The Edmond Sun

October 2, 2012

OKC Council considers other cities’ redevelopment efforts

William F. O'Brien
Against the Grain

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Council recently convened in a special meeting at Oklahoma City Community College to hear presentations from planning officials from two other cities regarding their redevelopment efforts. Representatives from other communtiies in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area were also in attendance.

The planning officials were introduced by Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus. Randle Harwood, the planning director for the City of Fort Worth, Texas, spoke of how Interstate 30 formerly took an elevated route through Fort Worth and how that roadway divided that community, and that the area adjacent to it on both sides was blighted. A decision was later made to transform it into a ground-level thoroughfare, and Harwood showed before and after pictures that demonstrated how the land on both sides is now home to restaurants and other places where people gather.

Mike Brennan, who is also from Fort Worth, detailed how the south side of that city has been redeveloped after decades of stagnation and neglect. The redevelopment began when the Fort Worth Municipal Code was amended to allow mixed use of property in that area, and Brennan showed pictures that showed that its revitalized streets are now home to commercial as well as residential structures as a result. Walking and biking is now part of life for many residents of South Fort Worth, and it is also home to a variety of festivals as well, Brennan said.

Debra Campbell of Charlotte, N.C., told the council members and other attendees that the key to her city’s success has been the result of understanding the important role the center of the city plays in its development, and how a mass transit system that consists of both trolley and light rail lines and buses with their own expedited traffic lanes was constructed to connect the city center to the rest of Charlotte and its suburbs. She reported that many of the journalists who covered the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte commented on how the mass transit system made it easier for them to cover the convention and said that it has been more difficult to cover the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., because that city does not have such a system in place.

In the year 2000, Campbell reported, a plan designed to make the center city of Charlotte both “livable” and “memorable"was adopted, and that the success of that plan has brought many affluent residents back to that area. Roy  Williams of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce also addressed the gathering, and he spoke of the lessons that he has learned by his visits to seven other cities. He said that the communities with successful mass transit systems had regional plans in place in which all of the municipalities served by it contributed to its funding.

Williams also stated that it was important that when planning a transit system the plan should reflect the city that you want to construct rather than the city that is currently in place. The chamber executive said that he saw innovative teaching methods being taught to teachers in Minneapolis, Minn., and that he would like to see that program brought to the Oklahoma City School System. He further reported that he also learned that while it is easy to authorize the creation of charter schools, it is hard to close the ones that are not functioning the way they should. And Williams said that he plans to visit other cities in the future to see what programs and practices in place in those locales could assist in Oklahoma City’s development.

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