Core to Shore: New developments expected to sprout up

Published: Monday, February 9, 2009 7:00 am By: Kelley Chambers

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The city of Oklahoma City wants a large park south of downtown. What will sprout up around that park remains to be seen.

As the Core to Shore project begins to take shape over the next few decades, one of the first components will be a large green space, about 40 acres, tentatively dubbed Central Park. By comparison, Central Park in Manhattan is 843 acres. San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is 1,017 acres.

Early plans call for multifamily housing on the east and west sides.

William Forrest, a multifamily broker with CB Richard Ellis Oklahoma, said high-density residential units facing the park would be a unique amenity new to the market.

"That's an extremely viable idea," he said. "I love the thought of having some quality multifamily in that location. What a nice setting."

Phase I plans, targeted for completion in 2014, may also include a convention center, hotel and retail stores.

Most everything in the area will eventually be razed and replaced, but one building will play a key role on the park's periphery.

"There are a couple of jewels down there," said Oklahoma City Planning Director Russell Claus.

One of those jewels is Union Station, which will be one of the lone survivors along with the Little Flower Church. The station will anchor the south end of the park. The Core to Shore steering committee's plans state it will have an adaptive reuse. Claus said he is not sure the exact role the station will play, but said it will not be torn down.

Union Station opened in 1931 and served the Frisco and Rock Island railroads until passenger service ceased here in the late 1960s.

In 1989 the station was purchased by the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, which has its offices there.

Anthony McDermid, principal at TAParchitecture, was on the urban design team for Core to Shore that also included Colorado Springs-based URS Corp. and Omaha-based RDG.

McDermid said a park was part of the plan dating back to studies in the late 1990s about the realignment of Interstate 40.

"The idea for a green space was in the original mitigation plan but the size of the space grew," he said. "It grew much larger as the design process evolved."

But the city will not be the developer for residential and retail projects around the park.

"We have always contemplated that the park would be the catalyst for private development adjacent to the park," McDermid said.

Claus echoed the sentiment, saying he wants to see development around the park that also embraces the design and feel of the park.

"I want to see a true urban engagement with the park," he said.

Judy Hatfield, president and CEO of Equity Realty, said retail around the park should have a distinct Oklahoma flair.

"If you look at any large city around the world and you look at the kinds of things that surround a green space you'll see that they're full of little shops, cafes, bakeries and specialty shops exclusive to the region," she said.

National retailers could also have a place, but Hatfield said not in the form of a large power center or strip mall.

"That's not what people want to see," she said.

Local entrepreneurs and celebrities could also play a key role in giving the area a touch of Oklahoma. Hatfield cited the success of country singer Toby Keith's restaurant and bar in Bricktown.

With years to figure out the details, McDermid said the area around the park will no doubt be a desirable location for a mix of uses.

"The park is an environment that people will want to be close to," he said. "We want this to be uniquely Oklahoma City and the thing we hope for is quality."

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