Tuesday, October 17, 2006

 

OKLAHOMA RISING



Finally, a thread at OKCTalk that left me inspired, a bit teary eyed and boasting a heart filled with civic pride.

We're Oklahoma rising,
Brighter than the sun
Stand up and sing about her,
Let the world know who we are
* * *
I'm an Okie and I'm proud
When you call me an Okie
Man, you better say it loud


Doug is right. Great lyrics by hometown boys Vince Gill and Jimmy Webb.

OKC is leaving an indelible mark on those who have passed through our town, only to leave for other destinations.

First, this from OKC Pulse:
I've been living in Texas for over ten months now. And I've learned a lot, as well as realized a few facts of life. But I'll discuss that later.

My wife and I just returned from a trip last weekend (Oct. 13-15) to Oklahoma to visit an ailing relative. I have already been to Oklahoma City once this year over summer (got to see Patrick, Keith and Todd), but even though this return visit was swift, exhausting and under not-so-good circumstances, it was a wonderful weekend. You'll never realize what was a part of you for so long until you feel its absence... in another state.

It's good to see people here on OKCTalk debate, critique and hold high standards for what we want to see happen in OKC. Keep that up, because it's very valuable for Oklahoma. But I also see people here getting frustrated and giving up hope when things go slow or proposals disappear in the wind. When that happens, I go back to what makes OKC mean so much to me to begin with... and why I still proudly proclaim myself to be from Oklahoma City.

To me, it's the magic that Oklahoma City holds... the feeling of home. I found myself doing the things I enjoyed so before I moved. Like going to 7-Eleven on Saturday mornings to grab a paper. Going to Stevie's Bargain Liquor, saying hello to Stevie and grabbing an Oklahoma Gazette along with my case of Molson Ice. I drove by Lake Hefner, remembering the countless warm spring days and summer mornings jogging for four miles while watching the sailboats and bikers drift by. I passed the Ford Center, reminiscing the days of Blazers games, screaming at the top of my lungs watching our team beat the crap out of teams that didn't stand a chance against us.

Then there were those days of hitting Bricktown for Independence Days. I know Bricktown has taken some wrong turns for our standards, but there are things about Bricktown that still make the place fun. I coasted along Lake Hefner, remembering those Saturday afternoon drives my wife and I would take.

In the middle of all the memories, I noticed a change in Oklahoma. People weren't bad-mouthing the state the way I remember. There seemed to be a new pride in our state. This may not be a big deal, but I noticed ODOT now stamps the state shapes into the concrete of Oklahoma's bridges. The new state highway signs are nice. It's a symbol of pride. Like it or not, that's what it is. And I noticed a big difference in Oklahoma and Texas, and that is cohesivesness. Everyone was wearing their OU clothing for the game, and while to some that may be overkill, to a new out-of-stater, you get the feeling that everyone is on the same page. And somehow you want to be a part of it all.

I know we are all frustrated that Oklahoma City hasn't yet seen the high-rise development we all hope for, but I have this sneaking suspicion that our city's big date with huge high-rise developments is not far down the road. Look at Dallas. The city went more than a decade without any new downtown high-rise construction, and today, there are eight new towers under construction in downtown Dallas that didn't happen until after the American Airlines Arena was complete. Most of those new towers appear to be reisdential, but nice developments. It will happen for Oklahoma City. You wait. Just like I new in 1993 that MAPS completely redefine OKC, I know that this will soon come to pass. And it will happen with a vengeance.


And this from a St. Lous resident known as "Y H":
I came to Oklahoma City in 1990 to attend OCU law school (on the recommendation of a cousin from St. Louis who had graduated from there and decided to stay). I was fresh out of college, having just graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia. I grew up just 30 miles away in Jefferson City, so I really didn't count my four undergrad years as truly living away from home - OKC was indeed my first real experience living on my own. For the first year and a half I had an apartment at Warwick West out on NW Expressway and got to know that part of town quite well. I used to enjoy killing what little free time I had at Penn Square Mall and 50 Penn Place, grocery shopping at Crescent Market and Friday night happy hours at the Varsity with my law school cohorts. On Saturdays my study group would spend 6-8 hours working on our course outlines and then cap the day off with cocktails and dinner at the Metro. This was a Saturday ritual that lasted for over two years. In the spring and early fall when the weather was still warm it wasn't unusual for a group of us to cut out for an extended lunch on the patio at Doc's (which I'm told is now Irma's) or, if we had the rare luxury of time, we'd head out west to Bunny's for an infamous onion fried burger or my personal favorite, the Frito Pie. During the winter we'd warm ourselves at the Split T (R.I.P.) with a bowl of Texas Red and their incredible handcut fries.

At school I was impressed by the diverse background of the faculty. We had a number of professors from the east coast, California, Texas, Florida and Chicago. All of them had chosen to make their homes in Oklahoma City and they all had wonderful things to say about it.

During the second half of my time at law school I lived out in the Stonebridge Cove development right outside of Yukon. Sure, there was a bit more of a commute involved with getting to classes every day but it was worth it. I enjoyed the experience of living in the Bethany-Yukon area and getting to know the people and businesses in that area as well. This was also just about the time when the Blazers came (back) into being. Having grown up a hockey fan, I was ecstatic at the prospect of being able to watch pro hockey at an affordable price. That first season was a really fun time even though the hated Oilers wound up winning the playoff championship. Another business opened up my final year in OKC - a little coffee shop on Western called the Yippee Yi Yo Cafe. That establishment became the official hangout of my circle of law school friends - we'd congregate there in the early morning before classes and often wind up there on weekend nights, especially on "Sinatra Saturdays" when we'd sit out on the front porch with our coffee and cigars (a smug, obnoxious - but well mannered, mind you - bunch we were), listening to Ol' Blue Eyes. Ah, good times.

So, here it is, thirteen years past my departing OKC as a resident and twelve years past my last visit, but yet I still feel tied into the community. Why? For me I just think that Oklahoma City is a terrific place to live. It's extremely affordable; the people are as nice as can be; the city is very clean and there's an abundance of activities to suit just about everyone's interests. It's also a very easy city to navigate; there's lots of diverse and interesting neighborhoods and commercial districts and (as you can certainly divine from my reminiscences above) plenty of great places to eat! Oklahoma City combines Midwestern values, Southern hospitality and a cosmopolitan aura without pretense. It is quite simply a great place to be.

As I've mentioned in a number of other threads in this community, I'm coming "home" for a visit in a couple of weeks and I can't wait. My best friend from law school and I are going to spend the better part of four days revisiting old friends and seeing all that's new from the last dozen years since we last made our pilgrimage. We intend on making it an annual event.

So, for those of you lucky enough to reside in the OKC area, don't get bogged down in what isn't working right now. Focus on your strengths and work up from there. You're living in one of the finest places to be in America as far as I'm concerned - more of the good stuff will come once others get attuned to the OKC vibe. That's why I suggested in another thread that the city make more of an effort to put folks on the payroll who do nothing but focus on two core missions - cultivating potential growth businesses from within and actively recruiting outside businesses to consider OKC as a new home or outpost. It shouldn't be hard to sell OKC once people spend time here. Had I not had preexisiting commitments in St. Louis, I certainly would have liked to have stayed after law school. So for now I'll have to make do with annual visits.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

 

Chat Boards

At www.okctalk.com, there is a high level discussion going on about the board's future. People like Patrick and Keith have given a lot of time, passion and energy to the site, helping make it what it is today.

They're burning out. I understand completely.
We start out doing the blogs, the chat boards as a hobby. And we're caught off guard when it becomes a success, when they generate a lot of attention.

It happened with the last downtown blog. It's a heartbreaker to drop the hobby others enjoy so much. But you get bogged down, you no longer enjoy what you were once passionate about.

I'm not hinting at anything here. I don't think www.okctalk.com is going away. And Doug doesn't need to worry about this site. But you won't find daily blogging here.

Keith, Patrick, take a break. Don't let it get to where you hate the hobby. You've done a great job.

And go easy on the folks at www.okmet.org (successor to the OKC Urban Forums site). They're a nitche site focused on urbanism, you're a community site. Seems to me you can both exist just fine.

Oh, and by the way, has anyone noticed how well things are going downtown? We'll have seven hotels before too long, lots of new housing... and yes, more fun things are coming.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

 

Can Someone Do this One Next?



Across from the Sieber, this neglected gem awaits a better future. It's owned by the guys who for years let the Pat's Lounge Building and other properties sit boarded and forgotten.

 

Sieber in Midtown


Renovations are started! This place will look great as an apartment tower!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

 

How's it going with that big Indian statue?

Bold vision for river and city unveiled
Tulsans invited to join in making project a reality
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 6, 2006

Tulsa – A bold vision for development of the Arkansas River designed to propel the Tulsa region past its competitors was announced today by six citizens, who also urged residents to get involved in making the project a reality.

“Now is the time to create a place on the river of which we can be proud. But we need your help, and we need it now,” said John-Kelly Warren, chairman of the William K. Warren Foundation. “Join us and support The Channels.”

The project launched over a kitchen table in the spring of 2005 when Warren and his wife, Margie, Tom Cooper, CEO of Warren Professional Building Corporation, Christine and Scott Lambert, owners of Travertine Elevator Interiors, and local business attorney Rusty Patton, decided to identify the root causes of Tulsa’s decline. After considerable study, the six determined Tulsa County fell short in three areas: the ability to attract and retain talented employees and the employers of that talent; a strong sense of community; and a sustainable tax base.

They then decided to do something about it.

The non-profit group, now called Tulsa Stakeholders Inc., commissioned world-famous urban planner/architect and waterfront expert Bing Thom to develop a plan for a project that would transform the future of the Tulsa region.

Citing the need for a central gathering place that anchors and catalyzes the county’s quality of life, the resulting project, known as “The Channels,” begins with an impounding dam at the 23rd street bridge that creates a 12.3-mile lake north to Sand Springs. A 40-acre, man-made island located between the 11th and 23rd street bridges, itself connected by two bridges to the east bank, rises up from the water and anchors the project. The man-made land mass features low- and high-rise residences to the north and south, separated by navigable canals from the public zone.

At the heart of the island is the community focal point, a stone-paved plaza that is the largest open space on the development. Facing the east river bank and channel, as well as a floating stage for performance arts, the plaza is lined in trees with plans calling for cafés and pubs to “spill out into the space.” Much of the parking is subterranean.

Focal to the project is a several-story high framework canopy that shades the plaza. Covered in solar panels, the canopy is designed to collect sunshine for power conversion, while also serving to cool by up to 13 degrees the open market and other public spaces underneath it.

Opposite of the plaza on the east bank is a large park, “Tulsa Green,” with stairs cascading down to the water’s edge across the full width of the bank. Renderings depict a beach and large pool located to the south. Visions for the west bank include a marina for boaters.

Estimated to require $600 million in some form of public financing, the group committed to raise $100 million as a gift from the private sector to the Tulsa region. Through the sale of energy created by the project’s hydrodam and other renewable energies, an additional $88 million dollars can be financed, for a total of $788 million.

“By offering the quality of life amenities found in this project, we can create a competitive advantage for Tulsa that retains and attracts the best and brightest workers and the companies that follow them,” said Warren. “It’s time Tulsa is known for a new kind of energy – intellectual energy. But in order to compete in the economy of tomorrow, we must create a truly amazing place to live.”

Among the many benefits generated by “The Channels” is an overarching program of environmental sustainability, which was developed in concert with one of the world’s largest engineering firms, Ove Arup & Partners. Plans call for the project to generate excess energy from hydro, solar and wind power that can be sold back to the power grid for profit.

During its presentation, the group encouraged discussions with community leaders and citizens of Tulsa County to determine a plan for moving forward.

“Tulsa has a history of projects breathtaking in scope that set it on a path to greatness and international attention,” said Warren. “Today can be the start of the Tulsa of tomorrow. It’s time to be bold. It’s time to make The Channels a reality.”

For more information, visit www.tulsachannels.com

Sunday, September 03, 2006

 

Don't you hate...?

Hackers and grafitti vandals are annoying me this week.
Don't they have anything better to do?

Anyway, Doug points out a hacker ruined the Oklahoma Urban Forum site.
It's not as well known as www.okctalk.com, and early on, there was friction between the two chat sites. But they are different. OKCTalk is a community board, diverse in interests, filled with debates, conversations and personalities.
Urban Forums was much more oriented toward urban planning issues, much more academic and very pro-downtown.
The old site is hacked, so here's the new site:
http://okmetropolis.forumer.com/

I'll create a new link later this week.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

Time off

I'm going to take a couple days off. Besides, Doug has an excellent and lengthy series on the Skirvin and Pearle Skirvin Mesta that deserves your attention.

Monday, August 21, 2006

 

Say Goodbye...

The B-52 plaza at the fairgrounds. It joins the monorail and the frontier post as just memories as the state fair board and the city homogonize the park for horse shows.

Don't be surprised if the miniature St. Louis arch and fountain, and the Space Needle follow.

Yes, some of it was tacky. But so are some of the most cherished landmarks along old Route 66. I wonder how our children will look back at this in 20 years.

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