps gets flushed down the toilet. The people (including a Mr. Bates) who keep coming up with these grand schemes have gotten so thoroughly wrapped in a pile of GroupThink, that all pragmatic thought has been eliminated.

Tulsa, being built during the glory days of the automobile, is a fairly sprawling metropolitan area. Whine about that fact if you want, but those are the facts. When people go someplace, they are going to go in a car. They will need someplace CONVENIENT and HASSLE-FREE to put the car when they get there. (Speaking of convenient and hassle-free: Remember the old Williams Center shopping mall?)

Tulsa already has areas devoted to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. They are already there. They've been built; and they have parking lots. It's a done deal.

Tulsa already has multiple night life areas. They are already there. They've been built; and they have parking lots. It's a done deal.

I'm not sure Tulsa has an art district -- maybe Brady sort of kind of. But I don't see downtown becoming it.

Here's and idea: How about a little level-headed, realistic thought on this stuff. Not too much, mind you; it takes all the glamour and romance out of the picture. But a little bit of pragmatism now -- a little honest recognition about the way people actually behave -- would, I think, prevent a lot of wasted money and disappointment later.

Interesting comment and worthy of a thoughtful response. I'd encourage you to post it over at the TulsaNow forum -- I think it would generate some lively discussion.

I agree with the need to be pragmatic and level-headed about this, and not guided by wishful thinking. That's why I appreciate Jane Jacobs, a writer on urban design who insists on seeing the world as it is.

The short answer to your question is that Tulsa once had an urban center, it needs one now, and downtown is the logical place to try to recreate it. To go back to my maiden column for UTW, there ought to be at least one part of Tulsa where it's possible to live, work, and shop without needing a car. We had that once, and we destroyed it largely through government action. To my mind, that fact justifies some government involvement in trying to recreate it, but government involvement must be strategic and pragmatic.

S. Lee said:

I was a just a kid in Tulsa back in the 60's; so my recollection is from the viewpoint of a kid. However, my impression (as a kid) is that the main shopping areas of Tulsa were Northland (Remember Northland? They even had the annual fireworks display there.) and Utica Square. We did do some shopping downtown, but the majority (vast majority) of it was elsewhere.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with marketing downtown as the business and financial center of Tulsa even if this means you roll up the sidewalks at 6PM. However, that idea seems to have been disparaged so much that, if there ever was bandwagon rolling in that direction, it has been chopped up into firewood; and I don't know if another one could be built.

My opinion for the most likely catalyst for downtown becoming more of an all-purpose, round-the-clock (or thereabouts) center is for the University Center to become a real state school with resident housing.

Joseph Wallis said:

Um, if we need to be looking at Dallas and Kansas City for ideas then I say lets just stop now and do nothing. The sprawl in Dallas and Kansas City is HORRIBLE! Everytime I visit either, it takes 30 minutes to go and do anything.

Joseph, the point is that these cities, which have similar development patterns to ours, realize they have a problem and are setting out to change their ways. In Dallas's case, the plan is still a draft, so it isn't even in effect yet, but the plan seems to point in the right direction, and specifically calls for development that makes it possible for a resident to reduce the number and distance of car trips he has to make. Keep in mind, too, that these plans are city-specific, not metro-area.

Joseph Wallis said:

Well, there lies the problem. If you don't address the problem metro wide, you are never going to see a solution. Burbs around KC and Dallas will be against any plans, because it goes against the sprawl that has made the burbs grow. I hate to say it, but the only way to get such a thing to succeed would be to have drivers at a county level who can dicate how grow occurs within the county. At this point city efforts will be thwarted by burbs. I use BA as a good example. These guys have higher taxes, that they then turn around and use the money in the form of incentives to bring in the bass pros of the world. Now I'm not saying that Tulsa would want a bass pro downtown, but you cant compete with incentives like that. You need to have a county body with teeth that can say "NO you cant have that there, that is sprawl." But first you have to get a countywide body that appreciates urban infill. That certainly isn't happening.

What we need downtown is subsidized retail. I think we have enough people living downtown now that we just need to get a Supervalu store put in and get the eateries downtown to stay open later. I think you can achieve a car less environment right now if you get those things to happen.

What Tulsa needs to do is offer incentive grants for big box retail to put in urban concept stores on the lower level of these kanbar buildings. It would be the ultimate testbed. Tulsa is a big box society no doubt. But if big box can experiment here and make it work, they would be able to go into any urban environment and do it.

Joseph Wallis said:

Hey it looks like they have started renovations on the McFarlin building. workers are on the roof removing the old roof materials and I can see workers rummaging around in the top floors.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 9, 2006 12:01 PM.

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