OKC writer puzzled by Tulsa's approach to downtown

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Steve Lackmeyer, writing for The Oklahoman, has been visiting Tulsa and asking questions of "downtown civic leaders" and doesn't think the answers he's getting make much sense:

Why, for example, was a site surrounded by large institutional properties like the U.S. Post Office, Tulsa Sheriff's Office and City Hall, chosen as the site for the city's new arena? Why not instead build an arena between two fledgling entertainment areas, the Brady and Blue Dome districts?

And why, in a city world-renown for its Art Deco architecture, would one not do everything possible to restore the one surviving grand hotel -- the Mayo -- back into a hotel instead of housing?

Experienced hands in downtown Oklahoma City share such questions. But their counterparts in Tulsa -- the ones I've visited with -- seem much more interested in promoting their current course than to stop and reconsider.

People in Tulsa have asked the same question regarding the arena site. An alternative site northeast of Archer and Elgin, now under discussion as a site for a baseball park, was already owned by the Tulsa Development Authority, would not have involved displacing any businesses or demolishing any significant buildings, would not have required closing any streets, and would have provided a link between Greenwood, OSU-Tulsa, Brady Arts District, and Blue Dome.

The Mayo Hotel, of course, will be both housing and a hotel. And it's Sullivanesque, not Art Deco. Around here, we're just grateful it's still standing, and that restoration is slowly under way.

As for his third point, you don't see much reconsideration around here. The arena location was identified as far back as 1995, and changing downtown patterns didn't inspire anyone with a seat at the table to take a second look. For the folks at the Chamber and DTU, reconsideration might lead them to acknowledge that some of the criticism of their decisions was valid -- can't have that.

You can read more commentary on Lackmeyer's column on this topic at the TulsaNow public forum.

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susan said:

Steve that writes for The Oklahoman newspaper is asking great questions. We all know the Tulsa World newspaper thought that location was terrific since it is close to their business which they would hope would bring in more business to drive up real estate prices.
The Bank of Oklahoma is also close to the new downtown arena location. It would be interesting to have George Kaiser that is also promoting the River Tax has interests in real estate and Bank of Oklahoma should be interviewed on this topic.

Didn't Kathy Taylor when she was running for Mayor say she was going to bring in higher paying jobs, but there is plenty of office space downtown where completely vacant.

I think downtown could become successful again if it could bring in successful companies such as software development/I.T. with high paying jobs in that area.

David Van Risseghem said:

It's just stupid to bring the biggest events to the most conjested area of town.
Our "downtown is in the far-northeast corner of our city. There's nothing central about it.

We shoulda built the arena near the I-44 and B.A. expressway area. There are plenty of hotels out around there, as well as restaurants.
Plus, it has the necessary highways to easily accomodate a 15,000-person traffic flow.

We don't need to be "like every other city" and have a "traditional downtown". Let the corporations, lawyers, and government offices stay down there. We'll do the real living in the rest of the city.

G Webster Wormleigh said:

Several things come to mind on this. No one in OkieCity has any business commenting on Tulsa. Those people destroyed their downtown many years ago, and most of that area still looks like East Berlin. What is in the center of OkieCity has been built on the rubble of the old downtown. Don't get me started on Bricktown. What a dump! And downtown Tulsa is not in the northeast part of the city. It is at the far northwest part of the city. This error is possibly because most Tulsans don't know where downtown is and have no intention of ever coming close to it.

slaw said:

to compare OKLAHOMA CITY Bricktown to East Berlin is ridiculous. I have been to Bricktown many times and have always had a great time and there were so many people enjoying Bricktown activities, restaurants, etc., we usually had to stand in a line to do what we wanted to do. It's even safe to walk the streets in Bricktown after dark. It would take a lot to feel safe to walk the streets in downtown Tulsa after dark because of its LOCATION and surroundings.

G Webster Wormleigh said:

Well, I didn't say that Bricktown is like East Berlin. I said it is a dump. The rest of downtown OkieCity is like East Berlin. And it may occasionally be safe to walk around in Bricktown, but stay away from the water in the river!

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