Saturday, July 18, 2009

25+ comments over at Steve's blog

As many of you know, there are a few other blogs I regularly check..including much more reputable ones than mine. While I'm not nearly as idiotic as some people tend to think I am (lol), I would have to say there are more educated opinions than those of an architecture student who has only been able to drink legally for a few months. That's why it's an honor to see much more respectable folks such as Steve Lackmeyer of the Daily Oklahoman mention me on his blog, and most notably, my recent push against Core to Shore. His post where he linked my C2S alternative impelled 25+ comments..which I think is awesome..and I can see where it pays to go with eye-catching, attention-grabbing headlines like "Core to Shore sucks."

I don't really believe Core to Shore sucks, I just believe it is dangerously flawed. I don't know how someone can just go forward thinking this is the best thing since sliced cheese with all of the new considerations that have come up from reputable sources--sources who aren't against Core to Shore because they hate downtown, but because they love downtown and want to see what's really best for it. That's what's so surprising about the direction that the debate over C2S has turned, that the opposition isn't coming from the southside folks who oppose "MAPS for Millionaires" at all costs--but from the biggest fans of downtown. Consider that.

Even though it's not my blog, I thought I might address a few of the comments that were illicited by Steve's post. This is what I call a fun Saturday night..
"Our city council leaders seem very ignorant concerning the principles of pedestrian-friendliness. I’m worried this is going to be a disaster…" - Kris Bryant
Kris, the city council has been surprisingly silent on the matter of Core to Shore. While we have to assume that they will support MAPS 3, obviously, I almost feel like the city council isn't even very involved in the process. Ultimately they will be the deciders, but I don't know how many original thoughts they have. I can't judge for myself, because there is no known, 100% reliable way to determine the original thoughts of a largely silent group of people, with the exception of the Supreme Couty.

That said, I just wanted to point out that it wasn't city council leaders that created the plan we deem as pedestrian-God-awful. It was actually an ensemble of local architects, Hans Butzer and Anthony McDermid (great guys..and I had Butzer for a class even), City Planner Russel Claus, and Sara MacLennon. MacLennon was the leader of a planning firm brought in (and paid about $100,000) to help design C2S. The firm was not even from within 1,000 miles of Oklahoma..I believe they had some planners from Denver and Omaha that I met at the public meetings in the Cox Convention Center. I have to question why people with no clue about Oklahoma City were brought in as the professionals behind the C2S project, when there are plenty of planning firms here in Oklahoma. Of course, there is a separate C2S Steering Committee, which does include city council, as well as dozens of community leaders.

"Everybody now… Let’s paint by numbers! (Bungalows abutting I-235/I-40??) Please, let’s give SOME credit to the real Planners.

The proposed convention center must function with the existing convention facilities. The design should first accommodate good functionality within THAT use, THEN good functionality with Bricktown. We can’t have both… (Partition the use with a strangely wide boulevard AND an elevated railway?!)

This can be batted around all day long, but unless “they” expose the C2S design to a public charrette none of our ideas will be considered. (A charrette would be a ridiculously unmanageable event and a futile exercise, unless those invited to attend had germane credentials.) Extreme interest and passion for the subject is good, but something more is needed to get us to the design table." - Dennis Wells

Dennis, I don't see the problem in having a bungalow neighborhod adjacent to I-35/I-40. The reality is that there is still a wide right-of-way separating the neighborhood from the freeway interchange that the intrusion is minimal, and the reality is that in cities all across America that are neighborhoods that back up to freeways. Crown Heights backs up to I-235 (and what will return to being a construction zone, at that) and the separation would be equal. Jefferson Park is right up against I-235. There are upscale neighborhoods off of I-35 in Edmond, and freeways all over the metro pass through close proximity to residential neighborhoods. A dense single-family unit neighborhood is the best use for that land, or else it will just go as dead space in the middle of the city.

The main reason I moved the convention center wasn't because it wasn't close enough to Bricktown, but because it was too close to the existing Coc Center and the Ford Center, and the park. I feel like it's imperitive to break up these super-block structures or else we will be stuck with a huge vacuum of 24/7 activity in the middle of C2S. In order for the park impact to be fully realized on development, the park edge needs to be lined with as much development as possible, and as few super-block structures as possible. It happens to be a huge benefit that the alternative site is across the street from Bricktown. As for the boulevard in my alternative being huge and inhibiting access, I would say that's wrong, and that's actually one of the main points to my alternative. My alternative boulevard is mirrored after Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, and is the complete opposite of the Okie Champs Elysees that the C2S planners have envisioned.
"Here is a suggestion: It doesn’t take an artist to draw a city plan…let’s have a Core to Shore-off! Everybody draws their ideas, we post them here, and let the comments ensue." -Andrew (Cuatro deMayo?)
This is a great idea. We don't need a charrette, we just need for concerned citizens to show what they can do. I think that those of us that live and breath in OKC can design a far-better masterplan for Core to Shore than anyone that has to be paid in the ballpark of a hundred grand to come to Oklahoma. Seriously. We're not talking about designing a real estate project; we're talking about designing the center city of a community that is filled to the brim with talented, creative citizens.


Paul said...

One point of contention - name a planning firm in OKC... There is a large difference between having the name "Planners" in the title and actually having educated planners on staff. That's one thing OKC is severely lacking, which results in hiring outsider planning firms.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

Well I know that Benham and Carter-Burgess do a lot of planning and they all have local offices here in OKC. It's true that they're national firms, but at the least, they do have a local presence. UXB, the firm brought in for C2S, is from Denver, and has another Omaha office that they brought people in from, neither of which are even close to OKC. I agree though that we could use more top planning firms.

Sometimes a national firm is not at all a bad way to go, for example, W.H. Dunn based in KC had some magnificent early plans for OKC. I.M. Pei on the other hand new how to screw things up and I think UXB isn't necessarily going to screw anything up, I just feel like it's majorly flawed. What they do is they just throw down some cookie cutter new urbanist design. They will put down what they think every city would love to have, with little regard to what makes OKC unique, and then study traffic patterns down here and see what current development looks like, and then slightly alter their McMasterplan to fit with their findings, and then they move on to the next city.

Paul said...

Actually, the Carter Burgess office here (now part of Jacobs) is an engineering office, no relation to planning.

CH Guernsey and Benham both have planners, but they are much more related to facility planning and small master plans, not something of this nature, unfortunately.

A good planner (consultant in general) can come from the outside and still create a viable plan. Willingness to explore local issues, learn the issues, and then plan is necessary. EDAW, also in Denver, did the downtown streetscape master plan for OKC, and it's a great plan.

Finally, not trying to be a know-it-all, but the firm used for the Core to Shore plan is URS. I think you're pretty correct in the way they applied their techniques. The local plan team was supposed to help provide the local input, but they, with the exception of Russell, are too focused on design, not just planning.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

I'm just glad you didn't point out that "new" should have been "knew" .. ah the joys of post-public proof-reading lol.

Didn't even think of Guernsey, but them too. Local architecture firms do masterplans frequently, too. And I'm not saying I don't want out-of-towners to come here and help us design this, in fact, I think bringing in Jeff Speck was the best thing we've done yet. Speck is just as guilty of what I'm derailing, which is going from town to town preaching the same thing. The only difference is I would much rather have some of what Speck is preaching, than some of what U-R-S thinks every city would want.

As for the others who designed C2S, I can't judge Anthony and Hans .. I had Hans for a class one semester, and I've got nothing but good things to say about Anthony, who reads this blog apparently. Hans did a fabulous job with the Skydance Bridge. There's no question that they're the best when it comes to urban design, which the C2S has a lot of. The only problem with that is that C2S isn't actually doing the individual urban design of the projects that will make up the development and infill of C2S, so that's a wasted effort, even though it's great to look at. I think that the C2S design, from their perspective, is focused more on maximizing the opportunities for brilliant urban design, and less on the overall functionality.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

Oh and thanks for your comments, Paul. Without readers for me to actually bounce ideas off of and to bust my chops when I get names wrong (I never look up something that I think I can remember) this blog would have a lot of misinformation being posted