Rockefeller Center on Frisco Ave.?

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For the first time in many years, Tulsa will have a downtown ice rink, for a month anyway. It's a nice idea, but the implementation doesn't seem to have been well thought out.

Rather than put it somewhere with nearby activity, they've put the rink on the backside of the BOKarena, blocking off Frisco Ave. between 2nd and 3rd Street, thus rendering the 2nd Street exit all but useless for getting into downtown. You can only turn north on Frisco, and then you have to turn west on 1st. There's a way to get headed back to the east and into downtown, but it's not easy to find or to describe.

The area is windy and treeless and bordered by the Trigen plant (they provide steam to older downtown buildings that still use steam heat), the BOKarena, and the Federal Building. No retail, no restaurants nearby. (They will have concessions and port-a-potties.) No synergy with other centers of downtown activity -- which is the problem with the BOKarena location to begin with.

Too bad they couldn't have put this on part of the big parking lot between 1st and 2nd east of Elgin.

It's been compared to Rockefeller Center, but the real Rockefeller Center rink is surrounded by stores and restaurants, in the heart of a busy pedestrian area, not on the backside of a squashed tin can.

Oklahoma City has an outdoor rink, too, but it has a nicer backdrop -- the Civic Center Music Hall. And while it's not close to the heart of downtown life, it's just a block or so from the art museum and the library. Other "Downtown in December" activities will be happening in Bricktown.

From St. Louis, Steve Patterson reminds us that "only failed spaces require 'programming'":

"Programming" is one of those catch words used by many to indicate events like festivals, concerts, bazaars and such. These are often suggested for spaces that otherwise have little to no natural active users...

Having a concert in an urban space doesn't mean it has failed as a space. But having to bring events to otherwise seldom used space is a good sign it is a failed environment....

We need to not rely on "programming" spaces and simply design better space. Of course, "bold" "world-class" "statements" are often among the worse spaces.

Downtown St Louis has an enormous amount of acreage tied up in space that needs programming to attract anyone. But programming is expensive and it takes a lot of work. One of the best un-programmed spaces
in our city is Soulard Market. Whenever they are open you will see people. It is a great place for people watching.

Most farmers' markets are great. They are not programming -- they are commerce. Bring food to the city from the country is an old tradition. People may go to Soulard Market and buy very little but still leave enriched.

The former 14th Street Pedestrian Mall in Old North St Louis is another example of a poorly designed space. The once active street was deliberately killed off in the name of saving it. It failed big time. Work is nearing completion to reopen the street.

Whenever you hear anyone suggest "programming" for a space be wary. It is a red flag the space needs more than three concerts in the summer.

Failed spaces are made up of dead patterns. Lively patterns, places that are connected to other places, attract people in a self-sustaining way, through normal activity, without the need for special programming.

RELATED: Interesting correlation between downtown parking, employment, and liveliness:

You see, the deadest downtowns have the best, cheapest, most available parking. An international study by Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy (1999) analyzed downtown parking levels in 32 cities. They were hunting for a correlation between a city's livability and amount of parking in downtowns. One could hypothesize that, the less of the built environment of a downtown area that remains, and the more parking that has replaced it, the less active it is; the less safe it is; the less attractive it is; and so on.

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3 Comments

Bob said:

I was downtown near the BOK Arena last week, and I noticed that our Iconic Arena, which opened all of three months ago, has a variety of ugly streaks running down the metal siding.

Apparently, someone failed to use the correct sealant......

And, it is sending ugly brown streaks running down the metal external skin.

Oh, and I read that the Arena utilities cost $800K to year-to-date date more than budgeted.

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

It's all about image. I once taped a Mercedes Benz hood ornament to a Ford Pinto and had no trouble at all being welcomed at Southern Hills Country Club. No kidding. Nobody knew the difference.

Now that everyone is convinced Tulsa is New York City, there is a down side: The picante sauce factory will have to move to Bristow.

peps Author Profile Page said:

I like the idea of having an ice rink downtown during the christmas holidays. I've been skating at OKC's holiday ice rink and had a great time with friends. I agree though that the location is bad. Putting the rink east of Elgin in the large, unused parking lot would have been a better location. There are several restuarants and bars around there.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 28, 2008 5:46 PM.

Urban lessons from the Painter of LightTM was the previous entry in this blog.

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