MAIN MALL development

Wednesday, May 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Passage of the 3rd penny sales tax Tuesday means a green light for completion of the Main Mall project downtown. The first phase between 3rd and 4th streets opened recently to mixed reviews.

KOTV's Glenda Silvey explains what is next for mall development. Thousands of visitors will get their first look at the mall when Mayfest opens next week. Supporters of the change here believe that once Tulsans see what it accomplishes for downtown, those mixed reviews will become raves. Tulsans are beginning to adjust to street traffic along the mall and the change to two-way traffic on Third Street.

Passage of the 3rd penny sales tax will open the mall through 6th Street, add a new fountain, and convert the rest of the downtown streets to two way traffic. Mall users have mixed opinions. Bill Estes, "I really preferred it the other way. It was a lot nicer." Linda Ferguson, "I like it. It's great." Restaurant owner Brent Meyer says it's too soon to tell, but he expects the change to increase business. "It's been quite awhile that we've waited to get this done, so I think it will be good to open up the buildings and get more business in." Supporters say the change is already paying off for downtown. Downtown Tulsa President, Jim Norton, "There's been a purchase of a building on Bartlett Square by a local developer. He delayed his closing three times till the council put this project on the third penny. He was not going to buy the building unless the project made it on the list."

Norton says that project and another one will feature restaurants, retail space and housing. The change will also affect Mayfest, Tulsa's annual arts festival, setting up now for its opening May 17th. Sponsors say there's more room for more artists. Mayfest director, Bob Hendrick, "It won't be as structured. People won't be going down this single traffic lane. They'll be able to wander among the booths. The artists are terribly excited." Norton believes most people will be excited when they see older downtown buildings saved, and a more vibrant downtown. "It's worked in every part of the country it's tried, so we have great confidence it will work here, too."

Norton says the mall will be closed to traffic from 11 until 2 every day, to comply with the request of restaurant owners and downtown workers. As for whether that will confuse drivers, Norton says they'll get used to it, and DTU will look at that policy again down the road. No decision yet on when work will begin on the next phase.