New Urbanism on Lake Eufaula

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There's an exciting lakeside community planned for Oklahoma, unlike anything in the state, but hopefully a model for many more to come. New urbanist city planner Andres Duany has been hired by former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphries to plan Carlton Landing on 1600 acres beside Lake Eufaula. The result of a design charrette -- a kind of brainstorming session -- was presented earlier this week in Oklahoma City.

Duany planned the Gulf Coast town of Seaside, Fla., turning that tiny piece of the Redneck Riviera into a popular resort town and generating similar developments all along that stretch of the Florida Panhandle's shore.

As Seaside was, Carlton Landing is family-owned land that has never been developed.

Instead of the usual resort community pattern of only residences along winding roads, Carlton Landing will have a heart, right on the shore, with shops, dining, recreation facilities, and even a chapel. The 1600 acres will be home to about 2500 people -- not high density, but more dense than a typical lakeside development. Duany has almost complete freedom to set design and development standards -- there are no existing land use rules to work around.

From a fleeting glimpse of a map in this slideshow from the charrette (about 2:14 into the video), it appears the Carlton Landing property is centered around the marker on this map:


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I've had my differences with Kirk Humphries, but I admire him for doing something different and daring with this land. Instead of, say, asking taxpayers to spend $600 million create a vibrant community out of the middle of a river, he's making it happen with his own money and land. A couple of years ago I suggested that the folks behind the Channels could do the same thing right here in Tulsa:

Tulsa Stakeholders, Inc., (TSI), the group led by John-Kelly Warren of the Warren Foundation which is proposing The Channels development, has a commendable desire to create a thriving, pedestrian-friendly urban place in Tulsa. So instead of asking the taxpayers to spend $600 million to build three tiny islands on which a walkable community can be built, why doesn't TSI create or restore a walkable community on land that already exists, and thus encourage the creation of this kind of neighborhood all over Tulsa?

(It may be cheeky for me to tell TSI what to do with their money, but since they're telling us taxpayers what we should do with ours, turnabout is fair play.)

TSI could demonstrate that traditional neighborhood development will succeed, even in car-bound Tulsa. They could use their deep pockets and risk tolerance to blaze a trail for more risk-averse conventional developers.

Building a traditional mixed-use neighborhood on taxpayer-subsidized islands would send the message that such developments are too fragile to survive in the free market.

Building or restoring the same kind of neighborhood with private money on private land would set an example that other developers could follow with confidence.

There are many opportunities for TSI to do pioneering work in this area. They could build a New Urbanist community on undeveloped land somewhere in the metro area. They could incorporate walkability and mixed use into the Warren Foundation's own developments (e.g. the Montereau retirement community).

TSI could do some of the exciting infill development recommended by the East Tulsa Community Plan (http://www.cityoftulsa.org/Community/Revitalization/EastTulsa.asp), helping to knit together a lively international district and creating a walkable center for a vast swath of car-bound suburbia.

Perhaps the most strategic investment TSI could make would be in the Pearl District (aka the 6th Street Corridor); on the charitable side, its assistance could fund implementation of the stormwater project for the three-square-mile Elm Creek basin.

This would take land out of the floodplain, making restoration and infill practical. Full public funding for the plan--about $35 million to create stormwater detention ponds and to link one of them to Centennial Park by a canal--is at least a decade away.

Fixing Elm Creek not only helps 6th Street, but it would improve drainage in the Gunboat Park and 18th and Boston areas. (Elm Creek flows underground through both neighborhoods, emptying into the Arkansas River at 21st Street.)

On the private side, it could set an example for other developers by doing some quality infill development and restoration in accordance with the Pearl District Infill Plan (http://www.cityoftulsa.org/Community/Revitalization/6thStreet.asp). No need to use condemnation to assemble vast tracts of land--restore some existing buildings to their former glory, or build new brownstones on already vacant lots.

TSI's leadership would make it safe, maybe even fashionable, for other investors to get involved in the district and to create walkable places in other parts of the metro area.

The revival of the Pearl District would strategically patch a hole in Tulsa's original urban fabric, reconnecting centers of activity--downtown, Cherry Street, Kendall-Whittier, TU, and the Utica medical corridor--which are quite close to each other but which now seem miles apart. And it would make it possible for more Tulsans to make walking a part of daily life, not a specially scheduled activity.

Through private action to create or restore a walkable neighborhood, TSI would send the message, "Come on in, the water's fine," to Tulsa's developers. It might not be as splashy as islands in the river, but such a project would create ripples that would spread far beyond the riverbank, making all parts of our metro area healthier, livelier, and more attractive as a place to live, work, and play.

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4 Comments

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

I know I keep harping on this, but ...

I truly believe that no amount of any kind of gee whiz development is going to do Tulsa a bit of good as long as the crime rate remains high. You can build this, build that, and gold plate downtown, but that will not change the basic fact that people are disinclined to move into a city with a high crime rate no matter how much money the city throws away on expensive pie in the sky projects.

The A Team said:

"The revival of the Pearl District would strategically patch a hole in Tulsa's original urban fabric, reconnecting centers of activity--downtown, Cherry Street, Kendall-Whittier, TU, and the Utica medical corridor"

Utica medical corridor? When was this adopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan? Could you please explain this further and define the boundaries?

That sentence was an attempt to describe, in as few words possible, existing areas in that part of midtown that are doing well, and how the Pearl District plan would link them together. Being able to walk for miles, passing through one district or neighborhood after another without going through "dead zones" is a characteristic of a healthy urban area.

I don't know if it exists in any planning document, but you have two intense nodes -- Hillcrest and St. John hospitals, both of which I believe have special planning districts -- linked by a stretch of mostly one- and two-story buildings containing doctor's offices. It's not a continual stretch, but there's a theme. You can acknowledge the presence of a medical corridor without accepting that it should be a high-rise corridor.

mpeps Author Profile Page said:

I'm a fan of Andres Duany and am excited that he is doing a development in Oklahoma. I found out about him while looking for more information on New Urbanism after reading a book titled Sidewalks in the Kingdom.

You can listen to several of his lectures on Youtube. He very cleary presents the weaknesses of Suburban development and the strengths of New Urbanism (which isn't new really). His lecture to a group in San Antonio, TX was really good. As someone looking for more information about what new urbanism is about, I found those lectures to be very helpful.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 26, 2008 8:11 AM.

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