The next hot spot: Three OKC districts welcome the challenge of redevelopment

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Journal Record

By Molly M. Fleming
The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – While places like Bricktown and the Plaza District have evolved into booming areas, other spots in the city are still in development. Leaders from Uptown 23rd District, the Windsor District, and Envision 240 said their areas have challenges, but they haven’t given up on becoming the next hot destination.

They spoke Wednesday at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s forum luncheon.

All three districts constantly deal with abandoned properties or real estate owned by someone out of state. Uptown 23rd Program Director Christina Mallory Chicoraske said business owners and investors in the area have started reporting fallen trees on abandoned houses and unmowed yards to the city. With more businesses under development in the area, there’s an increase in people watching action on the street, which makes things safer.

“It’s amazing what a pair of eyes can do to a neighborhood,” Chicoraske said.

Planning Department Director Aubrey Hammontree said that kind of assistance improves the neighborhoods around the budding districts.

“We need people participating and solving this issue on a grass-roots effort,” she said, asking that residents call the city’s Action Center line to report code violations.

All calls are kept anonymous. Hammontree said the city is forming an abandoned building coalition to further address the problem in coordination with a law passed last year regarding abandoned properties.

Chicoraske said the challenge in Uptown is making sure the new growth fits all residents.

Square Deal Capital Chief Financial Officer Grant Soderberg said businesses in the area on NW 23rd Street from Interstate 44 to Peniel Avenue have a close connection to residents, as it has developed to neighbors’ needs.

Because of that tie, there is a lot of pride in living in the area, Soderberg said, so people have an interest in seeing the district improve. Square Deal owns the Windsor Hills Shopping Center, and is the property’s first local owner since 1994. He said the company has an interest in making sure the area feels safe.

“We want to make sure people are in an environment that is comfortable, you’re safe, and you feel happy-go-lucky,” Soderberg said.

Safety is the main concern along I-240, where Envision 240 Executive Director Vince Howie is working to redevelop the area from I-44 to I-35. He said it’s a challenge because the district is divided by a highway.

Vehicles constantly exiting the thoroughfare make it tough to create a walkable community. That’s why Howie is starting with small changes, such as painting intersections and having Oklahoma County mow the area.

“What we wanted to do was start with low-hanging fruit, so we can let people know we are trying to revitalize 240,” Howie said.

To continue the work, Howie is meeting with business owners next week to start petitions for a Business Improvement District. As a BID, property owners and business owners can choose to direct some funds toward certain projects. Howie said those funds could be used for signage, and possibly help direct people off the interstate so they do not continue to take their money to Moore.

“We want to create an identity so when people come to the area, you’ll know you want to be there,” he said.


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