I've noticed lately we've picked up a few new readers, and that's awesome. Some of the new readers I'm aware of are urbanites from other cities who are admiring OKC's urban progress, a small handful of downtown's developers that I have written about, as well as urbanites living in OKC. Not to mention my mother.
I just wanted to take the time and sort of explain my blog to anyone who's just now reading it, and hopefully it'll become one of your more frequent reads. I really want to thank the handful of long-time readers, such as some of my fellow OKC bloggers, and off the top of my head guys like Steve, OK Guy, and mwheatley, and others who frequently comment..as well as those who don't! I've seen my posts featured in other urban blogs, as well as The Oklahoman, and other sources, which is awesome. I'm also extremely thankful to the people who have emailed me snapshots while I was away from OKC, like TAP's "YES" window display.
What this blog is about is the urban community. When I first began this, I had the occasional foray into national politics, suburban matters, state politics, as well as other cities..in the first months of this blog I was intent on covering Tulsa to maintain a statewide focus, but now Tulsa is only used as a measuring stick to gauge how far OKC's come. The focus of this blog, pure and simple, is the growth in Central OKC. It's not so much about downtown development as it is about "community building" -- anyone can develop a block, but there are very few people who can do so and add inherent character and value to the city. I firmly believe that if every development was sparkly and shiny and "cool-looking," downtown would be a failure. It takes special touches, people who go the extra mile to preserve boarded up buildings, pedestrian-friendly focal points, and other things that certainly aren't covered in "Downtown Development 101." In this city it's easy to build something not worth caring about and failing (The Hill), but it's also possible to build something that people will fight to preserve years from now, and in this city you WILL be successful by doing so.
In the 60s we did ourselves a great disservice when we instituted urban renewal. The mentality was one that still tends to prevail today, "We must keep up with what other cities are doing!!" Plain and simple, trends change, fads go away, when it's all said and done the only proven method of building cities we have figured out to date is to focus on the pedestrian on the street. Don't make the pedestrian on the street, the people who are "experiencing" and taking in the city, feel irrelevant. First OKC was built for people, then we tore it all down and rebuilt it for the car. We are at a point where we need to go back and rebuild OKC for people, not cars.
The men who pushed for urban renewal were visionaries who cared for their city, who wanted to make a positive change. The lesson: If we don't think all of this through, thoroughly, we stand to make painful errors with even the best of intentions. All of the players involved in downtown's progress have, undoubtedly, the best of intentions (most of them at least). My goal is to put every downtown development on the hot seat, carefully scrutinize the merits and weigh the pros and cons. With that it is my hope that progress can no longer be two steps forward and one step backward all the time, but rather two steps forward and not looking backwards all the time.
Someone may wonder why someone, especially from suburban Cleveland County, may spend so much time carrying on about downtown development. The reason is simple: I've only found two causes worth caring about, and both have to do with building communities: urban design and economic development. As it stands these are two things that OKC in particular could use a LOT of, and to be fair, it certainly is getting its fair share (esp compared to other cities). I just hope to pitch in and do what I can to make a difference. This blog is how I decided to make a difference, similarly to how blogging made a difference in people's lives in the movie Julie and Julia, I hope that the time and effort I put into advocating for urban design can truly make a difference in the growth of OKC. Perhaps some day I can even take a more prominent role in the discussions that go on.