The changes/improvements that have taken place in Oklahoma City in the past 16 years (since I last visited) are remarkable and immensely impressive. Here are ten planning lessons from the exciting and entertaining capital of Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma City has coalesced as a community since the tragic events of April 1995, in ways that few cities could achieve. A city can be resilient and blossom after a tragedy or it can wither. Oklahoma City, much like Chicago following the Great Fire or San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, has chosen to blossom.
- Bricktown is easily one of the best revitalization and placemaking efforts this retired planner has observed. It’s popularity along with the other downtown entertainment districts (Automobile Alley, Boathouse, and Deep Deuce) has made Oklahoma City an exciting and fun destination.
- Whoever decided to recreate/reestablish the old canal that now passes through Bricktown made a brilliant decision.
- Every city needs a symbol to build (or brand) itself upon. The gorgeous Scissortailed Flycatcher has become the inspiring identity of this city via the inspiring Skydance Bridge and magnificent Scissortail Park.
- For an inland city perched upon the often parched Great Plains, Oklahoma City has found innovative and unique ways to celebrate the importance, beauty, and life-enriching aspects of water. For example, who would have ever thought the United States Olympic and Paralympic whitewater teams would do their training and Olympic Trials for both the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games in the heart of Oklahoma?
Or that one would be able to go surfing in downtown Oklahoma City?
- In the past, one would hardly identify Oklahoma City as a place of fine cuisine beyond steak and BBQ. Not anymore, as culinary treats now abound here.
- While sprawl remains a challenge, the viability and excitement found in the heart of Oklahoma City is both palpable and undeniable.
- It’s a welcome sight to see a modern streetcar system operating successfully (and expanding) in what has long been a car-centric city.
- It was so refreshing to see such a diverse range of individuals, couples, friends, and families collectively enjoying themselves amid the city’s many attributes. It gives one hope for the future.
- Though Oklahoma City has seen stunning improvement and progress, these changes have also led to gentrification and displacement. Hopefully the city can find fair and equitable ways to let the long-term residents of rejuvenated neighborhoods and districts enjoy the newfound prosperity, as well.
- This retired urban planner believes that Oklahoma City has become America’s newest great city, following the footsteps of other contemporary additions like Austin; Indianapolis; Portland, OR; and Columbus, OH. Based on our most recent visit, it’s an honor that is well-deserved and bodes well for more exciting steps forward in the future.