To See Potential At Helmerich Park, Tulsans Head To Dallas For Similar Developments

Tuesday, May 10th 2016, 7:42 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa City Council is in Dallas to look at the kind of development that could be possible at 71st and Riverside.

That's where the city agreed to sell some parkland for an REI Outdoors store, and several restaurants along the river.

The city agreed to sell a portion of Helmerich Park - the part with the volleyball courts on the north end - but the sale is being held up by a lawsuit that could give the city council a chance to influence the development.

Monday, the council met at the park to look it over as it is now - largely undeveloped except for the volleyball courts.

If it's sold, the courts would be moved and replaced with a large shopping center and a couple of restaurants.

Volleyball players and other park users have concerns about the plans.

“This is a jewel out here for the volleyball community. There’s no other place like this here in Tulsa. So to lose it would be pretty detrimental to the volleyball community,” said Bumper Prather with the Tulsa Volleyball League.

City Councilor Phil Lakin led the group through the park Monday morning and is also leading the delegation going to Dallas to look at similar developments in an attempt to influence what happens at Helmerich Park.

“And if I can go see that, and if other people can go see that at the same time, then we may be able to bring some new ideas back to Tulsa; or when an idea comes back to Tulsa, we can say ‘Oh yea, we saw that in Dallas, we like that, we want that for Tulsa and Tulsans,’” Lakin said.

What happens at Helmerich Park may, ultimately, be determined by the results of the lawsuit. But regardless, there’s far more of this park that is ready to be developed, or left as it is.

The City Council wants to have a say in that, which is why they went to Dallas to look at other developments.

Tuesday, councilors met first at an outdoor bar with volleyball courts - called The Grove at Harwood.

Some of the Councilors played volleyball, some possible for the first time; but the idea was to see how developers in Dallas have successfully built indoor and outdoor spaces.

“Whether or not anything happens on the site that we’re talking about, isn’t really relevant because we’re getting a lot of experience in thing I think a lot of Tulsans want to have in Tulsa,” Lakin said.

Stop number two was the Katy Trail Ice house - a large restaurant and bar along a trail very much like the River Parks trail in Tulsa.

The idea, where there's a lot of back and forth of people between the trail and the restaurant is another concept that could show up around Tulsa parks or the Gathering Place.

“This is the kind of engagement that we need with our recreational activities. We’re not talking about developments that just overpower a situation, we’re talking about a development that actually nestles in and works in tandem with that activity,” said Jeff Stava with the George Kaiser Foundation.

The City Council visits an REI store Wednesday, and also a large development planned along one of the rivers. They hope to get some good ideas from those sites.