Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cityshot X

Corner of Robinson & Sheridan, downtown OKC. I love the Colcord Hotel, great example of Sullivan School architecture.

Digesting the digest

Earlier in my post on OKC's new urban style.. an architectural digest I didn't label the pictures, leaving everyone confused if they don't know what every building in OKC is. So I'll take the time to do so as I should have in the first place.

Please refer back to the original post by following the above link. You probably know most of them, so if there is one you don't know you can probably find the one above it and locate it on this list.

1 East Village, a mixed-use project in East Norman
2 The OU's Children's Hospital finishing up construction right now in OKC
3 Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art @ OU in Norman
4 Looking down Harvey at the downtown library and the Galleria Parking
5 Crystal Bridge in the Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown OKC
6 The former Hertz Financial Center on Northwest Expressway
7 Sam Noble Museum of Natural History @ OU in Norman
8 The new OKC Federal Building, downtown
9 Proposal for the Heights on 7th in Midtown OKC
10 Proposal for Maywood Hall, downtown OKC
12 The Stage Center in downtown OKC
13 Core2Shore prospective illustrations
14 New design schemes for Ford Center
15 Momentum Market, downtown OKC
16 OU Boathouse, Oklahoma River
17 OCU Boathouse, Oklahoma River
18 UCO Boathouse, Oklahoma River
19 Core2Shore prospective illustrations
20 Gardens at the American Indian Cultural Center, Oklahoma River
21 SkyDance Bridge over I-40 in Core2Shore
22 Proposal for OMRF's new building at the Oklahoma Health Center
23 Scultpure designed by Anthony McDermid at Maywood Park
24 Proposal for the Candy Factory renovations, Bricktown
25 OU Cancer Research Insititute, OKC
26 "Lincoln streethouse" personal residence in OKC
27 Proposal for new OKC Chamber building, downtown
28 Nonna's Euro Ristorante, Bricktown
29 Proposal for The Flatiron, downtown
30 Underground in downtown (the renovated Conncourse)
31 Proposal for Block 42, downtown (completed)
32 Proposal for Lofts @ Maywood Park (well under construction)
33 Proposal for the Carnegie Lofts in the old downtown library
34 Proposal for Dean McGee Eye Institute in Okla. Health Center
35 LiT nightclub, Bricktown
36 POPS east of Edmond on Rt 66
37 HGTV-featured interior design at Doc Blue's pad, Bricktown
38 RED Prime Steakhouse, North Broadway
39 Chesapeake Boathouse, Oklahoma River
41 Welcome sign at Will Rogers World Airport
42 Boldt Engineering Regional HQ, Broadway Extension @ Hefner
43 Devon Tower atrium, downtown
44 City Rescue Mission, west of downtown
45 Proposal for Central Avenue Villas, downtown (just completed)
46 New office building for Kilpatrick Oil Company, N Western @ Britton

Hope this clears it up for everyone.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pearls of urban widsom

While OKC has Core2Shore, Tulsa is developing long-term plans for a neighborhood that has the potential to rival private development in OKC's C2S area. It has no NBA arena, no artificial waterfront, no convention center, and no Big Dig. It does have a Central Park (in fact that's the actual name of the park), even though it's much, much smaller than the yet-to-be-named central park plans for Core2Shore. It does call for alternate civic investment however.

The Pearl District's main organizer, developer Jamie Jamieson, has been talking to city leaders about what must be done to make this neighborhood Tulsa's version of Bricktown. You might not see it, but many visionaries definitely do. Recently finished plans call for moer improvements made at Central Park, a new canal, and an extensive pedestrian streetscape. Some streets may even be closed to vehicular traffic in order to foster the best pedestrian environment.

In all honesty, this is really a "bare-bones" revitalization proposal. The canal is absolutely necessary because the entire low-lying area is in a flood plain. There will be no development, period, without the canal.

The streetscape is necessary because the roads are completely crumbling and sidewalks are all torn up. The sidewalks are going to be necessary because we can not build a decent urban neighborhood without putting focus on the pedestrian environment. Blair Humphreys has an entire blog practically devoted to walkability in Oklahoma (a good read), which is not very good. Last year out of 500 cities ranked for walkability, OKC came in dead-last and Tulsa came in at 409. The Pearl District is going to be Tulsa's answer to the pedestrian crisis in Oklahoma.

You may be asking, what makes this different from other areas in Tulsa? Downtown Tulsa? Brady or Blue Dome? Cherry Street or Brookside? Even Uptown? The difference is that this is going to be a new urbanist neighborhood, whilst the rest of Tulsa's "urban" neighborhoods are just urban by 20th century standards. You still really need a car in order to navigate Brookside, and Uptown doesn't exactly scream bold modern architecture. In fact, I'm not quite sure what kind of architecture Uptown is supposed to be (other than something severaly in need of renovation).

But is it for real?
The bottom line for these types of visions is execution. We've seen especially in Tulsa that planners can dream and dream and nothing will ever happen. Along 81st Street (yep, not 71st Street) there are rumors of former plans of an actual monorail system linking 169 and the Oral Roberts/CityPlex development. OneOK Tower was supposed to be 60 stories tall. We all remember the Tulsa Channels, the Greenwood chamber's redevelopment proposal, Franklin Square, the proposed high-rise Westin on the Towerview site, Global Development's huge East End proposal, and the list goes on and on. I even have a post dedicated to failed Tulsa proposals, where I start out borrowing a line from Vegas: In downtown Tulsa, what happens on the drawing boards, stays on the drawing boards. Clever, right?

The Pearl District however, is for real. We know this not because Mayor Taylor has shown interest in helping (definitely not from that), but because there is actual development going on in the area right now. Jamie Jamieson is building The Village at Central Park, which is a large community of urban brownstones being built in piece-meal style (so far about 50 built, but many more planned). Pearl Place is a historic warehouse being renovated into a retail strip (this project was actually designed by an architectural firm that recently relocated to the Pearl District).

Neighborhood organizers along with city planners just finished the masterplanning for the revitalization push that is about to be underway. There is no funding yet for these proposals, but we may see the Mayor's office come up with something. The project has had it's fair share of press, from the Tulsa Whirled and news channels. There may be too much community involvement for the plans to get shelved at this point, and unlike with other proposals, nobody is speaking out about how horrible the proposal is. Perhaps they've uncovered a winning plan to muster public support for winning back the inner city: muster urban activist support and efficiently organize supporters long before anything ever goes up for a vote. As opposed to the failed Randi Miller/Bill LaFortune plan: just randomly announce a plan, tell people "Oh, and this is going to be voted on tomorrow," and let the two sides battle it out and call eachother names until it fails and people in OKC laugh at how sad Tulsa is. No pearls of urban widsom in that.

What the Pearl activists have put together is a package probably designed with suburban opposition in mind, and they've clearly outsmarted it. The canal can be stuck on a ballot and labeled "flood detention project, east Tulsa" which would have a higher likelihood of passing than "Pearl District urban tourist canal." A whole streetscape, even a pedestrian mall could just be stuck on a ballot labeled "road improvements, E 6th Street and Peoria." No need to get too specific, you might offend someone from South Tulsa, or City Councilman Roscoe Turner aka Really Old Dude on City Council.

While they can make these proposals seem modest, you be the judge. Here are the actual renderings I snapped from a newscast last week.


current (recently completed)


Kind of a cool deal for T-Town.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cityshot IX

When I came back home for the Christmas break, I journeyed down to Lawton (where my dad resides, retired from the police force there). I was also going to use Lawton as a subject for a large project I had in a city planning class of mine at U of C. The idea is to identify a neighborhood for historic preservation within set boundaries and determine the challenges for this particular area while also advocating how it could better be preserved. I don't know how anyone could be handed a question like that and not automatically think of Lawton, Oklahoma..probably next month when I've finished this project and received a grade on it, I'll post it in full on here including the pictures I took for it (if I post before then, though, it could look like I'm plagiarizing the Internet). For now I'll just say I sat down with City Planning Director, Rich Rogalski, and learned quite a lot about downtown Lawton, and also met with some architects who helped with the Fort Sill preservation. Obviously Lawton's situation is unique, as a urban renewal-aspiring army town that already tore down pretty much anything worth preserving in the 60s. The challenges are high, but the potential is higher. Good stuff, and I look forward to posting it up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crime falls in many of nation's largest urban cities

Crime has been a defining struggle of urbanization in America. As such, it has claimed the lives of thousands and the expense of billions of dollars. It is on everyone's mind. How to prevent it, how to get away from it, how to survive it, and how to get away with it. There are those of us that believe it will always be around, and those of us that believe it is caused solely by economic inequality. Crime rates fell in urban cities every year since 1993, throughout the Clinton years, and America celebrated the lowest crime rates in a generation.

However, according to the LA Times in 2001, crime surged in urban cities. Number of homicides that LAPD reported went from 479, to 520. In Chicago, the number went from 567 to 598. In Phoenix it surged from 172 to 220. One city that bucked the trend, however, was New York, where excluding the dead from 9/11, NYPD reported 559 homicides, down from 620. A criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University reported, "There doesn't seem to be a clear trend anymore."

The breakdown of a clear national trend among urban cities begs the question, what was Rudy Giuliani doing that successfully cracked down on crime in New York, that those in LA and Chicago weren't? Plus, the fact that crime has fallen dramatically in New York is a bigger deal because more people live there (8,274,527) than in LA, Chicago, and Phoenix combined (8,238,296) although the loosing trend does include many more cities than just those 3.

In 1991 the national homicide rate was 9.8 murders per 100,000 people; in 2000, when the Bush administration took over, it was down to 5.7 per 100,000, bringing it down to levels seen back "in the good old days" of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, violent crime rates have fallen consistently every year since 1993, when there were a total of 4,190,000 violent crimes. In 2005 there were a total of 1,823,400 violent crimes, which shows dramatic improvement over a 12-year span. The trend has continued to today, with the exception of a brief uptick between 05-06.

Indeed, overall when it comes to crime, the Bush years were just as good as the Clinton years for urban cities. However the one marked difference between the two 8-year periods is that during the last 8 years we've seen a major breakdown of established trends from city to city. The crime trends vary uniquely for each city now, whereas they really didn't earlier.

Monday, January 19, 2009

To put things into "Calgary perspective.."

If any city gets cocky and thinks they're booming, all I have to say is check out Calgary. That will put things into perspective quickly.

Future + Existing


Is Core2Shore enough of a priority?

We know that this is OKC's big plan for reinventing itself. We know that everybody is excited about it, and we know that nobody can wait for work to get started on transforming OKC into a cutting edge metropolis. There's a mentality (as you can see in this post) that C2S is more of a long-range, hundred-year plan that will evolve over time. Honestly this mentality scares me a little. It is 2009, and in Dubai mankind has just built a tower that is 2,700 feet tall. 100 years ago the advent of the elevator allowed us to build towers taller than 15 was a marvelous day. Here in OKC we have a masterplan of a few blocks south of downtown that we plan to revitalize as our legacy for the next 100 years and somehow we expect this to keep us ahead of the pack? What the hell are we smoking?!? If we close our eyes and envision cities of the future, can we even expect our visions to be even close to how impressive and remarkable these cities of the future will be? Hopefully, not. But in OKC we certainly can. As long as certain people anticipate that C2S is a 100-years legacy sort of project, we can close our eyes and almost perfectly envision what OKC will look like. Devon Tower will have done more for our city than C2S to be hones.

The stunning architecture aside, there is no way that we can legitimately expect C2S to not come to fruition until 100 years. Metro OKC builds 3,000 new homes a year. In 1 and a half years OKC would knock out all of C2S if we focused all of our residential demand there. At a reasonable rate of 300 units a year, we could expect build-out of C2S in under 15 years, but we all know that if everything is done with the highest level of quality, it will take twice as long. Still, not 100 years. This is if we were serious about it and all. The bottom line of course is that C2S is a daring plan for an area of downtown about 7 blocks deep that is currently nothing but blight. It draws its potential from being located between the revitalized Oklahoma River and the booming downtown area. When we begin to look at C2S in a different light as our official 100-year masterplan, we suddenly take a pretty cool community development plan and turn it into a very lame and overhyped long-term proposal. Trust me, C2S is not long-term worthy.

To put it differently, how would you feel if you were told that I.M. Pei's proposed revitalized downtown was to be a 100-year masterplan? You would probably feel a little underwhelmed. When it's all said and done, we rightfully lament everything that our 1980s predecessors did. But there is one thing that can never be taken from them: They had a very grand plan, and they set out to make as much of it come to fruition as possible. They turned downtown into a maze of construction zones for a short period. Their slogan was out with the old, in with the new. The sure got the old outta here. They got a lot of the new in, too. We have them to thank for the Century Center, Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma Tower, Corporate Tower, Kerr-McGee Tower, Leadership Square, Myriad Gardens, and so on. We even have them to thank for the Devon Tower in a roundabout way, because the land Devon will be built on was originally cleared by none other than them. We also have them to thank for the nail in downtown's coffin. But we've moved on from that, and downtown is very alive today. But one thing is certain: if ONLY I.M. Pei and city planners in OKC had a little more respect for our city's old buildings, we would be praising them, not lamenting them. And if they had sat around and waited nearly as much as we have today on all of our grand plans for downtown, none of anything they ever talked about would have become reality. Instead they got serious and made most of their plans happen before the oil bust came and sent them all into bankruptcy for daring to build a modern city.

Today we talk about wanting to build a modern city, while keeping all of our remaining beautiful old buildings in tact. Are we ever going to do it? This is the bottom line: The economy is horrific right now, but soon credit is going to loosen up and there will be a lot of money for projects, and a lot of that money will go to markets that lenders can be confident in, namely OKC. A rare opportunity is coming up for OKC to build a modern city once and for all, something we've been trying to do for the last 50 years. OKC should have paid to build light rail years ago. Now is the time for action. As soon as the Ford Center improvements tax expires at the end of 2009, the one-farthing tax should be extended for another 10 years to pay for miles of RAIL streetcars, as well as the grand park in C2S (although to be sure, a lot of it will be funded from the 2007 public bond issue), the new convention center we so desperately need, further riverfront improvements, and a district-wide streetscape. We should be so fortunate to have such a brilliant masterplan in hand! But we should be able to compete with other cities, especially those that are considered "Tier 2" cities (i.e., Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Kansas City, Minneapolis). We'll never compete well with them if we don't research carefully what these other cities are doing. Do we honestly expect them to not have similar plans to reinvent themselves? They do. They all do.

Review of the last 8 years..

For a while now, the poll on the left hand is going to ask your opinion of how you feel the first 8 years of 2000 have gone for urban areas. It will be interesting to determine in which areas we've made improvements, in which areas we still have a lot of improvement to make, and in which areas we've regressed. Before going into this I will admit that my perception is that we've probably made significant strides in urban areas. We've cleaned up a lot of ghettos and revitalized almost every major urban core. We're a much better nation for the last 8 years. We may have the war, the economy, and China to worry about, but we can at least be sure, I think, that our cities are greatly improved places. But we'll see what the data says once we take a closer look.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Arena talk: Wichita

I was browsing competing urban chat boards; one that I frequently browse and have about 500 posts at is, which specializes mostly in the proper method to get away with smoking a joint in public in Vancouver. Which is funny because I would never have imagined it to be that hard! But for those of you that are normal (the rest of us), you'd probably find some of the details of Wichita's slowly progressing arena project to be the most interesting thing. The reason you'd be interested in this is because if you've read Steve Lackmeyer's blog you saw how Wichita is a model of downtown accessability that OKC can follow. Although to be fair, Steve did mention the crime problem in Wichita's Old Town. What's recently surfaced is this:

The above are perfectly decent historic buildings. They're beautiful in my opinion, and could be anything. "OKC logic" tells us that these 2 buildings would make perfect lofts, offices, or a night club with a coffee shop on the street (or not). And I checked in the Wichita Eagle archives, the buildings are not structurally defficient. However, "Wichita logic" is telling them that the land would be best used for the right mix of grass that is absolutely necessary to complete this beauty of public works:

Perhaps the ugliest arena project I've seen about to break ground ever. Anyway, if you'll notice in the back they've saved a historic building and incorporated it into the site plan. Those are lofts that are already restored. On that street corner right next door to the lofts are where these two buildings are that are being bulldozed for the arena project. They are indeed bulldozing these beautiful historic buildings to replace them with grass, and nothing to do with an actual arena. I just thought it was interesting how another city is about to commit a travesty that they'll probably regret in the future, especially in light of both Oklahoma's cities putting a lot of focus on their downtown arenas.

Keep Austin, what?

You've all heard of Keep Austin Weird. I even own a t-shirt. But now from Austin's conservative suburbs, comes this. Make Austin Normal and Keep Austin Corporate. It's hard not to understand the point of Make Austin Normal, explained as: "Let's see, do I want 30% off a best selling book at Barnes and Noble or do I want to pay full price at Book People? Dude, chain stores rule."

I love Barnes & Noble. I love Full Circle Bookstore even more.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Sooners

Son of a bitch. Well at least now we can get back to talking about urbanism.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ask Nebraska about OU's bad defense..

Tim Tebow can't wait to go up against OU's defense. That's funny. Nebraska, and a lot of teams OU played this year, couldn't wait to get away from OU's defense. "Oh the humanity!" was all Nebraska fans could say after the first 6 minutes of the first quarter. After that Husker Nation had only one serious question on their hands: Was that just the worst beating we've ever gotten, or not? OU's message to Nebraska: No Sooner Magic needed.

And everyone knows Florida's defense is much better than OU's. After all, they're in the SEC. But, what if the offensive production allowed isn't the best indicator to go by? Florida had 837 total tackles during the regular season, which is not bad. OU..908. Florida had 272 tackles for a loss. OU..a mere 430. Florida had 31 sacks. OU..42 sacks. This is how the defenses compare head-to-head. OU plays in a tougher conference, with ALL 4 of the nation's top QBs; Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Graham Harrell, and Zack Robinson.

OU killed opponents by forcing turnovers often and early. With one of the greediest defenses in college football, OU's defense focused more on forcing turnovers and then scoring before the offense could even take the field. Not that most everyone hasn't heard of OU's no-huddle offense. Unstoppable is the word many have used to describe it. No modern program until now has ever scored 700 points in a season, or scored 60+ in 5 straight games. If you don't believe that, take it from Mizzou's Jeremy Maclin: "Are you kidding me? That offense is unbelievable." Unbelievable, works too.

Still not convinced? Then take it from Texas Tech's Mike Leach. After waiting in line for his 65-21 drubbing, OU had his #1 vote in the bag. In the press conference after OU's win over Tech, Stoops was asked if he had a Heisman winner in Bradford. His response: "Absolutely."

But, why is this team so good? Undoubtedly, it has much more to do with the chip-on-shoulder attitude that OU is playing with, than with Heisman QBs, no-huddle offenses, 65-21, or even 42 sacks and 32 turnovers. Each of OU's infamous 4-straight BCS losses came in games that OU should have won. Picked heavily over LSU, favored over much-hyped USC, come on..Boise State, and West Virginia was a program in anarchy. Can you say BCS funk? The sign plastered to the wall in the OU locker room says 48-28. That says it all.

Nice to see Oklahoma growing from afar

My apologies for my prolonged absence during the last 3/4 months. I appreciated everyone who occasionally read my blog, and especially those who occasionally commented. I promise I'll make up this drought by dropping more posts from time to time. Who would have thought switching to a more rigorous Architecture School and being a thousand miles away from OKC would have resulted in less free time to blog about Oklahoma?

However, not that even in the wintery land known as Canada can we escape Oklahoma's surging prominence, especially every time we turn on ESPN. The NBA ended up being just the shot in the arm that we needed (ok, maybe not). What a way for the Thunder to do something notable by vying for the highly-coveted title of Worst Franchise Ever! And if you don't think that's notable, which do people talk about more often: the Detroit Lions, or the Cincinnati Bengals. The record currently stands at 4-30; that is 4 wins, and 30 "moral victories" (we don't call them "losses" anymore, it's like it's the Special Olympics all-of-a-sudden). And I don't blame Scott Brooks at his Thunder post-game press conferences for wanting to change the subject to OU football. David Boren needs to issue a formal statement for his schoolapologizing for stealing the NBA's "thunder."

On the bright side, OU is at the same time highly underrated and on the verge of becoming the program of the decade. Of course it doesn't hurt that OU is probably the program of the year, with football being ranked #1, and at the same time basketball being ranked #4. OSU athletics, too, are showing signs of joining the big-leagues with all of their investment in athletic facilities. Even OSU football was once ranked #7, during a 3-week period that the State of Oklahoma had two teams ranked in the Top Ten. Sports columnists and announcers alike began to refer collectively to "the Oklahomas," although OU would very much beg to differ, as there's only one Oklahoma.

Plus, we can't forget all of the new sports facilities set to break ground. Such as the $100+ million renovations that the Ford Center is in the middle of getting, and the new Drillers Stadium in downtown Tulsa. Don't forget the rest of OSU's athletic village, which will likely bring the rest of Cowboys athletics up to par with the football, wrestling, and basketball programs there. OKC's Regatta Park has become the national mecca for rowing (just ask the New York Times), which used to be mainly an East Coast sport. I'm beginning to wonder how all of this compares to other states. There is no question that Oklahoma is a 21st-century player on the national sports scene, but when it's all done, and you consider NCAA and the pros and tournaments and all of that, how does Oklahoma compare?

Proud Okies, don't forget that a recent poll by The Sporting News ranked OKC 79th on its national list of Sports Cities. Norman, ranked seperately for some reason, was ranked 45th. Stillwater was ranked 71st, also ahead of the mother city, OKC. Many controversial problems abound with this ranking however: Even though by the time they did the ranking it had been concrete that the Sonics were moving to the Ford Center, this poll excluded them giving OKC 0 professional sports teams among its criteria. "Their ranking system is flawed," said even Mayor Mick. Had OKC and Norman been listed together, as they had been for every year of the poll until 2007, it probably would have resulted in a Top 30 ranking. Had they included the Thunder, who knows.

Perception is everything, and even still, that is by far Oklahoma's biggest problem. To quote a recent NBA team owner who toured our city before voting to approve the relocation of the Sonics: "You know, this Oklahoma