Thursday, April 9, 2009

Walkability and the Core-to-Shore

After listening to Jeff Speck's "Walkability" presentation at the city council meeting I started to get...giddy. Yup, I admit the butterflies were floating just thinking about the great direction this city that I live in is going. One of the MAJOR things I miss about living abroad was the opportunity to just leave my apartment and get "lost" in all the shops and pubs and entertainment readily available in Madrid...without ever getting in a car. I thought Speck's presentation ideas were spot on in so many ways. Sure you can find things to argue about in the presentation, I mean, the information was made to be a 3-hour presentation so there were plenty of suggestions that can be debated.

One of the great things about being at that presentation was that I was there as a pedestrian, an urbanite, a downtown worker, a downtown walker (even though at times it seems i'm the only one) and also a downtown dreamer. I get excited about our future plans as a city and I get even more excited reading about core-to-shore.

For those that have been living in a cave you find more extensive insights into Core-to-Shore here

The Core-to-Shore project will add so much more greenspace to our already-lacking-green image. The sad thing i'm starting to notice is that all the people who are strongly for greenspace are still focusing their efforts towards the 1 square block of privately owned and privately funded Chamber building going in at 4th and EK Gaylord. Hasn't that already been approved and moved on? Sure, there is still another (I believe just 1) date set on the beautification aspect of that space...but the building is still going there, let's move on. The core-to-shore project will be bring roughly 20-square blocks of greenspace. Why can't greenspace lovers and journalists focus on what has yet not been decided on instead of still arguing over the 1-square block to argue over. That block is done, it was a good fight to keep it. But now let's join together and make sure we don't miss the boat on another big greensapce opportunity.


  1. I agree. Given the city can not have lots of major projects going on at once I wish the would focus on that and not on a new convention center.

    Giving a nice big DT greenspace that leads to water will be a big thing for the city. It will build on the bibe that is growing downtown. Keep the convention center we have maintained and it will be "good enough" for most conventions that want to come to OKC. Oklahoma City has neither a ocean nor a mouse for people to see so there's just not a lot of draw.

    By focusing on "building up" downtown for the residents you will create more interest in Downtown, attract apartment renters, retail shops and eventually tourists. But we can't do everything. So let's do something really well.

  2. I like the concept. My favorite city in the country is Portland, Ore., because its so diverse and you don't get bored walking around. There's a lot of shops and parks and while it seems you haven't been walking that long, you look down and realize you've been out and about for three hours.

    What they've done with the shoreline of the Willamette was also incredible, making a long walking trail right along the banks. While the Oklahoma River isn't nearly as spectacular as the Willamette, it would still be nice to have something similar.

    From the pictures on the city's Web site, it seems this idea is a major step in the right direction for having more visually pleasing downtown.

  3. Hey Casey -

    I share your excitement for Speck and his recommendations for walkability in OKC! I especially appreciate your enthusiasm for where the city is headed…it is great to hear native OKCers referring to themselves as urbanites!

    I have said it before, but again, huge props to Mayor Cornett - not sure whether to say “your dad” or Mayor Cornett, so we are going to keep it formal - who brought in Speck to consult the city. I think that this will have an extremely positive impact on the future quality of life in our city, especially the urban character of downtown. Mayor Cornett deserves all of the credit for taking this step and I am really excited to experience OKC when these ideas have been implemented.

    I am curious about the position you take on the Chamber Building, telling everyone to “move on”. It seems like someone enthused by Speck’s ideas wouldn’t be so quick to look past a project that will permanently hinder walkability at a critical connection in a burgeoning area of downtown. Speck himself has commented on the poor site layout of the Chamber proposal and every OKC urbanist that has expressed a position on the issue either questions the design and/or the way it was ushered through review despite violating the downtown design guidelines.

    Simplifying the matter as being only about the quantity of green space doesn’t seem fair. Ultimately the underlying issues have more to do with walkability and good urbanism than green space, and the current Chamber proposal fails to deliver either. Still, even within this simplistic framework, the idea that the Central Park will benefit the people in NE downtown the way a properly designed Chamber site would is certainly not true. Quantity matters, but surely location is still a variable worth considering. How will a new Central Park over 1/2 mile away serve people in the same way that a park across the street would?

    That said, the Chamber DOES NOT deserve the majority of the blame for the resulting plan. I think it is worth noting that the same Public Works Department that has regularly been called into question by Speck when it comes to aspects of good urban design, walkability and Indy 500 like downtown traffic capacity, also played a major role in the design of the Chamber site. The Chamber actually attempted to do a siteplan that dealt directly with pedestrian issues: re-establishing the grid, improving pedestrian connections, and providing a terrific public space to serve the surrounding neighborhoods (not really pure green space so much as an urban square). But Public Works knowingly exaggerated the traffic challenges presented by this scheme, whipped up a flawed traffic analysis, and subsequently told the Chamber that the design was a “bad idea”. So in truth, the Chamber deserves credit for their initial attempt, even if the continued commitment to good urban design was ultimately lacking. Public Works on the other hand has some explaining to do.

    The Chamber may legally have all the approval they need to build the building as designed, but the people of OKC don’t owe them their added blessing, not on a project and process that falls short on so many levels. If the Chamber wants to do what best for the current and future users of Downtown Oklahoma City they will use the current delay to reconsider the design. They should call into question the soundness of the advice they received from a Public Works department that - while doing an excellent job for most of the city - does not know much of anything about good urbanism. Oklahoma City is better than an okay city - its a GREAT CITY, with great people that deserve a great downtown. So why do we have to settle for something that falls short of this measure?

  4. Sorry for the long comment...I used it as a post over at