Blair Mansion/Crow Creek public input tonight, 2012/03/07

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In recent years, a local foundation has purchased two significant properties along the east side of Tulsa's Riverside Drive: The Blair Mansion and grounds, just north of the Midland Valley trail, and two apartment complexes just south of 31st Street on either side of Crow Creek -- Sundance and Legacy (known for many years as Place One).

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The Blair Mansion is a Tulsa landmark, its expansive lawn stretching along a quarter-mile of Riverside Drive. It was built as a replica of Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis's house in Biloxi, Mississippi. Tens of thousands of Tulsans pass it daily, heading to and from work.

Not as visible from the road, to the south of the house, there's a wooded area that comprises a third of the site. Back in October, my family was there for a special event with our homeschool group.

Place One apartments was my first (and last) home on my own. I liked living within walking distance of River Parks and Brookside.

Together, the two sites could create a stronger connection between the river, the residential neighborhoods to the east and north, and the Brookside commercial district.

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The foundation's desire is to turn these properties into public spaces that the entire community can enjoy and to do so in a way that respects the history and ecology of the sites and connects well with the surrounding neighborhoods and parks. A website called A Gathering Place for Tulsa explains the foundation's aims for the sites.

  • Create a public gathering space that is a recreational, civic and cultural destination for Tulsans from all walks of life to enjoy.
  • Incorporate the community's input regarding creative concepts and park activities for the property.
  • Enhance the River Parks system while preserving the area's natural ambience and integrate the new space into the greater River Parks area.

After an extensive selection process, the foundation hired Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, a landscape architectural firm with extensive experience in turning urban properties into public spaces, dealing creatively with physical and regulatory barriers to create places where people feel at ease.

I've been impressed by what I've read about MVVA's work. In the forward to MVVA's portfolio, Paul Goldberger wrote:

You couldn't imagine Van Valkenburgh designing a plaza solely to set off a modernist building....

No Van Valkenburgh design begins with a clean slate. Every one of them starts iwth a series of givens: the natural history of a site, the built history of a site, the surrounding urban context.

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The foundation is not seeking any taxpayer funding, but it is seeking public input. Last night, and again tonight, March 7, 2012, the foundation is holding a public meeting to talk about their plans and to find out what Tulsans want to see in these places.

What: A Gathering Place for Tulsa, public input session
When: Tonight, March 7, 2012, 6 p.m.
Where: TCC Center for Creativity, northwest of 10th and Boston downtown

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Two things I'd like to see: Some sort of kiddie park -- a carousel, train, and other gentle amusement rides aimed at younger children, like the one they have in Bartlesville -- and a monument to Betsy Horowitz. The persistence of Betsy and her Maple Ridge neighbors blocked the Riverside Expressway; had it gone through as planned, the beauty of these areas would be greatly diminished.

For what it's worth, the local foundation is the George Kaiser Family Foundation. While I have had and no doubt will have disagreements with their initiatives, their acquisition and preservation of these sites is a good thing, and I like the approach that they are taking so far.

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2 Comments

Alan Bates said:

I'm really excited about the possibilities for the site and the way the KFF is going about it.

Son and I walked along the east property line a couple months ago and I was impressed with the wooded area that I had never really studied before. It is very nice.

Some people are a little upset about the removal of the mansion but I think it will really be necessary for the area to reach its full potential as a "gathering place."

Have they decided for sure to scrap the mansion? That's disappointing to me. Elevated as it is, it seems like it could be repurposed and renovated while retaining the exterior appearance.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 7, 2012 12:41 PM.

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