O’Connor: Districts add culture, history, economic impactPublished: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record
Something that makes Oklahoma City an interesting place to live and visit is our unique districts. These areas of the city have high local ownership and investment, and in some cases, a notable history or concentration of culture. They also have significant economic impact on the rest of the city.
Uptown, the Plaza District, the Paseo Arts District, Automobile Alley, Midtown, Deep Deuce, Film Row, Stockyards City and the Asian District are all familiar for their locally owned shops, small service businesses, distinct architecture and original restaurants. They are well-organized and have a strong identity, board and management structure.
Many of our established and emerging districts have been helped along with TIF District designation and the Commercial District Revitalization Program started by the city of Oklahoma City in 2009 to help districts get organized, launch and grow. Year over year since 2013, over 80 percent of the managed districts outperform Oklahoma City’s average sales tax growth.
Some of the newer districts are making great progress in formerly blighted areas.
Always a hotbed of Hispanic retail, Capitol Hill/SW 29th Street has added more new retail and restaurants. The Strong Neighborhoods Initiative is working on residential renovations in Capitol Hill. The district’s three large events grow in attendance each year.
The Farmers Market District will soon have a geographic advantage when the Oklahoma City Boulevard is complete. The area is seeing new business growth and active, involved proprietors. One area of focus is wayfinding signage and district markers.
West Downtown has seen successful developments such as 21c Hotel, the Jones Assembly and the Sunshine Laundry building. The soon-to-be-completed West Village will add apartments, retail and structured parking.
Our districts add flavor, interest and diversity to our city. It takes incredible vision to look at a blighted area and see old buildings renovated for new purposes, people connecting in the public spaces and ways to showcase the history and culture of the area.
Those dreams and the people who hold them can be and should be supported. It makes good economic development sense, but more importantly, it helps to maintain the originality, beauty and culture of our city.