Two Votes Today and Massive Changes in Two Years
Two big decisions are set to take place today that will pretty much finish the puzzle known as “Core to Shore.”
In the broader sense, of course, Core to Shore is still years if not decades away from completion when one looks at the overall area that extends west to the Farmers Market area. But the heart of the plan has always been the area immediately south of downtown.
So let’s backtrack on what’s been accomplished so far over the past dozen years before we look at what is set to occur today:
Construction is already well underway on the 37-acre north half of the future Scissortail Park, which will sprawl between Hudson and Robinson Avenues and south of the future Oklahoma City Boulevard. The north half of the park, which is named after the state bird of Oklahoma, will connect to another 31 acres south of Interstate 40 and west of Robinson Avenue that will terminate at the Oklahoma River.
The two sides of the $138 million park will be linked via the Skydance pedestrian bridge, the iconic span over I-40 inspired by the Scissortail Flycatcher.
The upper park will be completed first and is to open in early 2019. Amenities will include a promenade, fountain, cafe, lake and boathouse, great lawn and stage, playgrounds and gardens.
The lower park between Skydance bridge and the Oklahoma River will be completed later, and includes the environmental cleanup after the junkyards and auto parts stores along Hubcap Alley along S Robinson Avenue are relocated. As I reported last week, demolition is set to start soon with permits being filed by the city.
The Oklahoma City Streetcar, meanwhile, is set to ramp up operations in late 2018. Work is nearing completion on the streetcar barn just west of the historic Union Train Station, and a dual track with a streetcar stop will be situated near the corner of the Oklahoma City Boulevard and Robinson Avenue.
To the south of the park, construction is set to start next year on a new convention center and a 600-room Omni Hotel. Construction started in late November on a 133-room Fairfield Inn that will front E.K. Gaylord Boulevard but will be just south of the convention center.
So today is pretty important. The Alliance for Economic Development last month completed negotiations on behalf of the city to acquire the OGE Energy Corp. data center at SW 4 and E.K. Gaylord Boulevard. That site is set to be cleared to make way for an 865-space garage that will serve the Omni, the convention center, Scissortail Park and Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The MAPS 3 citizens oversight board gave its recommendation to the city council to approve the project, but today’s vote by the Oklahoma Economic Development Trust is the first binding action on the purchase and funding of the garage. Typically, the trust’s actions mirror that of the city council.
Then we have the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s board of commissioners meeting today to consider awarding bids for completion of the Oklahoma City Boulevard.
This last project covers the remaining unfinished section between E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and Western Avenue. If a bid is awarded, expect construction to start by spring of 2018 with an approximately 18-month completion schedule.
So where does all this leave us?
Well, if all goes as planned, we’re looking at the boulevard opening in late 2019. We’re looking at the Oklahoma City Streetcars starting up operations in late 2018. The upper park is set to open in early 2019. The convention center, garage and Omni, meanwhile, are set to open by late 2019.