Back in town for a few weeks, I took to the streets today and just drove around town, catching up on the progress in certain parts of town--today I caught up on the north side. I always think it's good to step away from a situation or a place and then reexamine it later with fresh eyes. So it was today with these fresh eyes that I've come to two particularly interesting observations.
We often strive to maximize land values out of neighborhoods and districts that make up a city. I think this is a shame, because not only does it sometimes block out intrinsic value and human-focused priorities, but it also eats a hole out of the diversity that usually makes urban cities in the U.S. so awesome. It was a similar obsession with sanitizing the urban environment that leveled most of downtown in the 60s and 70s.
I am always railing about inner north improvements. My stance is that if you polish up OKC's north side, bam--you get South Tulsa or North Dallas (obviously more refined, sophisticated environments). Let's face it, OKC's built environment just isn't very "sophisticated." Today I've come to realize the good in that, however. If you fan out in all directions of NW 30th and Western, you are surrounded by the grungy, gritty things that add real culture and value yet sap sophistication to this city. It's mostly just this little pocket of run-down blocks in the north side, but I've tackled that situation in enormous detail before.
I just think whether it's the Paseo, aside from its iconic Spanish Village main street along Dewey, that offers cheap rent to the truly-quasi "starving artists" of this world, or the nearby Asian District/Military neighborhood that injects OKC with a large dose of diversity, this area contributes just as much to OKC as Nichols Hills or downtown.
Realization #2: We need trees. What are OKC's biggest needs? More density, improving corridor aesthetics, public transit, mixed-use development? No. OKC's biggest needs are trees, trees, and more trees. The dearth of urban canopy in OKC is stunning. Yes, there are some averse conditions, and yes, big beautiful oak forests aren't naturally supposed to be here. I think Denver is one of the best examples of very lush cities that aren't supposed to be lush--it can be done. More so, it needs to be done badly. NeighborWoods is a great program, but it's just not doing enough. So much more needs to be done.
The profound thing is that a lot of these areas that are identified as needing improvement could just be covered up if we had more trees. I realized this as I was on one of those bridges crossing the Oklahoma River--where you see an enormous, wind-swept "riverside" that gradually merges into the very-scenic Great Plains ranch land separating downtown from Capitol Hill. Many cities such as Fort Worth have strange expanses of greenfield like this, however they are always covered with trees, or at least along thoroughfares.
Instead of having to spread out urban development demand to fix this area and many more, why don't some of us plant some trees for crissakes? I'm not even coming at this from a tree-hugger perspective. It would just make OKC look 10000x better. Not to mention feel better when it's 105 degrees and 400% humidity outside, and that translates into real quality of life and walkability improvement. Urban shade is a good thing, not a bad thing!
So there, one positive, and one negative (but a really obvious negative that I don't imagine will tick too many of you off). That recap is just for those of you who complain that I'm 100% negative!