Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jenks, America: Oklahoma's "super-suburb"

Anyone who has been following any Jenks-related news in the last few years has to be pretty impressed. It appears that the small town of Jenks, once known for being the "Antique Capital of Oklahoma," has come out of nowhere and seized its place as a venerable contender in economic development. While the 2000 population of Jenks was 9,557, the town has always had a larger footprint than that for being on the edge of Tulsa, and for its top-notch school system that extends covering a lot of area on the Tulsa side of the Arkansas River. Now though, Jenks is making a play at becoming a full-circle community, known for more than just antiques and its high school.

Three major lifestyle projects are underway in Jenks right now, at a time when almost all of the other lifestyle projects across the state have been canceled (having a $96,000 household income in a 3-mile radius would probably help that a little bit). The lifestyle projects are RiverWalk Crossing, the River District, and the Village on Main.

RiverWalk Crossing actually happens to be mostly finished. Back in 2004 the first phase was finished, with several restaurants along a promenade fronting the Arkansas River, a cinema complex, a Holiday Inn, an amphitheater area, as well as 110,000 sf of retail and office. They also just began on the second phase, which was long-delayed after Stillwater National Bank dropped out as an investor, which they've now been replaced by American National Bank of Texas.

The $50 million second phase will include 125,000 sf of retail and office, as well as significant housing additions, broken up into two sections. The retail/office is combined with a 207-unit luxury apartment complex for the "RiverWalk Village" component, and then adjacent is a 6-story 50-unit condo project called "RiverWalk Lofts" that will begin construction later. More phase two info here.

The River District is definitely the big kahuna. This project has already been delayed, but now they have decided to proceed forward in stages (as opposed to doing it all at once). It has already broken ground and work is fixing to resume soon. It's development cost will be around $800 million, with over a million sf of retail and restaurant, another million sf of office space, 500 residential units, an upscale cinema component, as well as a hotel and conference center. It will be the complete package.

The River District is probably, by far, the best example of a new-urbanist lifestyle center coming to Oklahoma. With several million square feet of development and an urban layout, this has to be considered the class of lifestyle projects. That said, it's interesting that the developer is the same as much of Lower Bricktown. Go figure.

Another project closer to downtown Jenks (right across the Creek Turnpike from the River District) is the Village on Main. The triumphant planning feature of the $60 million Village on Main project is that it is virtually designed to feel simply like an extension of Main Street in Jenks. The developers have said, “The Village on Main is the integral piece that
connects the Oklahoma Aquarium, RiverWalk Crossing, Historic Downtown, River District, and Riverview.” The Village will feature over 420,000 sf of space, including a 22,000 medical office building already under construction for the Utica Park Clinic in Tulsa. Overall the project will feature 150,000 sf of retail and restaurants, 140,000 sf of new offices, at least 100 residential units, a 100-room boutique hotel, community events center.

What's surprising is the small, compact core that all of these projects are going in. They're all practically adjacent to the new Oklahoma Aquarium, the Creek Turnpike, the Arkansas River, and downtown Jenks, one known for its antique stores, but now known for its lifestyle centers going up. Jenks, which was recently one of the Top 2 fastest growing cities in Oklahoma, may have only had 9,000 in the 2000 census, but now it is a big-time contender (that's taken a lot of Tulsa's economic development). Jenks is the model of how even a suburb 10 miles downstream from downtown Tulsa can have positive growth.


Steve said...

I lived near Tulsa for 8 years (1999 - 2007) and was very jealous to see the progress Jenks made. I believe Jenks became what it is, because Tulsa failed time after time. The political environment there is pathetic and they could never come to an agreement on how to do anything and they lost out on quite a bit. The BOK arena is a start, but they've got a lot of work to do before Tulsa becomes desirable again in my humble opinion.

Let it be a lesson the OKC as MAPS is discussed still. If OKC doesn't create these things that the people desire, suburbs will and reap benefits accordingly. So far Edmond, Yukon, etc. have been kept in check ... annexation for OKC hasn't hurt either!

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

Normally I am against suburbs. Jenks is a major exception though, as I really think they "get it" when it comes to smart growth. Of course it helps that their demographics are really enviable.

Steve said...

Imagine what a world without suburbs would be like, though! I see increased crime, pollution and congestion. Would you just want city and country?!

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

Well, those are problems with any urbanized area, no matter what they're sprawl is. Suburbs have crime, too. Such as Midwest City and Del City.

Suburbs actually cause more traffic congestion than they prevent. Obviously, when you live in a suburb, you have to drive a lot more, and longer distances. However I like to think you can always plan for traffic and mitigate its effect. Suburbs need highways to accommodate rush hour, and cities need mass transit to accommodate people.

Suburbs and sprawl also causes more pollution than urban cities. When you're driving more, and longer distances, obviously that's contributing to smog and all of those undesirable things. The worst polluted-cities in the nation are Houston and LA, both known for suburban sprawl.