DOWNTOWN development plan for Tulsa unveiled

Friday, May 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The city has put some dreams of downtown development on a new map. A long study into the future of east downtown was unveiled Thursday. Covering an area of 115 acres in downtown, east of Detroit Street and bordered by the Inner Dispersal Loop. KOTV's Emory Bryan says the city now has a working plan that shows there is demand for entertainment, shopping and housing downtown.

It's fueled by growth in the technology workforce and limited only by the imagination of private investors. Consultant, Kurt Mueller says, "There's a dynamic and powerful business community that essentially evaporates after 6 PM." But Kurt Mueller believes it would all change, under a land use plan drawn up his team of consultants. Their study determined east downtown's historic architecture is prime for redevelopment, and could support dozens of shops and hundreds of apartment homes. They predict restaurants and entertainment would follow. Already, buildings like the Blue Dome are turning around an area that's dotted mainly with warehouses and parking lots. The possibilities are exciting to those already committed to east downtown, like Steve Liggett of Living Arts. "I think encouragement like a redevelopment with bars and restaurants is fine and really important to see the arts grow downtown."

The Williams Company expansion is credited with priming the pump for a downtown renaissance. Forty thousand people now work downtown, but most go home to the suburbs. The consultants say downtown housing is key for the projects success. Pat Waddel with the Tulsa Development Authority, "Williams company has brought many more people into downtown and what we're trying to do is create more development and attract more people into the area as residents and people coming in to enjoy entertainment and shopping." The area under study, 115 acres labeled "The East Village", has been in decline since the oil bust. After several failed big plans for all of downtown, the city is hoping smaller chunks will be improved largely through private investment. Tulsa city councilor Gary Watts, "It has great potential, but we have missed the boat of getting the right combination of an exciting and 18 or 24 hour environment but I think we're on the verge of that."

The plan calls for residential buildings first, then entertainment, with an emphasis on a downtown movie theater. Parking lots would be replaced with tree lined plazas that encourage outdoor shopping and after hours restaurants. At best it's years away, and it depends on millions in private investment, but the plan says if someone makes the commitment, people would support it. It's entirely up to investors to decide what should go where, but this plan gives a template of an ideal development.

The company that prepared the plan has experience with other similar developments, and they believe what they've done in other places would work here as well.