Developers want no hindrance to conversion of downtown to parking lots

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CORE Tulsa, a group of Tulsa Preservation Commission staffers and volunteers, did a study on how to keep more of downtown from turning into surface parking lots. According to the Tulsa Whirled, these were the report's recommendations:

  • For the city to conduct a comprehensive review of all downtown buildings with analysis of the impact of demolition and identification of buildings that should be redeveloped and those at risk for loss.
  • For the city and the Tulsa Parking Authority to put new policies into action to move ahead of demand for structured parking and to discourage surface parking by all means possible.
  • For the city and other entities to make downtown preservation an integral component of Tulsa's comprehensive plan, which is being updated.
  • For the city to step up the creation and promotion of incentives for redeveloping existing properties and new development, along with downtown residents.
  • For the city to create a demolition review panel, to be designated by the Preservation Commission, that could trigger a stay of 120 days to consider alternate uses for targeted structures.

This study has been a long time in coming. (I called for a City Hall-led summit on downtown parking and preservation when I first ran for Council in 1998.) Most major cities have some form of the recommendations in place.

You would hope that the development industry, especially those who have pushed the arena as a tool for downtown revitalization, would welcome this study. After all, Preservation Oklahoma named downtown Tulsa one of Oklahoma's most endangered historic places. And the National Preservation Conference is coming to town in just two years.

But no. The very idea of a delaying the demolition of a building for surface parking is enough to have these developers threatening to leave for the suburbs.

So these very mild and moderate recommendations are being held back for "further study." Mayor Taylor could show some leadership on this issue, but her aide Susan Neal is applauding the prospect of watering down the recommendations.

And I'll ask again, where are the civic leaders, the philanthropists, who will take the lead in preserving Tulsa's history?

Media bias note: The Whirled story mentions that the preservation study was inspired by the recent demolition of the Skelly Building, Froug's Department Store, and the Tulsa Auto Hotel. The story neglects to mention that the first two of those three were demolished by the Tulsa Whirled.


Paul Tay said:

During most of my sober waking moments, of late, in between road-testing Redneck Rickshaw, tinkering with a new concept in personal cooling, and watching WWIII about to break out, my mind seems to be completely obessesed with string theory equations which seem to suggest the existence of parallel universes, colliding dimensions causing the Big Bang, and nth dimensions.

I dare say, there MUST be an elegant poetic justice, among at LEAST one of those universes, for da Whirled Building, making Tulsa, not OKC, the number one tourist attraction in Oklahoma.

XonOFF said:

If bad developers pick up their toys and leave, fine. The 'market', once returned to a 'market', will take care of itself. People who respect our assets, process and reasoning are the future developers we would wish upon ourselves.

It really is a shame what's happened in downtown. Truly historic buildings razed for surface parking. I know of no other city where that could occur, at least without some significant process.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Mr. Tay, sans the use of the colloquialism "da" I agree with everything you've written. Now, get on your bike and ride like the wind! (I heard they had beautiful sunsets in one of those string equations)

Seriously, There really has to be a way that these "urban idiots" can understand the importance of these old buildings. I read one guy say that "captial is portable". To that I say: put your parking lot in Owasso. Downtown needs density. In comercial business and population, which is IN CONJUNCTION with those beautiful buildings that are dropping one by one. I dare say there is not one "great" city on the planet that treats its downtown area like a blighted urban area such as we do here in Tulsa. Great town indeed.

The town I lived in in Germany had a unique way of parking. Every main square had a major parking facility UNDERNEATH it. The biggest one I had ever seen was 8 stories deep by 4 vehicle-lengths across and about a football field long.

The facility was complete with elevator to surface, air ventilation, and yes... restrooms and snack facilities.

There was even a section just for bicycles, which I'm sure would please Mr. Tay.

Did I mention that the entire parking facility also doubled as a bomb/storm shelter?

While I was there, they had need for more space. So what did they do? They DUG another level. Brings a new meaning to "how low can you go". :)

Paul Tay said:

Mr. Shaw, with all due respect to the true and proper English, I absolute REFUSE to use "the" whenever I have to refer to da Whirled. It gives them way too much credit.

Paul Tay said:

Now, if Council would revise the zoning code incorporating the report's recommendations and make it profitable for developers to renovate old buildings, we might have some talking points. But, the market is simply responding to the regulatory environment.

Those report recommendation have absolutely NO teeth, until they are codified. Report and recommend all ya want, CORE.

Paul Tay said:

Yes, Mr. Mee, the zoning code also needs bicycle parking requirements and standards. All new in-fill developments should provide at least 10% bicycle parking, with design standards.

Concrete pad. High visible location. Spaces that allow locking devices to secure the frame of the FULL bike, not just the wheels. No need for high-dollar bike lockers, but, FERCHRISTSAKES, NO boring, cheapo wheel-pretzelers, please. Let's do some public art with bicycle parking. Kinda like the Penguins.

Redesign bus shelters for bike security and protect patrons from the traffic, not the landscaping. Hey, Boatwright, check Seattle's shelter designs for inspiration and get your people to at least ride the bus like ONCE a week.

Yer parking lot is full of POV's everytime I go by. Even if you don't make it easy for the rest of us to take the bus and flip for some sorry-ass attempted suck-up concert series, at least make it work for yer people.

S. Lee said:

A recent news story (I think on KTUL) reported that downtown merchants are hollering because people who work downtown park in the parking spots rather than rely on Scotty to beam them in to work by transporter. (The no good carpetbaggers!) Not that I believe everything in the news, but being somebody who actually lives in the vicinity of downtown and actually frequents the one merchant worth frequenting (Home Depot -- who, by the way, has their own nice, big parking lot), I'd say the report is probably not too exaggerated.

I do have appreciation for old buildings that have some artistic or unique quality. I don't share the appreciation of many for old, box-like buildings that look like old, run-down, box-like buildings. The suggestion that these run-down box buildings be restored to new box buildings is fine; and I'm sure the owners of the buildings will be happy to do that just as soon as the public sends in enough cash to pay for the restoration, on-going maintenance, and taxes on the building; plus enough for a reasonable return on investment. (Ooooh public ... anybody out there?)

As I've said before (and, no doubt, will say again), the idea that the majority Tulsa's glitz and glam infrastructure bucks goes to the Southeast (well away from Downtown) while Downtown somehow manages to be an island of urban coolness development is wrong. It won't work. The infrastructure glitz and glam will have to come back this way. And the folks in Southeast Tulsa won't stand for that.

sbtulsa said:

hmmmmmmmmmmm. an organized, well thought out approach, planned in advance. and susan neil agrees with watering it down. she just earned her $93,000 salary advising mayor taylor, didn't she.

ah well, what can you do with these hacks? recall anyone?

Anne said:

If the developers are for it, I'm against it.

I find nothing appealing about developers who bulldoze their way with impunity through history, culture, and nature, exercising a total lack of respect for same, just to line their pockets.

Paul Tay said:

Anne, I am sure you have your well-reasoned justifications for developer-cide.

But, the developers I've met and done business with have been very forward-thinking people. Like any other businesses, most of them, with a few exceptions, you know who you are, CHEAPSKATE, are just trying to make a honest buck, given a particular regulatory environment.

Though the development community has in the past banned me from their forums for their misconceptions of my politics and intentions, the REAL target of my grousing is really the zoning code, which hasn't changed in like HOW LONG?

Again, until Council gets REAL with the zoning code, you can grouse all you want at the greedy, slimy developers. Most are well within the letter of the law.

Paul Uttinger said:

It should come as no surprise that the Tulsa Preservation Commission could not or would not act on CORE's recommendations (other than to delay any meaningful decision until further study). After all, isn't this the same Tulsa Preservation Commission which decided a few months ago that an asphalt parking lot is an appropriate replacement for historic bungalows in a Historic Preservation district (16th & Victor)? Isn't this the same Tulsa Preservation Commission which can not seem to legally describe a Historic Preservation district boundary and to maintain accurate maps which jibe with the legal description (16th & Detroit)? The Tulsa Preservation Commission can't handle its current responsibilities. Can we really expect it to make the correct decisions about historic resources in an area as large as the entire downtown?

One thing is certain. The longer we delay action on CORE's first recommendation, the simpler the task will be. In a few years, at the current pace of demolition, there won't be many buildings remaining to comprehensively review. In comparison to a city such as Portland, Tulsa is critically behind schedule in preserving its historic downtown buildings. Too bad a majority of the Tulsa Preservation Commission can't see this simple fact, and what a shame that a majority lacks the will to do something about it.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 11, 2006 10:55 PM.

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