The Edmond Sun

September 14, 2013

OUR VIEW: Downtown needs homegrown vision

Mike Hinkle
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Local developer Pete Reeser brought up an excellent question this week before the Edmond City Council.

The council voted to approve a $300,000 two-year study of the downtown area by a Fort Worth consulting firm. The stated purpose of the study is to help the council and the Central Edmond Urban Development Board figure out next steps for spurring future development in the downtown area and for helping create a vision for the several block area’s revitalization, especially on Broadway south of Second Street up to Fifth Street.

Reeser argued that the study is unnecessary and that there’s nothig wrong with downtown.

While we won’t go quite that far, we do wonder what’s wrong with the just barely three-year-old 74-page updated master plan from 2010 commissioned by the city. That plan re-examined the seminal 1998 Downtown Master Plan, which is the blueprint that sprang from the vision of late city architect David Odle and city leaders at that time. That plan resulted in the very successful Festival Market Place structure that is used for the Farmer’s Market and a variety of other events including an ice skating rink in the winter. The plan also led to the several million dollar Streetscape project along downtown sidewalks. In spite of the consternation it caused at the time, most would agree the pedestrian walkways in downtown are more inviting now.

The problem is that with those two projects, plus the downtown design guidelines and regional water detention, not much else has happened for the downtown area. Traffic remains a persistant problem and in spite of city assurances that there’s plenty of parking, that’s not always the case.

The real question for both the city and any consultants to answer is what do Edmond residents really want for downtown? Should it be a pedestrian friendly shopping mecca? Should it be a restaurant and entertainment area? Should we finally go back to Edmond’s roots and build a train stop for any future commuter rail? Should there be a bridge to link downtown proper to the area south of Second Street? Perhaps there are other options for breathing life into the area just waiting to be discovered.

The only things the city really can bring to the downtown are infrastructure investment, design consistency and code enforcement. For downtown to blossom into its full potential, it needs more commitment and thought from residents. It needs a homegrown vision, not another consulting study. Those who care about downtown’s future need to be at the forefront of deciding how to energize the area for the next 20 years.