Mapping Core to ShorePublished: Monday, February 9, 2009 7:00 am By: Brian Brus
OKLAHOMA CITY -- When MAPS-3 finally shows up on voting ballots -- before the end of the year, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said -- the temporary sales tax issue will likely represent a wide range of projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The question of exactly what projects city residents will be asked to support is yet to be decided, but it appears at least two Core to Shore elements will be included, he said. And because of their place in the city, they may even seem to be the heart of the initiative.
A massive redevelopment just south of downtown Oklahoma City is already under way as a two-mile stretch of the Interstate 40 crosstown is being constructed closer to the Oklahoma River. Once traffic is diverted to the new I-40, the old Interstate bridge will be razed and that thoroughfare converted to a main boulevard. City leaders describe all the projects planned to revitalize the zone as Core to Shore.
"We know Interstate 40 is going to be relocated," Cornett said. "It's more evident every day. . . . And you can see that 2012, when they expect to finish, is going to be here before you know it."
"We know we're going to be able to fund the boulevard using largely state money and then add some improvements of our own to make that the most special street this state has ever seen," he said. "It will be the premier address in Oklahoma."
"When you look at Oklahoma City with fresh eyes . . . and look around the country at other cities, what does Oklahoma City still lack to ascend to a new level?" said Cornett. "I think there are two elements: There's public transit, that we do not fund and do not serve our citizens adequately. And then there's a large gathering space downtown. We really need a Central Park that we can be proud of."
The money needed to fund such a park, a new convention center nearby, and a fixed railway transportation system brings C2S to the intersection with MAPS-3.
The original MAPS, or Metropolitan Area Projects, was strongly approved by public vote in 1993 when residents established a 1-cent, five-year sales tax to fund nine projects, including the construction of the Bricktown Ballpark, renovation of the Cox Business Services Convention Center, and development of the Oklahoma River. A second package identified as Metropolitan Area Public Schools, or MAPS for Kids, kept that penny in play when voters easily passed two initiatives to fund local school districts. Seventy percent of revenue generated from that sales tax went to Oklahoma City Public Schools for the construction of new buildings, technology and other improvements.
Together, the two MAPS initiatives directly yielded more than $800 million in taxes. So the MAPS identification has been considered by many city leaders as an invaluable brand name.