One lot at a time

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Steve Patterson of Urban Review STL suggests an alternative to the failure of downtown redevelopment projects to get off the ground:

Acres and acres sit idle on the edges of downtown awaiting promised new development. On the South edge we have Ballpark Village and just North of America's Center and the Edward Jones Dome we have the Bottleworks District. Both have made news over the past few years, lately for not going anywhere....

The surrounding blocks could have been developed without taking this one block from the owner. But assembling larger and larger tracts for larger and larger projects is what proponents say must be done to get development. Judging from the broken sidewalks and vacant blocks of land think perhaps it is high time we questioned this practice.

Granted creating the ideal urban building on a single narrow parcel surrounded by vacant blocks is going to be an island for a long time. Development does have to be large enough to build both excitement and a sustainable level of visitors.

An alternative to the single developer mega-project is to create a zoning overlay district that outlines the urban design qualities that future buildings must have. This allows different property owners to participate in the redevelopment. It also allows the business owner to build their own structure without being tied up in an increasingly complicated and difficult process of financing the mega-project.

This city was built one building at a time -- each fitting into the grid. I think we need to return to such a scale to finish filling in the gaps in our urban fabric.

Here in Tulsa, the "donors" for the proposed downtown ballpark want to monopolize the surrounding land, squeezing out a small, local development company that had already been working with the TDA on the half-block northwest of Archer and Elgin. With enforced design guidelines for new downtown development, you could have multiple developers and the result would be a diverse but harmonious whole, likely more interesting and enduring than any project a single developer would put together.

As Steve Patterson says, "This city was built one building at a time." A healthy downtown, self-sustaining over the long haul, will be rebuilt and restored the same way.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 21, 2008 5:45 PM.

Bell v. Miller Monday night and Wednesday morning was the previous entry in this blog.

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