Brookside, a stretch of South Peoria roughly between 31st and 51st, is home to a TON of local retailers and restaurants, as well as stuff like Starbucks and the state's only Whole Foods Market. Brookside features local alternatives to those as well, such as the Shades of Brown coffeeshop, and even a local alternative to Whole Foods--like the Brookside Farmer's Market (Utica Square has Petty's Fine Foods and Cherry Street is more coffee shop terrain than Brookside). If you're ever in Tulsa, definitely be sure to eat at The Brook -- an American bar & grill inside a historic cinema that's been converted. You can read more on Brookside on the district's official website.
What would it take to get Western Avenue to develop more -- to the point that there are more storefronts that come right up to the sidewalk, more of a "main street" feel, and more residential infill to the side of the main drag.
I just wanted to bring one of the comments on this post to the forefront. From Max:
There is an upcoming streetscaping plan with sidewalks, etc. That might move it more in that direction and kickstart some development.
I think I would like to see more development guidelines in the area. The vast majority of Western (36th-I44) is simply zoned C-3, which is like interstate highway commercial...anything goes. There are zero extra planning guidelines beyond that. It results in things like the IBC bank building, etc.
This stretch of Western is ripe for it though. There are plenty of parking lots that could be redeveloped. There is enough parking behind Musashi's and Wills to cover most nights, and more of these offstreet communal parking areas which encourage walking through the district and checking out different businesses are essential. IMO, Western needs to remain a pedestrian oriented area like similar districts in most cities. Anything keeping it from those ends (namely Western facing parking lots) is a bad thing.
I think a master plan and codifying it is a start. I personally consider Western Avenue a treasure in this city that is worth the inconvenience of zoning changes, to ensure it retains its character.