Canal connection: Upgrades continue as Bricktown attraction's 20th anniversary nears
A multi-year effort to spruce up and improve walkability along the Bricktown Canal will be on display this summer when the popular destination celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Over the past few years the city, working with Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership, has refreshed landscaping, repainted railings and constructed ramps to replace wheelchair lifts that rarely worked in the years after the canal opened.
The latest improvement, a mid-block crossing on Mickey Mantle Drive between the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and the Bricktown Canal overlook plaza, opened Thursday night in time for the start of the new season for the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Jill DeLozier, vice president of Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership, said the crosswalk is part of an effort to improve connections between the ballpark and canal and also to create a gateway to the waterway.
“Red bricks were removed from that part of the street to create a smoother and safer crossing and more contrast to make it more visible,” DeLozier said. “We also have push buttons to light up crossing signs to alert drivers. They flash when the button is pushed, but people can cross whenever they want and vehicles do have to yield.”
The next phase of the project will feature "The Brick." Designed by artist Adam Lanman, the instillation will use LED lighting designed to be a destination and wayfinding point as well as an interactive public art spot. The display will be the first signage showing people how to access the canal since it opened.
“The brick plaza has been smoothed out and the bricks have been removed,” DeLozier said. “They were historic, but not for that location. They will be used with another project.”
The next step, she said, is for Lanman to install his display, which also will provide seating for visitors.
“Footings have been installed underground to support the art,” DeLozier said. “He’s about to start building and we hope to have it installed by fall.”
Funding for the improvements include a mix of sources. Johnson Associates, the engineering firm that designed the north half of the canal, donated time on plans and permitting for the mid-block crossing. Downtown Oklahoma City Partnership contributed to the project while Downtown Initiatives, an affiliated non-profit, funded “The Brick.”
The earlier canal improvements, meanwhile, were funded through tax increment financing funds generated by the district.
A federal TIGER grant is paying for the stairway, a shade structure and pedestrian bridge at the northern terminus for the canal as part of improving connections to the waterway from the Santa Fe Transit Hub.
The project was to include a tunnel opening from the train station to the canal under the BNSF Railway Viaduct but that was scrapped as part of the current job when costs came in over budget and could not be done by a deadline set for this summer.
Design work and planning continues on replacing lighting bollards along the canal following the death last year of a visitor who was electrocuted when he grabbed hold of one after falling into the water.
DeLozier said visitors will see most improvements when the 20th anniversary is celebrated on June 29.
“It will be along the entire length of the canal,” DeLozier said. “It will be in partnership with businesses along the canal and also in partnership with the river and their Stars and Stripes festival. In the evening the boathouse district will have fireworks. It should be incredible.”