The proposal begins and ends by citing the Guiding Principles of Tulsa’s popularly conceived Comprehensive Plan, adopted as public policy in July of 2010. Our elected officials have a mandate to ensure that all public spending, both for operations and capital improvements be consistent with and support that plan. We are confident that all of the projects on our list are supported by existing plans, and deliver on the City Council’s goal for prioritizing investments listed below:
Economic Development and Sales Tax Generation
- Unleash the creative potential of Tulsans, and which will cultivate home-grown enterprises, large and small.
- Enhance the quality of life in Tulsa as a means of attracting and retaining a high quality, well-educated workforce.
- Begin to reverse the 50-year trend of suburbanization and the more recent diffusion of retail activity on the internet.
- Address the challenge of reimagining and redeveloping aging and obsolete commercial corridors and neighborhood centers.
Connectivity and Transportation Choices
- Bring people together and connect destinations.
- Provide “a variety of transportation options (to) serve the city, so that all Tulsans can go where we need to go by driving if we want, but also by walking, biking or using public transit,” as stated in the Guiding Principles of our Comprehensive Plan.
Health, Education & Safety
- Energize and activate Tulsans of all ages, and which will begin to reverse chronically poor public health statistics.
- B. Support public education, or which include an educational component, broadly defined.
- C. Support public safety broadly defined.
Supporting Criteria and Additional Filters for Consideration
- Projects should be on a scale that that will “move the needle,” to begin reversing negative trends and supporting positive ones.
- We should first seek to invest in Tulsa’s unique assets and existing treasures.
- Community beautification should be an integral part of all projects to be funded in this program.
- These criteria are not intended to be so restrictive as to deter creative ideas that might generate substantial public support.
In the absence of any other comprehensive Vision 2025 extension proposal, we humbly submit the following options for your review and consideration. Our proposal is not meant to tell you what you need but rather to ask if these are the kinds of projects you would like to support and see on the ballot.
Please keep in mind that this is a preliminary draft and a work in progress. We invite your comments and feedback, and would prefer you provide them by emailing us as opposed to commenting on our Facebook page. If you propose new ideas or the elevation of any items which did not make our final cut, please tell us what you would be willing to sacrifice in order to make room for them.
As that feedback comes in, we may be editing and tweaking this post to reflect changes. For substantive revisions beyond stylistic improvements or the addition of links, we will notate the highlights at the bottom of this page, along with the date of the change, so check back often.
Equity and Opportunity
When considering the potential expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, Smart Growth Tulsa is particularly sensitive to the guiding principles listed under the Equity and Opportunity section:
- The disparity in life expectancy between areas of the city is eliminated by addressing access to services and public health issues.
- Tulsa is a cohesive city where we have the ability to create safe, healthy lives for ourselves and our families.
- Tulsa’s civic, business and government institutions ensure that everyone has equal opportunity and access to housing, employment, transportation, education and health care, regardless of background, ethnicity, or neighborhood.
- Schools are safe, easy to walk to, and part of a world-class education system.
In short, we must always be mindful not to overlook those among us who most need our assistance and support, including children, the elderly and those with physical disabilities.
Downtown and the Comprehensive Plan
Downtown Tulsa has been and is the heart and soul of the Tulsa metro region. Its reemergence as a vibrant hub of urban activity since Vision 2025 and the opening of BOK Center has been nothing short of astonishing. We can continue and build upon that momentum by extending the tax and by making key strategic and visionary investments that will further leverage the hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private assets that have been developed in the last 10 years.
The guiding principles listed below are among the first of those listed under the Economy section of Tulsa’s comprehensive plan.
- Downtown Tulsa should act as a thriving economic engine and cultural center for the entire region.
- Business owners are able to easily find adequate and attractive space for expanding businesses into downtown, along main streets, or in employment centers.
Following the development of the initial elements of Vision 2025 in downtown Tulsa and in order to maximize existing initiatives, the City began development of an updated Downtown Area Master Plan. This study effort is based upon previous master plans, district plans and other studies and emerging private and public development and redevelopment in the Central Business District area, near downtown neighborhoods, and connections to the Arkansas River. The purpose is to continue the established momentum by preparing a plan that connects the Vision 2025 initiatives to existing and planned development and to recommend infill projects that leverage new public-private and private investment. The three major targets of the plan are to:
- Revitalize the downtown
- Connect it to the Tulsa River Park’s system
- Initiate Rail Transit extending outward from the downtown to the beginnings of future corridors serving the city and the region
The Downtown Area Master Plan includes all lands within the “Inner Dispersal Loop” (IDL), the O.S.U. and Langston Campus, the Evans / Fintube site to the north, edges of the adjacent neighborhoods to the east and west including close in areas of the Pearl District and Crosbie Heights, and a corridor of Business Developments extending southward to Veteran’s Park at 21st Street and Boulder Avenue (refer to “Planning Area” exhibit).
Connectivity to the Arkansas River and the Tulsa River Parks system includes corridors at 11th (Route 66) and Riverside Drive, Houston to Riverside, Denver to Riverside, Riverside at 21st Street, and the “Blair Mansion”, 31st Street and Crow Creek areas. The Rail Transit system requires consideration of lands along two proposed transit corridors. The first corridor extends along the west bank of the Arkansas River from 23rd and Jackson Street, northwest to the O.S.U. Medical Center, and then northeast and across the river to through downtown to the O.S.U. Tulsa Campus and the “Evans / Fintube” site. The second corridor extends from 21st Street and Riverside Drive northward along Boulder Avenue to property located east of Brady Heights and west of the O.S.U. Tulsa Campus. The first transit corridor is approximately 18,000 feet in length and the second transit corridor is approximately 11,000 feet in length.
Downtown Project Funding List – ($174 million)
- Downtown Housing & Commercial Development Fund (an addition to existing funds): $10 million
- Connecting Downtown to the River – Boulder Ave, Denver Ave, Houston Ave.: $12 million for new sidewalks, dedicated bicycle lanes, trees, lighting, benches and street-scaping
- Integrated Mixed Use Parking Structures to reduce surface lots $22 million
- Civic Center Plaza pedestrian amenities to complement the opening of 5th Street: $5 million
- BOK Center upgrades to maintain 1st class facility: Phase I – $10 million for inside concourse lounge area, exterior full-service restaurant, state-of-the-art scoreboard, secured Wi-Fi and other technology updates
- Sealed Rail Corridors: $5 million
- Primary downtown Two-Way Street Conversion: $10 million
- Convention Center Expansion and Improvements $35 million
- Federal Building acquisition for Convention Center Hotel site: $30 million
- Evans / Fintube pollutant remediation, site preparation and Phase I of Watco rail yard relocation to East Tulsa to create a multimodal freight facility: $35 million
Some details of the Downtown Project Funding List
The $10 million for the Downtown Housing & Commercial Development Fund would be added to the current “housing only” fund to provide low-interest loans and other incentives to encourage the adaptive reuse of downtowns functionally obsolete historic building stock into viable mixed-use buildings.
Connecting downtown to River Parks and A Gathering Place is a key to connecting two of Tulsa’s most popular destinations and calls for major improvements to serve not just autos, but cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users.
Tulsa has been criticized nationally for the sea of asphalt surface parking lots that detract from the ambiance and beauty of a vibrant urban environment. Integrated Mixed Use Parking Structures with street level retail and commercial space like the example shown would help solve the problem and create a much more inviting atmosphere for both locals and visitors.
Funding for the opening of 5th Street west of Denver Avenue to serve the newly remodeled Library and the Aloft Hotel did not allow for much in the way of beautification and pedestrian amenities. The Plaza is greatly in need of green space improvements to serve the public, not just automobiles.
The BOK Center has been an enormous success by almost any measure. Without regular upgrades and improvements, it could quickly fall in stature and see a decline in appeal. The management company has a 20-year maintenance and improvement plan to keep the BOK Center relevant and cutting edge. We must not allow it to fall into decline and disrepair.
Tulsa’s convention facilities are adequate but not competitive with top tier cities when it comes to attracting the millions of dollars in income generated by major regional and national conventions. Substantial convention center upgrades and a strategically positioned 500 to 600 room convention headquarter hotel would allow Tulsa to compete for those proven revenue generators.
Several concepts have been proposed for the Evans/Fintube site including a year-round Farmers Market and Food Hub, and also a school for the Visual and Performing Arts.
The site has extraordinary development potential but major challenges which must be overcome. The existing and adjacent Watco rail yard is not an appropriate use relevant to its location next to a college campus. The off-loading of materials at the facility, some of which could represent a significant threat to health and human safety suggests that moving it would be a wise and worthy goal of the community.
An earlier proposal to move the facility and create an intermodal freight facility in east Tulsa, connecting the airport, rail, trucking and barge-traffic never got off the ground. Perhaps it is time to re-visit that idea and allow a significant funding source in a Vision 2025 extension to help make it happen.
Community and Housing and the Comprehensive Plan
After major investments in Downtown Tulsa, we suggest that neighborhood revitalization deserves a very high priority, particularly those areas that have worked so hard to develop approved Small Areal Plans, that are currently awaiting implementation. We can’t just plan the work, we must work the plans.
Housing Priority 1 – Promote Balanced Housing Across Tulsa – The City should further develop its ability to preserve existing single-family areas, in concert with building new housing types and creating places that will retain current residents and be attractive to future residents, including young people and entrepreneurs.
The Community and Housing Project Funding List provides an excellent opportunity for city officials to promote, fund and build the PlaniTulsa prototype projects outlined in the plan’s Vision Strategies: “the city should form a strategic partnership with the development community and area foundations to locate and build several of the innovative mixed-use building models” illustrated in the plan.
Guiding Principles for Community and Housing
- Future development protects historic buildings, neighborhoods and resources while enhancing urban areas and creating new mixed-use centers.
- Tulsa has pockets of density to provide for a more livable, pedestrian-friendly and cost-efficient community.
- Tulsa permits opportunities for a full range of housing types to fit every income, household and preference.
Community and Housing Project Funding List ($93 million)
- Implement the Pearl District 6th Street Infill and flood control plan: $50 million
- Implement the Eugene Field Small Area Plan Phase I: $20 million
- Implement the 36th Street North Small Area Plan and North Tulsa Sector Plans: $5 million
- Brady Heights, Kendall Whittier Main Street, Brookside and Cherry Street: $8 million
- Investments in Historic Route 66 Corridor: $10 million
Details of the Community and Housing Project Funding List Proposals
The East Pearl ponds and the 6th. St. conveyance/canal play a major role in resolving Tulsa’s last, major, flood plain system. They will be the catalyst for many hundreds of affordably priced homes, scores of permanent jobs, a stimulus to local business start-ups, and the creation of a safe, walkable, healthy urban neighborhood at the very heart of Tulsa.
The Eugene Field Small Area Plan (SAP) is focused around identifying initiatives and establishing an action plan to transform Eugene Field into a thriving community. The neighborhood currently suffers from an unbalanced concentration of affordable housing, challenges associated with two major arterials running through the neighborhood, and the negative effects of incompatible land uses.
Yet the neighborhood is also located in close proximity to downtown and enjoys continuous park frontage along the Arkansas River. Therefore, it is critical to restore this area to a healthy, mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood reminiscent of what it once was.
Recommendations from these initiatives will result in a comprehensive, holistic strategy for improving the overall physical, social, and economic conditions of the neighborhood.
The 36th Street North Corridor small area plan is a guide for the future development of this area of North Tulsa and the City of Tulsa. The small area planning process, outlined in the appendix of the Tulsa Comprehensive Plan, includes a thorough citizen engagement process, extensive research of existing conditions, and vetting of plan recommendations by citizens as well as relevant city departments and stakeholders.
Our Phase I funding proposal would include sidewalks, street-scaping, lighting and an investment in Hawthorn Park.
Transportation and the Comprehensive Plan
The downtown Plan is based on two axes which cross in the north central area of downtown (refer to “Community Context” exhibit). The Boulder Avenue Transit Corridor is proposed to be served by a trolley like “fixed guideway” transit system. It connects from a significant residential development site at the west end of the O.S.U. Tulsa Campus southward to a significant mixed use development site around Veteran’s Park at 21st Street and Riverside Drive. This corridor connects and encourages new infill development and redevelopment in and around Brady Village, the core Business District and Convention Center, Cathedral Square District and Tulsa Community College, and a corridor of major business addresses at the southern edge of downtown (uptown area).
Comprehensive Plan Guiding Principles for Transportation
- A variety of transportation options serve the city, so that all Tulsans can go where we need to go by driving if we want, but also by walking, biking or using public transit.
- The transit system is designed as a consumer good and attracts people without a vehicle, as well as people who have a vehicle and choose to use an alternative.
- Employment areas are accessible to services such as child care, grocery stores, restaurants, and other amenities.
Transportation Project Funding List ($145 million)
- Downtown Circulator Route – Trolley or rebranded buses: $8 million
- Downtown Intermodal Passenger Facility and transit hub: Phase I – $25 million
- Boulder Street Car – OSU Tulsa to A Gathering Place: $57 million
- Route 66 East/West Transit Corridor from Route 66 Museum to Garnett Road: $15 million
- MTTA – equipment, electronic fare system, intelligent data systems, bus parking lot: $12 million
- Go Plan – Bicycle Pedestrian infrastructure: $8 million
- Bike Share Program – Phase I: $2 million
- Riverside Drive (41st to I-44) resurfacing and improvements: $11 million
- Riverside Parkway (I-44 to River Spirit Casino) Cosmetic improvement: $7 million including lighting.
Details of the Transportation Project Funding LIst Proposals
The Downtown Circulator Route is a key to the continued revitalization of our Central Business District. Getting people from point A to point B without the hassle of finding parking will encourage more business, retail, employment and entertainment.
Smart cities recognize the increasing importance of being connected to the nation’s rail network and the creation of an inter-modal passenger hub is crucial to connecting all of the various forms of public transit serving the entire region. The old Union Depot is ideally suited for such a purpose as the shown by the image on the left from the Downtown Area Master Plan.
We do support the Jazz Hall of Fame and would encourage planners to work to continue their occupancy of the facility by sharing the space if at all possible. If that is simply not possible then every effort should be made to find a nearby alternative, either in a repurposed historic building or suitable new construction.
The potential to serve inter-city rail, commuter light rail, inter and intra-city busses and streetcars will potentially lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in private transit-oriented development as it has in other cities.
A new, yet to be made public proposal is now floating around. Presently referred to as the Center of the Universe concept, it is a bold and imaginative proposal to build a massive new structure over the railroad tracks from Boston Avenue to Elgin Ave, creating enormous new development opportunities by connecting the Brady District with the Blue Dome District and the core of downtown. While it would be a truly revolutionary and transformative public works project, we suspect the cost would/will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, ostensibly shooting all of our bullets at a single project. For that reason, we are supportive of a more modest $25 million proposal to get started on the creation of an inter-modal passenger facility at the old Union Depot.
The Boulder Streetcar, originally planned from OSU/Tulsa to Veterans Park should be altered to include a transit stop at A Gathering Place, linking two of Tulsa’s most popular destinations. Again, $ Millions in private development can be counted on along fixed guideway corridors as has been demonstrated over and over again throughout major U.S. Cities and abroad.
The North / South Bus Rapid Transit corridor has already been funded in the Improve our Tulsa package and is expected to be on-line in 2021 if not before. The East/West transit corridor would complete the Big T envisioned in the Transportation Chapter of PlaniTulsa. Eventually Tulsans will look forward to an end-to-end fixed guideway Streetcar, but our Phase I proposal calls for the line to start with traditional rubber-tired specially branded Bus Rapid Transit Vehicles.
The $12 million for MTTA would purchase 19 new CNG buses at a cost of $9 million to provide service expansion reducing average route frequencies from 50 minutes to 30 minutes, system wide. $2 million would be allocated to a land acquisition and construction of a fenced parking lot to house the expanded fleet. The balance would fund technology improvements including an Electronic Fare System and an Intelligent Data System providing automated passenger counters that will assist in making decisions related to routing, scheduling, new service offerings and the placement of transit amenities.
The Go Plan, our metro region’s bicycle / pedestrian plan and the planned Bike/Share program will require $millions in capital spending and infrastructure improvements for full implementation. Our Phase I proposal calls for $9 million to get started.
River Development and the Comprehensive Plan
Tulsa’s comprehensive plan says scarcely little about river development in and of itself. The only mention of low-water dams in the 300-page document is included in a single reference to INCOG’s Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, completed in 2005 to develop a “multi-purpose, conceptual, comprehensive Arkansas River Corridor Plan that addresses flood damage reduction, ecosystem restoration and economic development opportunities consistent with the community’s overall vision for growth and development.”
It can be argued that a public clamoring for low-water dams during the town-hall meetings, workshops and forums offered during PlaniTulsa was virtually non-existent, as participants preferred to focus on transportation, mobility, connectivity, affordable housing options, protection of existing neighborhoods and historic building stock, and new development favoring walkable mixed-use town centers and neighborhoods.
Arkansas River Project Funding List ($147 million)
- Rebuild Zink Dam and establish maintenance fund: $60 million
- Acquire west side Concrete Plant: $25 million
- Create open green space to anchor potential new development: $12 million
- Relocate COT’s public works facilities at 23rd & Jackson to make room for transit oriented mixed-use development serving light-rail connection to Evans / Fintube site – Phase I: $35 million
- Preliminary planning and right-of-way acquisition for light rail corridor Phase I: $15 million
Details of the River Project Funding List Proposals
It is clear that Zink Lake will play an important role in the success of Tulsa’s new $350 million privately funded world-class park, A Gathering Place and it needs to be preserved. The existing dam is worn out, dangerous and needs to be replaced but the other three proposed new dams do not offer the economic development potential to justify the $300 million cost.
A more sensible approach to river development would be the west bank area bordering Zink Lake from the River West Festival Park south to 23rd and Jackson, the current location of the City of Tulsa public works facilities.
Development in that location would make use of existing infrastructure rather than adding new, would provide development parcels with attractive downtown views. It would be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan as well as the Eugene Fields Small Area Plan and begin the initial phases of a development of the public works parcel as a mixed-use housing, commercial and retail village centered around a transit station. Eventually it would be served by a light rail connection to the Evans/Fintube site just northwest of Downtown, as provided for in the Downtown Tulsa Area Master Plan.
The Comprehensive Plan on the Planning Process
The Guiding Principles below rather bluntly implore our elected officials to fund, implement and monitor adopted plans for performance, a mandate that has been all too often ignored in the past.
- City planning and decision-making is an inclusive and transparent process.
- Once adopted, city-wide and neighborhood plans are funded, implemented and monitored for performance.
- Accelerated ADA compliance efforts to cut down the projected 30-year plan: $30 million
ADA Plan Implementation Project Funding List:
The City of Tulsa performed an assessment of programs, policies and practices to ensure that all residents of the City of Tulsa enjoy access to civic life. The project provided a written assessment of public facilities within the metro area, as well as recommendations to improve service and accessibility to programs for all residents of the City of Tulsa.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a federal law which provides civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities in the area of employment, public accommodations, services made available by state and local governments, transportation and telecommunications. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabilities by calling for the removal of communication and architectural barriers.
The Transition Plan provides a schedule for the removal of physical barriers which has been projected to take up to 30 years to reach full compliance, for lack of adequate funding. In an attempt to be fair and equitable with public spending, we believe an acceleration of that time table by adding funds from a Vision 2025 extension would be just and appropriate.
Tulsa County Capital Needs:
It is unclear at this point exactly how Tulsa County will come out with a Vision 2025 extension proposal, formerly a county wide initiative. The rancor between city and county officials is well documented and unfortunate. County Commissioners maintain that they have over $150 million in capital needs, but it is clear that number will have to be pared down considerable. We have not been provided with a needs assessment, but we don’t doubt they are substantial.
Of primary concern is repair of the levy system protecting a very large geographic area from flooding. It is old, worn out and dangerous.
We are rounding out our priority list with the following:
Tulsa County Capital Needs: $41 million
County needs will obviously exceed that number, but it will be up to county elected officials to make a case to taxpayers that demonstrates why they deserve more, when so many other worthy projects are awaiting funding.
When hard working taxpayers are faced with decisions to invest or not invest in their community, $600 million seems like an enormous sum of money, and it is. But it pales in comparison to the long list of genuinely sound and reasonable needs awaiting funding that would help keep us competitive and prospering.
Making difficult choices is tough business, not for the feint hearted. Determining the best way to invest precious public funds requires steadfast determination and dedication to get the biggest bang for the buck, and the greatest return on investment.
Below, we provide a list of projects that have merit but did not make our list because they failed in one way or the other to satisfy the priorities of our comprehensive plan, as subjective as that may seem. If money were no object, we might like to support all of them.
Soccer-specific Stadium ($75 to $100 million)
Major league cities have major league sports, they just do. It is highly unlikely that this generation of Tulsans will ever see major league football, basketball or baseball in our town. We could however make the case for a Major League Soccer Franchise if we had a quality new facility to play in.
There is little question in most people’s minds that Tulsa would support a major league soccer team. We have already done it, 30 years ago and the sport has only grown in stature and appeal since then, both nationally and locally.
We don’t think it would work without a quality 1st Class facility on a par with the BOK Center and ONEOK Field. That is going to cost some major cash.
Tulsa City County Library Branch Improvements ($55 million)
The Tulsa City-County Library has pitched a plan requesting funding to match the $55 million renovation of the central library for an overhaul of all 13 branch libraries in the system. Each library would be outfitted with services specifically to the community it serves, and some councilors like the idea because the investments would touch virtually every council district.
Tulsa Zoo Expansion and Improvements ($60 million)
The Tulsa Zoo recently made a funding request for an ambitious expansion consistent with its Master Plan that calls for a vastly improved entry, a new facility in the African section of the zoo, and a re-imagining of the Lost Kingdom Elephant exhibit that will allow visitors to see the elephants both indoors and out.
The new entrance would include moving the elephant sanctuary closer to the front while updating amenities at the entryway to encourage quick and safe entry for patrons by streamlining the ticketing experience and increasing guest amenities.
By building a new facility in the African section of the zoo, a new African Apes exhibit will be built to house both chimpanzees and introduce gorillas, a new, iconic ape species to the Tulsa Zoo.
Gilcrease Museum Expansion ($75 million)
The Gilcrease will also be making a presentation and request for funding for new gallery and exposition space to enable more of their 350,000-piece collection to be on permanent public display. The proposal and rendering are expected to be released in late July 2015.
More ideas and projects are expected to be proposed in the coming weeks and we will try to list them here, so check back often.
Tulsa Art Deco Museum ($10 million)
The Tulsa Art Deco Museum is presented housed in the beautiful lobby of the Philcade Building in the heart of downtown Tulsa’s Deco District.
It is currently a small museum whose purpose is to heighten awareness and appreciation of Art Deco Design, from around the world and throughout history, with particular emphasis on it’s place in Tulsa’s unique history.
They are seeking a new home for expanded operations either in new construction or a renovated historic building.
Revitalization of the Historic 11th Street Bridge
The Route 66 Alliance recently announced a plan to rehabilitate and revitalize Tulsa’s historic 11th Street Bridge that will potentially draw thousands of enthusiasts from across the country and around the world who are fascinated by Route 66.
According to a release the bridge would be used for festivals, concerts, farmers markets, and much more, by capping Riverside Drive and connecting A Gathering Place with Cyrus Avery Plaza and the Route 66 Experience.
By opening the bridge to pedestrian and bicycle traffic the $19.4 Million investment will enhance River Parks and take advantage of the tremendous views of the Arkansas River, serving as a catalyst for further river development.
Boston Avenue Multi-sport Complex ($44 million)
The BAM project would eliminate a significant amount of surface parking in south downtown’s Cathedral District, by placing it underground and covering it with a public sports field that would pull people into downtown.
Developers maintain the development would be a park, a multi-use sports field, a parking garage and a home to retail and education space.
Tulsa Children’s Museum ($10 million)
Tulsa Children’s Museum is a nonprofit children’s museum that was established in 2007. In May 2013 TCM opened its first facility, Discovery Lab. Located in historic Owen Park, Discovery Lab is a changing landscape and exhibits and activities for children ages 2-12 and their families. Supporters hope to expand operations and move the museum into a new facility, possibly in Phase II of A Gathering Place.