The Edmond Sun

December 26, 2013

Recommendations will be made on Downtown Master Plan

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — A parking garage in the core downtown area to be financed with a tax mechanism is being discussed with city staff and business leaders by Freese Nichols consultants of Fort Worth.

The Central Edmond Urban Development Board has revisited plans made in a 1998 Downtown Master Plan through public meetings and presentations. Discussion is conceptual, but a recommendation will be made to the City Council.

The Central Business District area goes from Danforth to Ninth Street, to slightly west of the railroad tracks and then borders the University of Central Oklahoma and then to Ninth Street and Boulevard, said Shabay, an associate urban planner with Freese Nichols.

A church, a university or another cultural entity may have a primary goal of having land that is convenient for attendance, said Paris Rutherford, principal at Catalyst Urban Development, located in Dallas.

Some stakeholders of land across the U.S. are beginning to look at their land differently by opening up some of their property on certain days to meet the needs of the surrounding community, he said.

What comes out of it is a much better environment around it than an open parking lot that is not being used, Rutherford said.

“If the goal is to connect an employment center, a retail restaurant commercial center and make those connections and have all this really vibrant, walkable, you have to start thinking that way,” Rutherford said. “If not, it will be like this forever because there’s no one that has a different goal.”

Rutherford was asked how far away parking needs to be to maintain a vibrant redevelopment if we are considering building a parking garage. The answer depends on different users for different times of the day and year, Rutherford said.

“If you are a retail owner or small business and your livelihood is based on the sales you do in that space every day, and it’s 30 degrees outside, you’re probably going to say, ‘I don’t want it any farther than 50 feet from my store front,’” Rutherford said.

A civic user with employees coming to work, the goal may be that it is suitable for employees to park a couple of blocks away, Rutherford continued.

However, a parking garage could meet the needs of a church and urbanist needs of the community, he said. It could generate a more active tax base, he said.

“There are partnerships like that (which) could be struck,” Rutherford said. “The university is right in the middle of that, too. They’re a major land owner.”

The point is that a customized solution could be implemented to meet the overall needs of a community without distracting from a particular landowner’s needs, Rutherford said.

“If it’s just meeting the needs of a church, the needs of a university or a city, it’s going to look just like it does right now and it will never change,” Rutherford said. “It’s done all over the country. And once it’s done everybody gets accolades. There’s no reason why that can’t be accomplished here.”

One positive is that just about everything from the core of downtown to the University of Central Oklahoma is walkable. Most other cities are more spread out without the potential to connect, Rutherford said.

Shabby said everyone she has met seems enthusiastic about downtown. They genuinely want successful development, Shabay said.

“I’ve heard a lot of willing folks involved. I think there’s a lot of opportunity,” Shabay said.

Creative partnerships could be explored that could be a winning combination for several entities, she said.

“I think there are some obvious aesthetic type of improvement related to roadways and pedestrian crossings,” she said.

Shabay has met with students who shared concerns about what they felt was not safe for them, be it lighting or crosswalks.

“How this is done at the end of the day from a code perspective, an ordinance and regulatory perspective becomes very important,” Shabay said.

Private and public investments that can be done will be recommended to the Council, she said.