Urban design experts looking at Evans-Fintube site

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A group of urban planners from the Mayors' Institute on City Design (MICD) is in Tulsa today looking at the city's most significant brownfield: The Evans Electric and Fintube plants, which are located east of OSU-Tulsa, north of Archer St., between the BNSF (formerly AT&SF) tracks and US 75. The group will present their recommendations this afternoon at 4 at City Hall. From the press release:

During the three-day visit, the panel will study the Evans-Fintube site, a local development opportunity site located at North Lansing Avenue and East Archer Street. This City-owned site borders the Crutchfield neighborhood, OSU-Tulsa, Lansing Business Center, and downtown.

The panel will also meet with local stakeholders and develop planning recommendations for the site, based on this community input process. The MICD Resource Team will present their recommendations for the Evans-Fintube site to the public on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m., in the 10th Floor North Conference Room of City Hall at One Technology Center.

Tulsa is one of four cities to receive a grant to participate in the MICD Alumni Technical Assistance Program. The Mayors' Institute on City Design (MICD) is a partnership program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Architectural Foundation, and the United States Conference of Mayors. Since 1986, the Mayors' Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities. The program is dedicated to improving the design and livability of America's cities.

The MICD Resource Team includes Ron Bogle, CEO & President, American Architectural Foundation; Maurice Cox, Director of Design, National Endowment for the Arts; Jess Zimbabwe, AIA, AICP, LEED-AP, Director, Mayors' Institute on City Design; Elizabeth Blazevich, Special Projects Manager, Mayors' Institute on City Design; Angie Brooks, Principal, Pugh+Scarpa Architects, Santa Monica, CA; Phil Erickson, AIA, Principal, Community Design + Architecture, Oakland, CA; and Laura Solano, ASLA, Principal, MMVA Inc., Boston, MA.

I'm intrigued by one line in the description of the group: "preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities." It's hard to imagine a mayor in that role, but there's no question that the mayor has the authority to have an enormous impact on urban design. The mayor appoints planning commissioners, oversees code enforcement officials and the departments responsible for infrastructure development. As I noted in my column this week, we need elected officials who can balance a variety of concerns, rather than deferring to lower-level unelected functionaries.

To look at it another way, every department and interest group has its own narrow view. The fire marshal wants to prevent fires. The impact of fire prevention rules on historic preservation or the economic value of a building are secondary concerns in his mind. Traffic planners want to move cars -- pedestrian-friendliness comes later, if at all. Developers just want to get their project done and their lender paid back. Homeowners are trying to protect their quality of life and the long-term value of their homes. Everyone thinks his own concerns are paramount.

You need someone in charge of city government who can see the big picture, who can balance various concerns and then direct the lower-level departments so that everyone is pulling together in the same direction.

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9 Comments

Paul Uttinger said:

I'm enthused about hearing the Evans-Fintube site planning recommendations this afternoon.

Last night I enjoyed seeing the presentations given by Angie Brooks, Phil Erickson, and Laura Solano. In my opinion, Tulsa's association with the Mayors' Institute on City Design is a positive for improving urban design in our city.

I'd love to read your report. I wish I could have gone last night.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

I am particularly interested in this because it's my old stomping grounds. I couldn't go because of a previous commitment. Can't wait to see the recommendations.

http://boundrationality.blogspot.com/2009/01/city-planning-public-presentation-set.html

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

"Homeowners are trying to protect their quality of life and the long-term value of their homes. Everyone thinks his own concerns are paramount."

One thing to keep in mind is that those homeowners with the means can, have, and continue to move out of the city. Whether or not you think they are being self-centered and narrow minded, dismissing them as such will only result in the continued decline of the city.

The people I've known that moved out of the city did it to get away from Tulsa Public Schools, not because of a lack of urban design property development.

Driving through the Whiteside Park area on 41st Street between Harvard and Yale, and noting the number of houses with security doors on them that did not have those doors two years ago, my guess is that their main concern at this time is not the fate of a piece of property several miles away. Just a guess. I could be wrong.

I don't blame homeowners or any of the other groups I mentioned for focusing on their own interests or fields of specialty. It's reasonable for homeowners to seek to protect their biggest investment and their quality of life. As you note, a homeowner is typically not going to be concerned about what's happening several miles away, even though it may ultimately help or harm his interests. That's why you need a mayor with the capacity to understand how different aspects of the city are interconnected.

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

Being able to balance various aspects of the city is good. But of greater importance, is the ability to correctly prioritize needs. When the hull is leaking, the bilge pumps are not working properly, and the dining facilities are in need of renovation, if the ship has taken on water to the extent that people are getting off, then renovation of the dining facilities can wait. This is wrong time to try to balance the concerns of the cook with the concerns of the engine mechanic. Ultimately, an attractive dining facility will be of benefit to the ship. But not right now.

Brent Taylor Author Profile Page said:

Amen S. Lee, my sentiments exactly.

I hark en back to the River Project and am still thinking, "if the stem wall of my house is cracking, and the roof is leaking, and my front door missing, I'm not going to be landscaping my lawn, even if my neighbor volunteers to plant and pay for the roses in my yard so the entire block can enjoy it."

After living here for more than 40 years with the exception of the four years of college, I am giving serious thought to leaving, being that I think the city not only grossly mismanaged, but driven entirely by the superficial.

sbtulsa Author Profile Page said:

Simple truth is we need a lot more cops and better streets and bridges. And better schools sure would help although the city government can't do much with that.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Ok guys, you all have great points, but what if it were a private deal?

Would you all be on board with getting rid of an eyesore in a blighted part of town (not like the river at all, in that respect) and replacing it with some enhanced use property? Like the River walk in Jenks, only useful?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 13, 2009 12:02 PM.

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