Tulsans get a 3-D look at The Channels river development

Wednesday, October 18th 2006, 5:37 pm
By: News On 6

It might be the best look yet at the ambitious plan known as The Channels.

Renowned architect Bing Thom unveiled a 3-D model of The Channels and much of the surrounding area.

Supporters of the channels are proposing $600 million in public money to build a 40-acre, man-made island in the Arkansas River.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg was at the unveiling.

He says for supporters and skeptics alike, it should give the clearest understanding of the scale and design of The Channels.

Supporters are obviously hoping to convert a few of those skeptics.

It's still the architect's favorite tool: the model, and Vancouver-based architect Bing Thom who designed The Channels was on hand to unveil the model of The Channels.

"The model is three-dimensional," says Thom, "much easier to look at than drawings."

Notable for its detail, the model appears to include everthing from downtown to the far edge of the West Tulsa refineries, with The Channels in the middle.

"It's our view in this area, you can then unite east bank, west bank, north side, south side. It's the most central area. And the downtown," Thom says.

And that's one of the main goals of The Channels, to create a destination that will draw people to it.

Even in an age of computer-generated fly-throughs, the model might give people the best idea of how The Channels fits in with the surrounding area.

"When you come up the river, you see a little group of buildings here that looks very dense and very urban but is never competing with the downtown," explains Thom, "and yet, if this was all too flat, it would have no presence on the river."

Thom says the solar-panel topped canopy over the public area, one of The Channels main features, is easy to grasp here.

Thom says, "You can bend down and say, oh yes, I'm walking here and I can see that canopy from downtown. It's hovering. When I'm driving on the freeways and crossing the bridges, I will notice this sparkle, that will say come, come. This is the center."

There's been a tendency to shun the industrial, west side of the river. Thom embraces it with tree plantings and windmill farms.

"You can't tell your history to go away," he says. "It's important to embrace your history but reinvent it and bring it to the new."

Thom doesn't know if he'll convince the skeptics, but he says he knows the design is doable.

The model will be on display for a while at SR Hughes furniture store in Brookside. They say they might move it around town after that.