Monday, July 13, 2009

Questioning the layout of the C2S plan

I know I'm late getting in on the game, but I've been seeing a lot of questions being raised about C2S and I've realized this thing is not infallible. Now is the time for anyone who's had concerns about C2S to voice them. We've seen concerns about the timing, that it might kill off progress being made elsewhere in downtown, that the public may not vote for it if Maps III isn't what they want, that the risk of failure could stop OKC's momentum, and that we may not be getting meaningful transit improvements like we originally sought. These are all valid concerns. However, my main concern is that the whole thing just always seemed horribly planned.

Let's just say if I were to sit down and do a masterplan on how I'd want the new south downtown to look, it would look a lot differently. I strongly support the basics--having a good central park (which is something I always suggested long before C2S), the new convention center, a mixed-use environment, and tying in the riverfront.

The one good idea that the C2S planners thought of that I would not have thought of was creating a main pedestrian axis linking the core to the shore.

My biggest concern however is that C2S just feels very segmented. Much too segmented. Everytime I look at it in overview, it just doesn't flow very well. Then I was looking at the plans to extend the canal being pushed by the Bricktown Association, and I realized that this it is ridiculously bad how little flow there is from one block to the next. Sticking everyone's little pet projects in this little area has completely cannibalized the continuous feel of the masterplan.

It just doesn't feel like a continuous city, and this, like so many plans before it, look like a recipe for disaster, simply from a city planning perspective. There is no walkability in 3/4ths of the area and whenever there isn't a major convention in town, the placement of the convention center THERE is going to be a major deterrent to activity, rather than a boost. Period.

I think instead that every big block of city-owned property ought to be surrounded by private property, that way the entire east side of the park isn't just dead space if there isn't a major convention in town. Putting the central park and the convention center next to each other is a horrible idea because it prevents them from being individual sites, instead it looks like one big complex. The central park just serves as a fancy front lawn for the convention center.

Another mistake, I feel, is breaking off the central park from the Myriad Gardens. Why is there that one block of mixed-use development in the middle of what would be a beautiful elongated park space. It is sheer senselessness. That block, which I presume will be the serious mixed-use development (that incorporates highly sought after big tenants like Virgin or Neimen Marcus along with a corporate HQ) can just as well shift one block to the west and still accomplish the same thing. There's no reason to separate the existing Myriad Gardens from the new central park, in fact, the south end of the Myriad Gardens never was quite finished. Perhaps they could include that desert biome that never got built.

Another critique, and this isn't towards the C2S planners but instead towards the Bricktown Association: What are you smoking, thinking that the canal should be extended and such an extension should run alongside the convention center? That is a horrible idea. That segments the entire area worse than any other proposal I've seen yet, which is saying something. Don't get me wrong, the canal extension is a great idea, for a plethora of great reasons. It can provide a more pedestrian-friendly walkway from Bricktown to the Ford Center, it can add more to the canal which might bring in more activity and business along the canal, it prevents the western edge of Bricktown from feeling like the edge of the planet, and most of all, who doesn't love canals? However where the canal extension is suggested here doesn't accomplish ANY of those things. Epic fail.

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