Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cityshot XXXVII

Who says a single infill project can't lend tremendously towards sense of place, if surrounded by the right environs?

Stay tuned..

I don't typically do this, but due to how busy I've suddenly become in my life and my tendency to start something and forget about it, I thought I would share with you all everything I have planned for this blog for the next 2 weeks or so. This way, not only will I have a place to come back and see my plans, but you guys can hold me to completing these posts. And yes, this blog is important to me. Before it was not, but now that I have seen how many people actually do read it, and who some of those people are, and how I have the ability to actually advocate on issues, yes--this blog is important to me.

With that said, here's what I hope to get to:

1. A post that is already partly written, I just need to finish it. It's a study on how cities occasionally balkanize, for lack of a better term, and split into two separate distinct cities. North and South OKC are a great example, and obviously this is just yet another post that is mainly examining the N/S split in OKC. Some interesting conclusions, one of the better posts I have planned..

2. I really need to get around to providing a full analysis of the Sandridge Commons proposal now that it's been revealed in its entirety, but I'm not too worried about this right now.. obviously I'll have a while to push the issue, and just like I focused on MAPS 3 for a while, after the interim I plan on this blog sort of shifting to focus on that issue for a while leading up to the decision.

3. I have a post on E.K. Gaylord and the possible intermodal transit hub, which I understand ACOG is in the midst of studying. My research on EKG is complete, now I'm just waiting till I have time to contact someone from ACOG to see where they stand on the hub. That way I can also subtly let them know about my blog so they see the post as well.

4. I also plan to compare some fairly shocking aerial images of incredibly dense mid-tier cities such as Louisville ("Loovul"), Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville, etc.. to OKC. Hopefully with this I can demonstrate the need for critical mass density, which is achieved one streetwall at a time.

5. And of course, I have hundreds of OKC photos to sort through..lots of Cityshots interspersed in there.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bob Stoops don't need no stinkin development

Bob Stoops is a big deal, everybody knows that. For those who don't know, Bob Stoops has coached in 4 national championship games of the last decade, numerous other BCS bowls, and despite an abysmal record, no other coach is as consistently at the top echelon of college football. And also for those who didn't know, Bob Stoops is selling his home in NW Norman's ultra-posh Ashton Grove addition at NW 48th and building a new estate on 20 acres he owns off of NW 36th between Franklin Rd and Indian Hill Rd in Norman. That's called development.

But what he opposes is additional development of the stretch of NW 36th between Norman and Moore. He filed a legal protest with the Norman City Council against the development of 350 acres adjacent to the home he is developing in a rapidly-growing corridor between the built-up areas of Cleveland County's two largest cities. The 350 acre development, proposed by JJ Properties, will include a huge number of tract housing, as well as an assisted-living center, townhomes, and an elementary school. The elementary school, not yet funded, would be in the Moore Public School district (which is everything in Cleveland County north of Franklin Rd).

So I think this interesting story poses a wide array of questions. The first obviously shows us the undesirable nature of sprawl, but what's most notable is that each party involved is guilty of sprawl. Bob Stoops is guilty of sprawl in the first place because he's the one who CHOSE to purchase land in a rapidly growing area, develop a $3.3 million home (that's called development), and then squawk when other development occurs nearby. Does Stoops honestly have the right to be surprised that development is going to happen on land adjacent to his new home along NW 36th? He can't be serious. That's like going being seated at a restaurant and then storming out mad because the waiter tried to get you to buy an appetizer and a drink. Then the developer is obviously guilty of sprawl, and yeah I don't blame Stoops, I wouldn't want to build a $3.3 million estate and then have it surrounded by tract housing. Then the Norman City Council is guilty of sprawl because they have done nothing but encourage the sprawl of NW Norman, even with Cindy Rosenthal as mayor. Here, sprawl has led to conflicts between all three entities, and it will be up to the City Council and Rosenthal to resolve it. That will likely be a very contentious Council meeting.

Then I think it poses other questions. Is Stoops saying that only people who can afford a $3.3 million mansion have the right to build a home near him? Obviously that isn't right. Look at it this way, I consider everyone to be on equal footing before the law. So therefor everyone should have an equal right to participate in the sprawl of places like Norman and especially Edmond. But I won't even go into the socioeconomic limitations of sprawl in Edmond because that's opening a whole different can of worms. But suppose that if we're going to have sprawl and we're going to have major development, do we discriminate between $3.3 million mansions and tract homes that sell for $120,000? I think so. The only way out of this debate were if sprawl were verboten, but it's not. That way you could make the argument that the only thing that's being protested here is a high-density development, not the starting price of tract houses. And for all I'm concerned, the development sounds interesting..I'd like to hear more about these "townhomes" being proposed.

But when Stoops knowingly builds in a high-growth area and when the Norman City Council has already opened the floodgates for sprawl, that argument goes out the window. This now becomes socioeconomic, strictly. For Stoops this is about protecting the value of a $3.3 million investment. You have to wonder, why endanger such a huge investment like that in the first place? Why even build a $3.3 million investment in an area where the expectation HAS to be that tract housing will surround you within a matter of a few years. In fact if the development is at all, in anyway, above average, then you have already exceeded what I think the expectation has to be..where the bar is set, which is pretty low.

So in short, this is one way that sprawl can be ugly. And this isn't even looking 30 years down the road, this is looking at the short-term. It's incredible that if sprawl can even be ugly in the short-term in some instances, how we're still all gung-ho and excited to fill in those pastures!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hard to argue

Well, I guess it's going to be an uphill battle for any of us now that SandRidge has brought in the glowing CNBC national spotlight to their plans. Obviously the plans are interesting, and mostly good. I am still very, very concerned over the loss of the KerMac building. Time will tell if it is able to be saved.

Cityshot XXXVI

And a bonus..

Both of the streetwall in danger along Robinson Ave.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Science downtown?

What if the OmniPlex/Science Museum Oklahoma moved downtown? Just a thought.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More potshots from "professional journalism"

This time, it's the Washington Post.
I like the NBA -- I'm not saying it's FAN-tastic, I'm not saying it's where amazing happens, I'm not saying I love this game -- I just like it. I like it enough to provide a comprehensive report on the NBA at midseason:

Kevin Durant is the best player you'll never see (unless you never see that online poker pro from Sweden who wins, like, $3 million a day). When I have grazed upon NBA-TV on occasion, I've stumbled on an Oklahoma City Thunder game. I don't even know where Oklahoma City is -- I assume it's in Oklahoma; maybe Kansas -- and can't imagine anyone playing basketball in Oklahoma City.

By the way, since when does the NBA have a team in Oklahoma City? I thought only the NHL did stuff like that.

How does anyone even get to call themselves a "professional journalist" after saying something like that? Not quite sure where OKC is, probably somewhere in Oklahoma, but possibly in Kansas.. and how can this guy proclaim that the NBA shouldn't be in OKC..afterall, only the NHL does stuff like that?

Since when does the NBA "do stuff like that?" Well, obviously it happened long before OKC. The NBA has a track record of being very successful in smaller, less prominent markets that aren't quite as small as "medium-sized" cities. In other words, the NBA has traditionally LOVED to take a chance on a larger mid-major city that's showed signs of becoming a major city.

The San Antonio Spurs have, for decades, been one of the most successful franchises in the league. The Seattle Supersonics literally put Seattle on the map back in the 60s, just as for many neanderthals, it has put OKC on the map, albeit somewhere vaguely in Oklahoma, possibly in Kansas. When the New Orleans Jazz moved to Salt Lake City, it marked the possibilities that can exist in brand-new "major cities."

What constitutes a city's fresh ascendancy to "major city" status from "mid-major city" status? Hard to tell--but whatever it is, it is the difference that exists between cities such as Charlotte, Nashville, and San Antonio, and cities such as Omaha, Tulsa, and Little Rock. It is from the latter camp that OKC hails, whereas it is the premier group that OKC is headed for. Anyone who can't see that is blind to all of the positive movement and growth that has occurred in OKC in the last 10 years.

Granted, sometimes taking a chance on a rising market has failed for the NBA. Moving the Grizz from Vancouver to Memphis has been a huge failure. The FedEx Forum is a great facility, Memphis is a truly "great" city, they have a basketball (and sports in general) culture there second to none, and yet the NBA can't compete with Memphis State collegiate basketball and they just can't get butts in seats. Sometimes a city is just a dud, and sometimes there are signs suggesting a move won't go over so well, but a lot of times, there's no way to tell. And even more often, bad ownership can lead to a franchise that just deteriorates over prolonged periods of time. Once a market deteriorates it's often soured and it's tough to make something good out of it, such as Seattle.

So, since when did the NBA "do things like that?" Basically, since forever. That is after all, the NBA's league growth formula. Growth benefits every franchise, as long as it's good growth. You want teams in cities that support them, and you want to get rid of teams in cities that don't support them..hopefully the end result is a league full of nothing but teams that are well-supported by their communities.

And what's more is that everyone who is familiar with the NBA knows that they have a whole bastion of teams in smaller markets (aka markets that aren't LA or NYC).. Sacramento, Orlando, San Antonio, New Orleans, Charlotte, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Portland, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, Indianapolis..and possibly a team in Kansas City or Louisville (being discussed..they are building new arenas).

So what makes OKC especially worthy of all of the ridiculous and unfounded criticism that it has gotten in the last week? Absolutely nothing. To the Gazette's response (to a report that some Thunder players were 'unhappy' in OKC) last month that couldn't quite get to the point of defending the OKC scene as being "NBA star worthy," I would hold up the OKC "scene" to ANY of those other smaller cities I mentioned earlier, except New Orleans or Memphis.

The reality that nobody seems to fathom is that the NBA actually does play..quite a few..of its games in cities outside of New York, LA, Miami, Chicago, or fact probably the majority of cities are very "average" or as I would prefer to word it, "real," kinds of places.

To the SI article that made OKC sound like a bad day in Guymon, I would just suggest a dose of reality. You could easily make Cleveland or Memphis sound a lot worse.

To this article questioning since when the NBA has been in such small and unheard of markets, I suggest the author take a good hard look at a map of the NBA and start getting out of the Beltway some.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sagging power lines and idle oil derricks...

Read this article on and you'll be flabbergasted. I typically don't make a big deal out if it whenever the NY Times or some other paper writes a glowing article on OKC, or when SI or ESPN blowhards repeatedly show us that they don't actually travel to games anywhere besides New York, LA, Chicago, and the usual suspects.

But this is especially deserving of being brought up because it goes above and beyond the usual crap that sportswriters come up with about OKC (which by the way completely contradicts what every travel writer or urban critic has said that has toured OKC).
On most mornings Kevin Durant, the best NBA player most people never get to see, drives his extralong conversion van 10 minutes from his house in the suburbs of Oklahoma City to the Thunder's practice facility, which if not technically in the middle of nowhere is at least on its outskirts. He passes sagging power lines and idle oil derricks and vast fields of brittle yellow grass pocked with snow before turning onto a two-lane road and, just past the John Deere factory, pulling into the parking lot of the practice center, a converted roller rink. Unfolding his 6'9" frame from the van, Durant ambles past the odd rabbit lounging in the shrubbery and enters the gym for another day of work, all the while engulfed by the scent of ... well, what is that exactly?

"Dog food," says Durant. "And it stinks, man; it really stinks." As it turns out, there is a hulking Purina plant just down the road, churning out untold tons of pet chow weekly, but Durant takes the, um, ambience in stride, just as he does many other not-so-glamorous elements of playing in the smallest market in the NBA. These include the weather (cold), the nightlife (hello, Denny's!) and the TV exposure (two national appearances this season, or 27 fewer than the Cavaliers), all of which are supposed to be of great importance to NBA players, who are commonly envisioned as a flock of 7-foot homing pigeons all hatched in the same sweaty South Beach nightclub. But Durant claims not to mind. He says that he "loves it here," and once you spend some time around him, it becomes clear that he is not only sincere but also talking as much about the franchise as the city itself.

That's pretty bad huh? I don't know if these people really understand that you can't write this kind of crap about a city with 1.3 million people? Not just because it's untrue, but because..what's the point? What does anyone possibly have to gain by going so far out of their way to paint a picture that is blatantly erroneous about an entire city? Why go to those lengths to upset 1.3 million people? It's unfathomable.

The weather-cold. The nightlife-hello, Denny's! (oh come on, we have IHOP at least!) TV exposure-well it's not the Cavs (you know, in that urban jewel that is Cleveland).

What is it really like in OKC? Well apparently anywhere in the city feels like the middle of nowhere. Instead of the typical development you see in other cities, OKC has sagging power lines, idle oil derricks all over the place, brittle yellow grass covered in snow, nothing but two-lane roads, John Deere factories, and so on. Did the writer mistakenly keep driving through Deer Creek until he got to Guymon? I don't think even Guymon could sound as bad once you factor in the Purina pet chow smell lofting through the air.

And idle oil derricks, really? This is an oil derrick..maybe he means an oil well. I suppose it's fitting that not even that is correct when the entire article is grasping for straws to make it sound like KD is playing basketball on Mars or something.

Speaking of the market, the article also refers to OKC as the smallest NBA market. Well! There are actually several smaller markets. New Orleans, Memphis, Salt Lake, and I believe Sacramento are all JUST a tad smaller than OKC. Never mind the most important fact that OKC has far and above been the most successful small market the NBA has entered, in the mold of Salt Lake, Charlotte, and San Antone.

Or is there perhaps a more subtle reason that someone could write such a misinformed, inappropriate article that is actually published in a major publication? KD becomes a free agent after this year, and the Thunder also have the largest amount of gap space when it comes to the salary cap. No other team is as well positioned to attract some big names to its roster than the Thunder. No other team has fostered as much young talent as well as the Thunder either. Sounds like Sam Presti is doing a helluva job in a hick town. What if the "NBA establishment" can successfully portray OKC as such a ridiculous place that Sam Presti can no longer be successful in Oklahoma, KD gets snatched away, and no talented players will even go near the Thunder?

That's the only reasonable explanation I can fathom after reading this article. That someone actually came to OKC and wrote the article isn't an option, and I also find it highly unlikely that anyone who wrote that could have honestly believed a word of it.

Cityshot XXXIV

Say what you want about this project..its existence today is a GOOD thing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vote for OMRF

OMRF's new Research Tower under construction in the Oklahoma Health Center northeast of downtown is up for the 2009 Excellence in Renewable Energy Award, a major environmental design award. I don't know how the voting is going to be done or what kind of committee is behind it, but maybe it would make a difference to get some online voter participation. You can vote online here.

Cityshot XXXIII

More of the Harvey Ave streetwall..

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Canadian counterpart

I've heard a lot of people asking me to run through some comparisons of OKC and Calgary, so here they be. To sum it up, I don't think OKC and Calgary are "twins." I think OKC's "twin" is Edmonton, not Calgary (Calgary's US "twin" is def Denver)..but nobody knows where on Earth Edmonton is (case in point) and most everyone knows Calgary. I think OKC and Calgary share a lot in common though.. and I'll also discuss Edmonton in this post.

First, what is Calgary? Calgary is Canada's 5th major metro, after Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver (Hongcouver), and Ottawa, with 1,182,446 people. Being the oil capital of the north has made it the fastest-growing Canadian metro as well, and politically, by far the most conservative city. Perhaps even highly conservative by US standards.

Some local assets include the University of Calgary, with 30,000 students, an LRT system known as the C-train (which is completely fare free in the center city), as well as a complex of public facilities known as the Calgary Stampede--compare to Dallas Fair Park (landmark buildings, proximity to downtown). The Stampede is vestigial of Calgary's Wild West boom town heritage, where even today, you'll still see some real cowboys and country music diehards around. The Calgary Stampede itself is a 10-day event in July billed as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" -- basically the world's largest rodeo, now in its 97th year. In 1988 Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics (Vancouver this year), for which the Saddledome was built. Today the Saddledome is still the home of the wildly popular Calgary Flames (NHL). Despite some complaints about its aging, to me the Saddledome is a "great" building and it should never be torn down. Calgary is also known as a very outdoorsy place, attracting people for many of the same reasons as people flock to Denver. Close proximity to ski resorts as well as the breathtaking Banff National Park, and its location directly in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, has sort of made it the official jumping point for the Rockies.

The Calgary skyline is absolutely massive. Basically what you have is a wide area along the south bank of the Bow River that has just became a dumping grounds for almost all of the high rises in the city. What began in the 70s as a mess eventually turned itself around and today Downtown Calgary is one of the best oil downtowns (Dallas, Houston, OKC, Tulsa, Denver, Calgary, etc). there are. Still dominated by corporate monstrosities like most all oil downtowns, downtown boasts an incredibly vibrant street life complete with pedestrian malls, 400 total retailers, lots of mixed-use, beautifully restored historic buildings, and more. Viewed from a distance the skyline is a bit overwhelming, stretching for 3 miles, rising to as high as 700 feet in the middle. The reason it's a fairly low-hanging skyline is that most towers built in the 80s and 90s for some reason were done as twin towers, so as to not obstruct the view of the Rockies from the hideous Calgary Tower, although that has never been a rule, and after completion Norman Foster's new tower, The Bow, will be 810 feet (tallest in Western Canada).

The south half of the downtown area, across the train tracks from the CBD, is known as the Beltline (for how it geographically straddles the edge of downtown)--this area is largely an immigrant neighborhood that has recently exploded with new high rise development. Imagine standing in a parking lot along the edge and seeing over a dozen high rise condos going up in a wide area. That's the Beltline. The condos are all required to be mixed-use for the most part, and the streets of the Beltline are bustling with shiny new retail development, renovated historic brick buildings, and really active street life. A lot of people are jaded about all of the development because eventually it will hit the immigrant population like a brick wall..they'll have to find a different part of the city as rent keeps rising and rising on the older crappier apartments. The Beltline also has a few smaller areas akin to Bricktown or MidTown, but mainly in the form of street corridors. 17th Avenue (usually referred to as Uptown), still technically in the Beltline area, is by far the coolest and most popular of these strips. Uptown 17th Avenue alone has over 500 businesses along it. Think of M Street in DC, but bigger!

The way Downtown Calgary has just grown and grown is incredible. No US city has really done this in my opinion. DT Calgary is basically a whole little world all in its own, kind of like how Manhattan is an island surrounded by water. DT Calgary is an island surrounded by suburbia that may as well be water if you live downtown.

Calgary 1969

Calgary 2010

Calgary 2012

The 2010, while being a great shot, actually cuts off about another mile (the west end of the core) of mid rise apartment buildings. Here is a great photo showing how downtown trails off towards the west (which taken from the north is to the right in this pic). The 2012 shot shows some towers that most likely won't become reality, but it is a valuable perspective because it takes the least impressive skyline angle (which happens to be the most impressive angle of all of the proposed scrapers) and shows how it can change if Calgary continues its current growth trajectory in the short term.

So, enough about all of that. How did Calgary get so much skyscraper growth? Tough to say because there are a lot of answers that sort of just came together. Being in Canada, where downtowns are typically dominated by residential high rises (that are usually ugly), helps to some extent by giving it a more urban expectation than U.S. cities. The economy is growing a lot, thanks to oil finds in northern Alberta and along the Montana/North Dakota/Saskatchewan borders. Calgary's population is projected to have increased 25% in the 2000s.

I think an even more major contributory factor however is that there are regulations and limits on sprawl. There has always existed a sort of boundary line that you don't develop beyond, but that boundary keeps being pushed further and further out. Also residential additions are built to where the single family homes barely have a yard and suburbanites are packed in like sardines in a can. This has limited sprawl a lot, and also, made it less desirable I think..I mean honestly, might as well live in a downtown apartment. Right? How could OKC attain this kind of urban growth? Simple. Grow the economy some more, and proactively limit sprawl. OKC still controls new home construction (for now), so if OKC revamped the permitting process for sprawling additions (right now city codes literally hamper urban infill but make sprawl almost "too easy" -- why not make it the other way around?) or placed outright restrictions, boundaries, and moratoriums on sprawl. The city could do that. It already does in some areas, like in the Lake Draper watershed, as well as the proposed site of the West Elm Creek Reservoir.

I personally suggest the weaker govt route however of just reworking the city codes (as opposed to the stronger govt role of moratoriums) to make urban infill almost "too easy" and slightly hamper mass suburban additions. Right now a developer can get an entire plat approved for a hundred homes at once and then build em all before even lining up prospective buyers. In downtown it's nearly impossible to get lending for 20 condo units, and (thankfully) it has to be approved by design review committees, and city codes don't let developers get too creative with things like lofts. In fact, I've been told by one developer that he didn't think city codes really understand lofts at all. In any instance though, I believe that the city is actionable here because we are talking about a vital issue of wellbeing to the city. Surely Calgary is doing something right to have been ranked the World's Cleanest City, by Mercer.

Outside of downtown, Calgary begins to more closely resemble OKC. Generally speaking, South Calgary is high-income, full of beautiful neighborhoods, great landscapes (hills/trees/creeks), lots of cool areas, very similar to the south sides of KC or Tulsa I've always thought. MacLeod Trail extends all the way south from downtown, kind of like the Northwest Expressway, lined with tons of businesses, including some mixed-use stuff beginning to creep into its corridor.

North Calgary is very middle of the road, some parts are hilly (some not), some parts closer to downtown are pretty ghetto. Some parts of the "ghetto" area have been redeveloped..these areas, such as Bridgeland for example, provide OKC with great examples for redeveloping rundown parts of its inner city. The Bridges is a LEED-certified project owned by the City of Calgary itself with about 1,500 residential units, designed to spur private development in close-in parts of the north side. North Calgary also contains the U of C, which is surrounded by nothing but the most dismal suburbia imaginable. Forget about walkable, although luckily the C-train serves the main campus.

East Calgary is real blue collar, kind of redneck, and pretty poor. Houses in here aren't rundown, it's just more like something you might see in Del City..the typical vernacular architecture that aspires to be nicer than it really is, like the houses with the average 2-car garage that says "I'm a nice house, really.." attached to a small house that looks retarded with such a big garage. If you've ever driven through Del City or the rough areas of Midwest City, you know what I'm talking about.

So what do the two cities have in common? Well, N. Calgary sort of = S. OKC, N. OKC sort of = S. Calgary (except Calgary is nicer in both instances). They share oil, a flair for sports, western heritage, conservative politics, middle tier size, relatively low costs, and beyond that, not a whole lot more. Calgary has found that "world-class factor" that OKC is still aspiring thing that helped Calgary find it was hosting major events, such as the yearly Calgary Stampede, or the 88 Olympics. A city that OKC shares more in common with...


Edmonton is, in every way, a less exciting version of Calgary. It's about 4 hours to the north, meaning, if you think Calgary's winters are brutal..Edmonton is much worse. Edmonton also has a lot of oil business, but it's not a corporate hub like Calgary is. The main thing putting Edmonton on the map is government. The University of Alberta is probably one of the top 2 research schools in Canada, and Edmonton is the home of the National Institute of Nanotechnology and a hub for research. The government of Alberta also anchors Edmonton.

When you consider all of the government stuff that Edmonton has, that Calgary doesn't have (and is paying for), and the fact that Edmonton is very, very close (only slightly less) in population to Calgary--it's incredible how different the two cities are. Edmonton is nonetheless a very interesting place, especially for comparing to OKC.

Several sports connections: One thing I just found out, a few seconds ago, is that Edmonton used to have a AAA team that played in the Pacific Coast League, along with the Oklahoma City Redhawks. The team, formerly the Edmonton Capitals, relocated to Austin in 2004 and became the Round Rock Express that play in the Dell Diamond. Edmonton is also the home of the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL, who play in the craptacular Rexall Place arena--the Oilers are putting their AHL farm team affiliate in OKC (that I did know). Also Edmonton is home to the Edmonton Indy (the only major race course with a skyline backdrop), a major course on the Indy circuit, as well as the Castrol Raceway which is a sprint car track. The relevance? Just proves that the near-Arctic metropolis of Edmonton isn't that far removed from the hick world of the Southern U.S. after all.

Also, government has had a more active role in downtown Edmonton than Calgary. Several MAPS-esque projects, including a bastion of museums, most notably the brilliant Art Gallery of Alberta, and the Winspear Centre fill in here. It's especially hard not to love the avant garde Art Gallery--which opens tomorrow in fact, Jan 18th. Edmonton also features more interesting mid-century architecture, something OKC is blessed with. Around the 40s, 50s, and 60s, Edmonton was the more dominant city in Alberta. Great mid-century examples include the Royal Alberta Museum, the Edmonton City Hall, and in my opinion their LRT system (being facetious there).

Downtown Edmonton sucks. It's functional, it's busy..but beyond that, it leaves little to the imagination. Here you have a great example of what happens when beautiful historic buildings are wiped out and replaced with brutalist and modernist high-rises that cast dispersions on the street level. It's just too much ugly. DT Ed resembles exactly what DT OKC would be like had urban renewal gone through exactly as planned. I'm not sure how else to put it. They saved a few key historic sites, such as the Hotel MacDonald and Alberta Provincial Legislature, and laid waste to everything else. It does have one cool historic area that was saved called Strathcona..but it wasn't saved like Bricktown was because it was on nobody's radar. Strathcona is full of some really awesome late 1800s architecture, and colorful rows of buildings that have always been well cared for. So that takes away some of the preservation appeal of Bricktown in my opinion.

Another random similarity: Edmonton is famous for a huge F4 tornado that hit it in the 90s I think.

The most remarkable thing about Edmonton..the West Edmonton Mall. You can't mention Edmonton without talking about this monstrosity of a mall, which was the world's largest shopping mall for over 20 years..until 2004. It is still North America's largest shopping mall, with over 800 stores..3.8 million sf, and an indoor water park, NHL regulation sized ice rink, roller coaster rides, its own Chinatown, and more. It is the 8th Wonder of the World.

Overall, I think that neither city really fit the bill entirely for OKC. When I say that OKC is more like Edmonton, which is just a less exciting version of Calgary, I don't mean to downgrade OKC--just that it clearly hasn't arrived on the level that Calgary is on. Even one of the biggest OKC boosters such as myself can take one look at Calgary and say, "Wow, are you sure OKC is slightly bigger in population?" But I don't just take one look at it. I live in it for most of the year. I see a version of OKC that has done everything right, and is at least 20 years ahead of OKC. And when I say "less exciting" -- clearly I don't think OKC is as boring as I think Edmonton is. I have never even been to Edmonton, just heard a lot about it and all. And what I've heard has been very biased from Calgarians, but from what I've seen in actually looking into it, they're not far off.

OKC amazingly possesses enough of its original self to turn itself into a city unlike any other in the world, let alone the U.S. or even the Southern U.S. The areas we can still work with, like Bricktown, MidTown, and ALL of the other cool areas--this is what it's about. It's about having unique neighborhoods, that's how you grow "sense of place." Sense of place is truly beginning to take hold in OKC, so we're on the right track. If OKC can get its sprawl under control and focus on building up unique neighborhoods, we'll be going somewhere. I know a lot of us lament the astounding number of grand buildings we lost, and it's true, we lost most of our historic downtown. But "historic downtown" was so much that we still have a lot left, including a few key remnants that can let us rebuild the grand, unique city that once existed and seamlessly blend the old with the tres moderne. People will still be impressed with OKC's historic preservation if we don't shed any more great buildings, and enough opportunities for infill already exist without having to tear anything down. Downtown transit and increased momentum will give OKC a downtown boom to work with that could allow downtown to replace any of the growth OKC would lose to Edmond or any other suburbs by hampering sprawl.

Now we must set out to create a unique, one-of-a-kind city.. with an eye to many of our peer cities, especially those elsewhere in the south like Ft Worth and Nashville, but also to Canadian cities. Canadian cities hold an advantage over U.S. cities in terms of cleanliness and quality of living. If QOL is what MAPS is all about, then we should take a look at a few other cities that place the emphasis that we do on QOL. Do Dallas or Kansas City or Nashville emphasize QOL? Probably not. Canadian cities do. Call it social urbanism, call it liberalism (give me a break), call it city planning, whatever you call it.. you can't call it ineffective, especially considering that there isn't a single Canadian MSA that is losing population.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cityshot XXXII

Harvey Ave, often overlooked in downtown. Great street.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"Starchitecture" and "Superblock" madness

Why "Starchitecture" is to be feared:

The Russian government has a plan to "restore the prestige" of its cultural capitol, St. Petersburg, by moving natural gas company Gazprom (which controls 18% of worldwide production) from Moscow to St. Petersburg, amongst other "urban renewal" type projects. This right after the famous UNESCO-protected historic city turned 300 years old.

And I just have to question what they're thinking. They want to revitalize their nation's cultural capitol, so they do so how?--by getting a major corporation to move from Moscow? Let's follow the logic. Moscow is Europe's largest city, the only place in Russia where Gazprom would be allowed to build a 1,000 foot tall skyscraper (in fact there are other 1,000 ft tall scrapers going up in Moscow right now) and nobody would complain. People would praise the hideous suave obelisk design of this tower. Moscow is a city built on business and expansion and all of that. St. Petersburg is not, but nobody is denying that it's a "great" world city. So because it is a "great" world city, it's the perfect setting for..starchitecture! It needs some. So here you go:

Hideous, no? The design, by RMJM of London, was selected over much better designs in my opinion (particularly Libeskind's and Rem Koolhaas'), but the point remains that any kind of imposing structure on the UNESCO-protected St. Petersburg skyline (a collection of tall steeples rising over the city) is an assault to everything that this great city stands for, just as urban renewal tearing apart Oklahoma City's built environment destroyed the built remnants of the lives of city pioneers. It also destroyed our city's sense of self worth. There is greatness in preservation, and restoring something from the past, symbols of people and ideas that preceded you. There is not greatness in what replaces it, once you've destroyed something that mattered and obliterated it with cruel, imposing new structures that do not belong where they are put.

It's for this reason that all Russian architects boycotted the Gazprom design contest. The director of The Hermitage in St. Petersburg has advocated against it. The community, made of people who made a choice to live in a culturally-oriented city rather than a business-oriented city, is disgusted with the Gazprom City proposal. They want St. Petersburg City, not Gazprom City. But nonetheless there is nothing they can seem to do to disturb the drum beat of progress that promises to "restore the prestige," whatever that means.

Are there lessons to be learned here? Is there a clear-cut sense of "greatness" and is it possible that a 1,000 ft tall skyscraper is far from greatness after all? And just to be clear, if you're going to apply this to anything "big" being built/planned for OKC, it's not Devon Tower that I'm going after so much as it is the convention center or the idea of creating ANY more new superblocks in downtown. Devon Tower is utilizing an existing superblock that was already obliterated by urban renewal in the 60s.

The convention center project in OKC is our own little way of saying to the world that OKC has not learned its lesson from urban renewal, and you can add us to the list of cities in the year 2010 that either were great or COULD be great (our category) but still think urban renewal is cool. We think it's a great idea to combine superblocks, completely stint intimate city movement, basically fence off entire sections of our city away from typical development. It's almost hard to describe, it's like mixing two combustible liquids in an experiment, one thing that we're mixing is superblock facilities with specific uses and the other thing that we're mixing is development, private projects, buildings, things that people use, anything that makes up a city. Cities do not move around superblocks, they roll up and die in front of them. Superblocks block the free flow because they disrupt the grid system of streets that healthy cities depend on.

In St. Petersburg they tore down a section of their city for Gazprom. In Philadelphia they have torn down a section of their city for their convention center. In OKC we are turning down the opportunity for Core 2 Shore to be successful because of where we are going to put this convention center. There are better sites. There are ways to avoid becoming yet another city that doesn't get it AND add to our city's business amenities at the same time. We don't have to add our own unique example to the list of modern day urban renewal hall of shame. I get it that they want to market the convention center as being in front of the park. But isn't there more value in being able to market OKC for other things as being a genuinely "great" city? Why sell out? Is there even a cost benefit to it?

Out with the old, in with the new!
(By the way it's pretty revolting that a google img search for "St. Petersburg skyline" comes up with a city in Florida)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cityshot XXXI

A personal favorite, zoom up West Main Street from the new OCU Law School location in the old Fred Jones Model T Factory. You can really see downtown's density, and in 3 years, Devon Tower will endcap the view from this angle rising behind the parking garage under construction at the end of West Main.

Tulsa Art Deco museum planned

Up in Tulsa, local artist William Franklin and others have planned an official Tulsa Art Deco museum, dubbed Decopolis. For now they've launched a preliminary website at and a fundraiser event is planned Feb. 27th in the ONEOK Plaza (which by the way, is NOT an Art Deco building). Franklin is the VP of TulsaNow, and posts there and at other sites, including the OkMet forums, as TheArtist.

The beginning goal is to set up a network of people dedicated to the preservation of Tulsa's Art Deco heritage and to do traveling exhibits that can be hosted in buildings throughout downtown Tulsa. Currently they're operating under the umbrella of the Tulsa Arts & Humanities Council until their own 501(c)(3) status is approved. Franklin's eventual goal is to operate Decopolis as a museum featuring an interactive Art Deco streetscape, featuring typical Art Deco merchants like a coffee shop cafe, a martini lounge, a fine arts gallery (perhaps his own), and a town square.

Is it doable? We shall see, will be very interesting to watch. It's exciting to see fellow Internet specimen turn the computer off occasionally and actually do something out in the community. So often we talk about what needs to happen here and there and so on, but few are willing to actually make stuff happen when it's so easy to blog and chat on forums endlessly about our ideas--that's why I like to make a point to attend meetings in OKC when I can and to meet readers in person over coffee. So kudos to William and his group for going out and trying to make a really cool vision happen. At the least, hopefully an increased appreciation for Tulsa's Art Deco heritage can result in no more Deco jewels being lost to the 21st Century architectural wonder known as the parking lot.

Speaking of people we know making a difference in their downtown communities, wouldn't it be cool if we had a group do something awesome to chronicle OKC history as well? There is at least as much historic building heritage in OKC as there is in Tulsa (albeit not so much in the distinctive Deco style), most of which today only exists in the form of pictures sadly. Enormous mountains of historic photos have been donated to the Oklahoma County Historical Society and they just warehouse them. Nobody ever gets to appreciate the vast collections of OKC history that they have. In Tulsa, the Tulsa County Historical Society used to have a vast online library with thousands of historic images, but now they've taken them off and you have to visit the Travis Mansion on Peoria to see them. What if we in OKC could swing a website source for historic OKC knowledge? Just a thought.

For the meantime, some great online resources for history already exist. You'll see the occasional foray into downtown history on here, on ImagiNative America, and OKC Central, but Steve Lackmeyer's other blog, OKC History, and Doug Dawg are history-dominant downtown blogs.

Cityshot XXX

New business storefronts appearing along the Upper Canal (Envy going in at the corner, Sammy's Pizza being brought back to the space next door).

Planning Dept memo: Stickin' it to Bricktown

Re: Stickin' it to Bricktown
Hey, here's a great idea. Let's put Bricktown out of business. Literally, we need to send a message to anyone considering going against the grain of urban renewal..and Bricktown did certainly develop against the grain of urban renewal. That is not acceptable. We realize that nearly half of Bricktown's business on busier nights is convention-related, so we can simply relocate the convention center from close proximity and completely shut down those businesses.

A message needs to be sent to any potential developers, investors, residents, tenants, business owners, and anyone else that challenges the authority of OCURA in affecting the course of downtown Oklahoma City's growth. This also goes for any people in our circle who might try to stall progress for "urban planning principles." Our stance is that urban planning idealists are misguided and not capable of visionary thinking. They can only criticize proposals, but offering positive suggestions that are viable is not something we expect of them.

It will be clearly understood that the future of downtown Oklahoma City is in the Core2Shore task force lands that the voters approved several large scale capital improvement projects for. The convention center WILL be next to the park, but until so, we'll continue to pretend to evaluate other sites. This is how we will market our city in postcards.

(This isn't anything close to an actual memo, and nobody is going out of their way to shut Bricktown down, but you get the point. Core2Shore has become bad news, plain and simple.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cityshot XXIX

I love it when buildings with contemporary design merits build off of each other. What is this, Rotterdam? No, it's Oklahoma City. This profiles the Central Avenue Lofts against the Block 42 condominiums.

Famously 3/4ths Inackuratt

The charges against them
Who does The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson think she is? I think she's some kind of OSU beat writer, but who wants to be a boring ol' beat writer these days when you can write on more interesting genetic differences between black and white football players. Read her article prior to the Sun Bowl, about Stanford's Toby Gerhart.

What is the article title?
One of a kind: Toby Gerhart succeeds at a position white players don't play

Here's one excerpt from the article:
"The theories are many. Some believe young players are funneled toward certain positions based on stereotyped characteristics, a practice called stacking or slotting. Others say young athletes’ economic backgrounds go a long way toward predetermining what position they’ll seek. Then there is the controversial theory based on genetics and the idea that blacks have a speed and skill advantage on whites."

Was Dr. Mengele not available for comment on the genetics idea? We could have included Catholic and Jewish lacrosse player comparisons and really had us a field day.

Does anyone remember her article on former OSU quarterback, Bobby Reid, getting relegated to back-up behind Zac Robinson.. the article said, "maybe Bobby can go home, 'n his mama make him some chicken." Now this? Those "racial sensitivity" seminars at OPUBCO must really be paying off.

How does Jenni Carlson keep her job? Look, I'm sure she's a nice girl and not a racist and all, but I just don't understand why The Oklahoman or "the garbage editor" keep sending blatantly racist articles to publication. And it's not so much the fact that you're offending someone of a certain race (because chicken is delicious, honestly), it's just showing how out of touch the paper is when your headlines, let alone the body of the article, are clearly "racially insensitive."

And look, I get it--there's a point to be said that white players only play QB these days. But if you're going to make a point that could be construed as racially insensitive, here's what you need to do: word it in a way that is not racially insensitive (as a bunch of journalism graduates you should know how to "word things"), and secondly, not in the TITLE. The Oklahoman fails to do either with this article. And some things are interesting for coffee talk, but not for publication. Genetic differences between blacks and whites are not something that the John Birch Society Newsletter would even care to publish, and a major U.S. newspaper shouldn't either.

Maybe it was just a slow news day?

And let's look at The Oklahoman's incompetence in an overall review. I honestly don't even know where to begin here.

The most obvious starting point, and surprisingly the one that doesn't bother me at all, was the blatantly biased coverage during the MAPS3 campaign. For background, check out Doug's post on the topic. Look, I've said before to others I'm not a "means justify the ends" fundamentalist/principles kind of person. I believe in results, getting stuff done, whatever works, and I think fundamentalism is actually a cruel, depressing ideology. What does bother me about the blatantly biased coverage however was that if they were going to try and tilt the balance, A, don't be blatantly obvious, and B, don't write stupid crap that nobody is gonna buy.

Perfect example: 11/22/09 article on the proposed convention center.
"If the planned downtown park is the Xbox under the MAPS 3 Christmas tree, Roy Williams also wants you to appreciate the dress socks your grandmother bought you.

The proposed $280 million convention center is the largest part of the $777 million MAPS 3 plan. Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said most people consider the convention center a project for business owners and out-of-towners."

Seriously? Dress socks? If you're reading this and you're hoping to get some interesting insight on why you should vote for the convention center.. you get "dress socks." $280 million dress socks, no thank you. That is bad biased coverage. Good biased coverage could have been..anything else. It's called "lacking imagination." Words and stuff.

Then the article, to attempt to be fair, quotes a UTSA professor who studied economic development and believes that the convention center arms race doesn't mean increased convention business. Then it quotes Roy Williams with a horrible comeback, something like, "Well we believe our market will be different." A better comeback: "You're right that being in the convention center arms race doesn't mean a TON of increased business, but not being in the convention center arms race DOES mean a TON of decreased business." That's a good comeback. "Well we believe we'll be different," isn't, and that's what upsets me--biased coverage intended for The Braindead. NEWSFLASH: The Braindead don't read newspapers, even The Oklahoman.

I just used that particular article because that's an epic example, indicative of all of the MAPS 3 coverage, which nobody can deny was incredibly biased, regardless of which side you were on. Everybody knows it. The chairman of the Yes for MAPS campaign was none other than Oklahoman publisher David Thompson.

Sharing in the blame
That's not to say that they were the only ones putting out unbiased coverage. The Gazette, who wrote about The Oklahoman being biased (do they ever miss an opportunity?), was also fairly biased. Granted nearly everything the Gazette published on MAPS was head-and-shoulders better than the crap in The Oklahoman, and much more intuitively written. With the Gazette though, keep in mind who their readers are: typically the more educated, more cultured, and more urban. The kind of people who are going to be ALL about MAPS.

TV news was also pretty biased--against MAPS. News 9 wasn't so bad, and their stuff wasn't an insult to my intelligence, but the others..yeah. They kept catering and pandering to the Not This MAPS crowd, and putting up this retarded front of "balanced" coverage. When you're going to incredible ends to put up balanced coverage, guess what, you no longer have balanced coverage because at some point there isn't anything new to say.

Every time the YES campaign had a press conference with NEW information ended up just being another opportunity for the NTM crowd to get face time rehashing the same tired and worn lines that defined the latter part of 2009 for them. For all intents and purposes, they could have just recorded the same guy saying the same thing and just replayed a recording of that for the "NTM response" portion of any segment. Surely though, in journalism, you don't have to rehash a worn mantra in response if they don't have anything new to say?

Moving past MAPS, here's another example of a really bad article in The Oklahoman, an article about shutting down a mental health clinic in Norman. It doesn't specifically say in the article, but I'm guessing that the budget is $7.3 million?--for a facility with 60 beds?? That's $122,000 per bed, I don't get it..yeah that needs to be closed. Then the article cites that the facility gets "100 calls a day" but only gets 550 patients a year (over $13,000 per patient)? Obviously those calls aren't exactly important, probably including personal calls and everything, so who knows. I'm just saying there are a handful of obvious question marks that I think were lost on whoever wrote the article.

Another thing missing from the article is the other side. Where is the official's comment (who even designated the budget cut?), surely his/her perspective would be newsworthy. Why does some legislator think that we need to cut out a $122,000/per bed mental health facility? This is nothing but reaction without getting to the root cause of what's being talked about here. So yet another instance where The Oklahoman fails to truly inform the reader.

Another thing I'm upset about? Everything that The Oklahoman isn't writing about. It's almost gotten to the point that, to borrow the famous NY Times slogan, it's "All the news we see fit to print." Here's a shining example of that: lifestyle center proposed at Memorial and County Line Rd, that I have been the only one talking about. I'm just a little shocked right now that nobody thinks it's incredibly newsworthy that the Planning Commission recently approved a lifestyle center for far-northern portions of Canadian County, closer to Piedmont or Kingfisher than Downtown OKC. Not even really surrounded by the kind of neighborhoods you need to support such a retail endeavor. Nobody thinks this is a development wake-up call?

A few bright spots
I don't think I could fairly describe the situation without mentioning a few bright spots at the newspaper. There are a few people in charge who truly do know what they're doing, and not all writers are that bad either. Going back to the Gazette article, it's true that The Oklahoman was offering paid volunteer time for people who wanted to help with the YES campaign. And in the interest of full disclosure, even the Gazette, who relishes any opportunity to make The Oklahoman look bad, couldn't make the paper look too bad.

It turns out that immediately after the email went out offering paid volunteer leave, Newsroom Chief Kelly Dyer Frye sent out an email to anyone in the newsroom telling them to disregard the memo. The News & Information Center has a political policy that it does not participate in promotion of issues they are covering.

And Thompson's response, aint half bad either.
"Our policy does not allow newsroom employees to engage in political activity, but as good corporate citizens we have many non-newsroom employees who may wish to volunteer. We offer our employees three paid days annually to do volunteer work. Periodically we offer opportunities company-wide, and have for some time. Below, please find a copy of our News and Information Center policy."

He is right. Criticize them as you want for a small handful of examples of stories that were bad, The Oklahoman is a mainstay among Oklahoma City's "good corporate citizens." If The Oklahoman does not pride itself on its journalism ethics, it can at least and always pride itself on its prominent role in the community and in making a difference as a "good corporate citizen." This is certainly unusual for a newspaper, but take it for what it is. Most newspapers are the other way around, not priding themselves in having "good corporate citizen" status, but rather priding themselves on journalism ethics and being distant from local politics.

Would I rather work for the Boston Globe or The Daily Oklahoman? I think probably The Oklahoman, believe it or not. If working for them in a non-news capacity means you can still participate in community affairs, you get benefits like 3 days off paid volunteer time to be out in the community, and you work for a company that stands for moving the city forward, that isn't always a bad thing. Yeah, I called Jenni Carlson a racist, but she does have some good articles upon occasion. If The Oklahoman is willing to let its columnists express themselves, even when sometimes it may be a bit controversial and uncouth expression, that generally isn't bad. It's up to the individual columnist to protect their reputation. The paper would be much better served though by trying to find an opposing viewpoint to print side-by-side, but sometimes that's asking too much.

Time to change
This is all not intended to be an attack suggesting that people get their news from other sources than The Oklahoman. There are no other sources than The Oklahoman for mainstream print news in OKC, so people need to realize that first and foremost. Move past the irrational " boycott The Oklahoman!!" and let's have a dialogue that focuses around improving the newspaper our community relies on for news and information.

1. Let's demonstrate that we are above potentially racially insensitive headlines on the front page of the sports section, whether you think actual harm to anyone is done or not. Business community leaders don't get away with that, sports columnists shouldn't either.

2. It might not be a bad idea to consider shifting the focus of the newspaper, but either way, it's worth discussion. Should the newspaper focus on being a good part of the community, or focus on journalism ethics? Which does OKC need more--a corporate beneficiary or a reliable, ethical newspaper? Believe it or not, the answer is not obvious. Like I said, it's worth a discussion.

3. The "good people" need to be rewarded. Since I named names on who the "bad people" are, it's only fair that I name names here, too. Guys like Steve Lackmeyer, who knows downtown better than anyone else and strives to maintain his ethics, people like the Newsroom Chief, and other journalists who know what they're doing.

4. As far as sports writers go, keep in mind that even sports writers are subject to racial sensitivity just as the rest of us are. They can't get away with saying crazy things. Also it might be a good idea to STOP having OU beat writers cover OSU stuff and vice versa, let the columnists specialize on ONE school. Let Jenni Carlson JUST cover OSU. And please, let John Rohde JUST cover OU. As an old Sooners guy, it's embarrassing to see the stuff he writes about OSU. Cowboys friends of mine tell me he doesn't even know what he's talking about.

5. Last and most important, acknowledge that your readers are far more intelligent than the average people. Reading a newspaper these days typically means you are way ahead of the curve. The people that read your newspaper want to get the scoop, not opinions or heresy, on the issues that matter. It's bad to have reporters who write articles that feel like they're talking down to the level of people who typically DON'T read the paper.

The newspaper has demonstrated a huge commitment to moving the OKC community forward to the next level. This is evident in everything they do, from their coverage intended to win votes for MAPS, to their sponsorship of events, to encouraging employees to make a difference in the community, to being a sponsor of NBA basketball in our city. But the next thing The Oklahoman can do for us is provide the community with a newspaper fitting of a "Big League City." That doesn't mean we want liberal bias as opposed to conservative bias, that just means we don't want bias. We want the news, reported ethically, and that's it. The community has a commitment to encourage The Oklahoman to change course and follow this new path. We're all in it together. My intention is not to write a scathing review of The Oklahoman and offend anyone. The intention is to point out some issues, offer solutions, and urge us to move forward as a community. And I don't intend to do that without acknowledging the beneficial role The Oklahoman has played in our community in the past.

And now after so many words and such a serious subject, here's some comic relief..hide, it's crazy Mike Gundy! He also wants "to talk about this article here."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

@ The Thunder

Tonight's Thunder game..disappointing last-second loss to the Hornets. Crowd got kind of tired of bad calls from the refs on everything, but when you live in this state, just get used to it. Crowd was really good despite a frigid night with sleet and power lines falling down (20,000 people sans power right now). I hadn't been to a Thunder game in a long time, so it was a good experience.

Turnstile count: 17,836.

Medical District update

Wow, the Oklahoma Health Center is really booming! Check it out. If you're interested in more reading, after much digging I found the previous updates I've done on the medical district. Here's the first, and here's the second.

This is an overview "skyline" shot from NE 6th Street and Laird. This field between Laird and Philips I was standing at had ground work being done on it, which I believe is for the 8-story Embassy Suites hotel planned along NE 8th behind the Oklahoma Health Center.

OU Cancer Research Institute on NE 10th going up.

New offices for the Oklahoma Blood Institute, Lincoln and NE 8th.

Still 3 buildings left at the PHF Research Park.

OMRF Research Tower under way behind NE 13th Street.

Dean McGee Eye Institute expansion, Lincoln and NE 10th.

OU Children's Hospital, NE 13th and Philips.

Ambulance Service facility on NE 8th.

OU College of Allied Health

OU Physician's Building, NE 8th and favorite project in the OHC.

I think this is the OU School of Dentistry? Might be wrong on that. NE 8th and Laird.

And now some random shots from around the district..

Just some thoughts on this part of OKC.. these projects are great. What they do for our economy is incredible..not to mention the "stimulus" impact from the construction, which if you total just 5 of these projects alone (Dean McGee Eye Institute, OBI, OMRF, and OU's Children's Hospital and Cancer Institute), it amounts to $534 million being invested just across I-235 from downtown.

And from a design perspective, these projects look really cool at first glance, too. I'm glad that OU and other medical research entities and hospitals are investing so much in this part of town, and I hope it continues. I look forward especially to seeing more mixed-uses develop along the boundary between the Oklahoma Health Center and Downtown OKC. I hope it gets streetcar, too. But if it does get streetcar, many of these facilities are going to have to completely redo the streetscape.

These facilities, although grand, have no interaction with the street level whatsoever. Even the new cancer facility has blank walls that face 8th coming from the east. The OU Children's Hospital has a massive setback behind a parking facility and a jumbled collection of lanes that I assume is for outpatient pickup and ambulance access. Worse yet, the new OMRF Tower, a brilliant environmental concept (and a LEED project), doesn't really have ANY street access, tucked behind OMRF's main building on NE 13th. The only way I could get close to it for taking pictures is through parking lots that connect to each other.

So I'm not even going to go into a more detailed urban planning critique, because it's bad. But I will just say that the OHC is adding a lot of good jobs, good projects otherwise, and it's giving Oklahoma something it needs, cutting-edge medical facilities. The closest level 1 cancer center currently is M.D. Anderson in Houston, but the new OU Cancer Institute will finally give Oklahoma a premier cancer institute. You can't estimate the value of the lives that will be saved by the medical advances coming out of this area of OKC, let alone the impact that has on the downtown area from an economic standpoint.