The Edmond Sun

October 22, 2013

AGAINST THE GRAIN: Woodward’s downtown joins nationwide revival

William F. O’Brien
Special to The Sun

OKLA. CITY — Viewers of the popular television series “The Walking Dead” know that  loud noises and sounds attract the attention of zombies. But it is doubtful that is the reason the Woodward “Zombies Walking Down Main Street” event later this month will include music being played from loudspeakers.Janet Fitz of the Woodward Main Street organization reports that the attendees of that event will walk from 16th Street to 18th Street and then to Centennial Park where they will be served hamburgers and shown a  classic horror film. That event is one of many gatherings held in downtown Woodward in recent years that serve to showcase the renovation and revitalization that is occurring there.    

Websites and articles that chronicle the rebirth of downtown areas in cities across the nation often reference the “empty nesters” who have moved to downtown areas after their children have left their homes to either start new businesses or to enjoy the amenities of urban life.

According to Fitz, there are several such couples who are now living on the second floor of the buildings where their retail stores are located in downtown Woodward. She also receives inquiries from people who would  also like to live there, and wishes that the owners of some of the  downtown buildings would consider transforming their second stories into  condominiums or apartments. Downtown Woodward is home to a three-story building that is not currently in use that previously was the State’s Hotel that Fitz believes could serve as residential units in the future. When technological advances such as Skype and social media are fully integrated into the workplace, it is possible that the second stories of Woodward’s downtown buildings will be occupied by professionals who telecommute to work in firms that are located in places such as Oklahoma City and Dallas.   

Many of the smaller communities in Oklahoma that are currently undergoing downtown renovation have stately old buildings that those who are involved in the renovation process believe are destined to be restored and called back into service. In Woodward there is an old, unused bank building on Main Street that Fitz thinks eventually will be reborn as a  thriving retail establishment.

Fitz points out that downtown Woodward now hosts several restaurants, including two Mexican eateries that are operated by immigrant families. There is also a downtown clothing store that caters to Hispanics.

When John Lindsay was the mayor of New York City in the 1960s his Parks Commissioner Thomas Hoving won the praise of urban planners by constructing a series of what became known as “pocket parks” amidst the  skyscrapers of Manhattan. The popularity of those parks resulted in many of them being built in downtown areas throughout the nation, and Fitz reports that such a park is now planned for Main Street in Woodward. That park will include benches and a green space for downtown Woodward.

And more of downtown Woodward’s original appearance will be revealed when façade renovations planned for next year for some of the buildings takes place and their original exteriors are seen for the first time in decades.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.