Innovation District to have positive impact

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record

Last week, the Land Use and Strategic Development Plan for the Oklahoma City Innovation District was introduced. The plan addresses key considerations identified through community engagement with nearly 500 area residents, employees, workers, business owners, students and others who frequent the district.

The plan calls for high-intensity development to take place in a core area centered around Stiles Park and the Beacon of Hope. This area will include Innovation Hall, which will be the heartbeat of the district. Innovation Hall and its surrounding plaza will be the location where vital connections and collaborations will occur, where STEM programming will take place, where people will receive valuable job training, where tours will begin. The development of this area will include research lab and office space, coworking space, hotel and residential development, and retail and restaurant amenities.

The plan also calls for projects in the nearby neighborhoods surrounding the district. The redevelopment of the Henrietta B. Foster Center into a Minority Small Business and Entrepreneurship Center will provide wealth building opportunities for community members while giving new life to a building with historic significance to the community. The complete renovation of Booker T. Washington Park will provide an improved community gathering space and the eastern anchor for a redeveloped commercial corridor along NE Fourth Street, which was once a center of commerce in the area.

Connections between all of these assets, the surrounding neighborhoods and Automobile Alley are the other key aspect of the plan, including the expansion of the NE 10th Street bridge over Interstate 235 with sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and public art. These initial projects are the catalysts that will spur the private development in the area, leading to significant economic impact for the city as a whole and for the nearby community specifically.

The first phase of planned development is expected to generate as much as $1.2 billion in annual additional economic impact, $423 million in additional annual payroll and 6,600 new jobs. Many of the jobs will not require a college degree and will have higher-than-average wages, which could be life-changing for nearby residents. This plan is an important step for connecting Oklahoma City residents with the significant economic impact of the transformation of the district into an innovation ecosystem.

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