Downtown is too for kids...

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...says Jeff Shaw, who relates some of the downtown adventures that his wife and son are having this summer, riding the bus to meet Dad for lunch and visit the Central Library:

After one particular visit, I wrote in my little Moleskine: "Emily and Philip came downtown for lunch today. We held hands and walked down 5th Street. I felt like I was in a fairly tale." And it did feel like that.

So to say I have enjoyed having my family downtown for lunch, is an understatement. Yesterday we went to the Atlas Grill which is in the Atlas Life Building. It is across the great hall from the Tulsa Press Club.

My son said it looked kind of like Grand Central Station, in New York City. I think maybe he meant it had the "feel" of Grand Central Station, and I think it does too. Since he was interested, and after we ate a great hamburger and a pile of fries, I decided to take my family through the rest of the great buildings on that block of Boston between 4th and 5th streets. (Btw, sorry to the two gentlemen sitting next to us: we always have fun blowing the paper off the straws; didn't mean for them to land in your plate - and thanks for being good sports about it.)

There are a number of projects underway to develop more housing downtown. Most of it seems to target upper-income adults -- empty nesters, singles. In response to those who say downtown isn't suited as a place to live for children or families, Jeff writes:

If Downtown Tulsa isn't for kids, then its redevelopment is dead in the water, and any endearment the children may have to Tulsa as they grow into adults will be limited to areas of town like 71st and Memorial, and... and.. and I guess that is it really, 71st and Memorial. I mean what else is there, in most peoples mind?

When I was a kid, I lived about a mile and a half northeast of downtown. We came downtown all the time to play, to go to the library, to eat at the Coney Islander when it was on the South side of 4th street. We ate at the counter at Kress's. We shopped at J.C. Penney, at Froug's department store, and the like. We would look at the behemoth Central High School and wonder what it would be like to go to school in such a large, majestic building.

I'm in favor of re-creating a downtown that is vibrant and livable for everyone, including the children.

I remember taking my own bus rides downtown every Wednesday afternoon, when I was 11, 12, and 13 years old. School let out at 2:20, and my mother couldn't pick me up until 4, so I went downtown to meet Dad. The 41st Street route went down 26th St. between Harvard and Lewis, turned north on Lewis, then came into downtown on 6th Street, turning north on Boston. I'd get off at 5th and walk toward the Central Library. (It was faster and more interesting than riding the bus around to the library.) I'd stop at a sandwich shop in the Court Arcade Building (between 5th and 6th on Boulder) and buy a 7-UP fountain drink and a fig bar, then head to the library and pore over books and maps until about 5, when I'd walk to the Cities Service Building (110 W. 7th) to meet my dad for the ride home. While a lot of the interesting old buildings were gone by 1975, there was still plenty to see and plenty of people out on the streets downtown, even at 3 in the afternoon.

An urban environment can be just as exciting and enriching a place to grow up as a rural environment. Both seem to be superior to the dull sameness of block after block of suburban houses.

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S. Lee said:

I don't know what it takes to get a critical mass to have a self-sustaining environment, but I am inclined say that focusing entirely on what lies inside the boundaries of downtown will not work. I base that on the empty ex-Safeway/Homeland building at 11th & Denver. That was rather close to most of the downtown area apartments and the residential area to the south, but could not stay in business. And everybody buys groceries.

sbtulsa said:

While I have been constantly condescending about downtown development efforts, I have admit one fallicy in that position. If not downtown, where will the memories be or those in the future? we are connected to our city through memories. That's what makes us want to stay and sacrifice for it.

71st and Memorial? It's sterile, crowded, and fluid. Restaurants come and go regularly. All of our memories are of more stable places to stop in downtown or elsewhere.

We will only "recreate" downtown with families. Should they all be rich? Terrible idea. Then the feeder businesses would be unaffordable by the city at large.

Maybe the Walmart and Target aren't a bad idea after all. But we do have to get more employment in downtown. That's why it was Tulsa's center in its heyday.

G Webster Wormleigh said:

As a Tulsa resident since 1960, and a Mid Town (Maple Ridge) occupant since 1967, I feel qualified to speak on the downtown area.

I think that it is dead in the water, and it will never return to the early days. It is almost strictly a geographical oddity: the downtown area is in the far, far, northwest area of the city. It is, in fact, too far out of the "loop" to ever be anything but a secondary commercial district. We have killed it off politically. Here is the jail. There is the area frequented by the bums, drunks and panhandlers (aka the Homeless, a PC euphemism for people who, for the most part, should be in an institution of some sort and not wandering the streets). Building foolishly in downtown; the Bus Whatever, and, of course the big White Elephant Arena, and moving City Hall, are just ways the High Roller "Technicians At City Hall", i.e. the bureaucrats who run our city, while spending our dollars and increasing their salaries, and driving around in City vehicles, filled with City gasoline. And we gullibly elect people like Lobeck/Taylor/Frame or whatever, and they connive with the World and their like to create new ways to extract money from us when they should be hard at work fixing the streets and the exploding crime situation.

In other words, we should leave downtown alone, and hope that private interests can rebuild and revitalize it. But let us not waste any more money trying to take it back fifty years.

sbtulsa said:

downtowns are for the most part relics of the past. but what do you with them? letting them turn in to eyesores does no one any good. i agree that tulsa has gone overboard with its spending on downtown. by the time you add up all hesupport spending (subsidize hotels, new city hall to make room for a hotel, fix the streets, relocate cops to protect event patrons, etc) we have more 500 mill invested in this dowtwon project. how long will it take to get that investment paid back?

maybe that money would have been better invested in attracting high paying jobs to replace the ones that got a way. i know, lets start an economic development committee. :)

Paul said:

I have been in Tulsa since 1987.

I live near the Fairgrounds
I attend church at FUMC (11th and main)
I take my kids to the Central library on occasion.
I take my wife to the PAC on occassion

and I consider downtown a barren wasteland. It is a place I have to go to pay a ticket; paying for the privilege of parking in a dark dank cavern and searching for the right door in the right wall.

My kid's memories will be of summer fireworks at Driller's stadium (til they move), Bells (til they were kicked out), events at the Riverparks (til more things were happening near a sandbar in Jenks).

I took my daughter for a walk downtown one weekend. We only saw two people in forty-five minutes; one bum and David Arnett.

I don't play downtown.
I don't work downtown.
I surely can't park downtown.

I don't want to go downtown. Ever.

sbtulsa said:

mega dittoes.

joy said:

i live on the edge of downtown and have done so for over a year. i am 19 female and live alone. i feel safe walking on the streets pretty much any time of day. i find all areas here to be well patroled by "tulsa's finest" who do not, unlike larger's cities cops, unecessarily harrass bums. other residents of my area and i live happily and in harmony with the homeless around and have little to no problem on a daily basis with the diversity of income. this supposed "DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION PROBLEM" is an imaginary urban (haha!) legend. most everyone knows and believes it to be true that there is "nothing going on" downtown, but this is the same "most everyone" that can't ever get their heads out of 71st and memorial (which though i do often visit call the drainpipe, or toilet if you will, of suburbia) to find some actual CULTURE. CULTURE, like people, travels in circles and it takes one to know one. The dam holding back development anywhere is a lack of motivation and awareness from the populace. There are many of us who care. But we need numbers! The cure for apathy towards government can not be an apathetic government. Of course, a naturally middle to low income young generation (18-32) has neither the power, influence, nor voice to spread a hand alone. The cards needed to play the game of government are those held by the old money, the rare new money who is still grappling for a sense of permanency, and by the government itself. In other words, for something to happen, it takes a bright light, a spark, and a broadspread excitement about LIFE among citizens.

There is no other way.

PC said:

There is no real value in coming downtown except for:

1. Work
2. Brady Theatre when there is a show worth doing
3. PAC - when a show worth doing is there.

NOthing else of value. The BOK arena is debatable but it may help the value aspect.

As far as food, I disagree about Atlas Grill.
Ok food when I am downtown, but not good enough food to go to downtown for.
When downtown I often end up going to the same chain restaurants that are near my home in East Tulsa.

Foodwise I have to go to Riverside to get real value in driving in for value.

Ive been in Tulsa sine birth, and find much of Tulsa of value but it rarely includes downtown.

Without river developement this downtown area is real joke other than largescale busines.

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