FUTURE CAPITOL HILL
Proposal #1: Phased Development Plan for 25th Street
This proposal is a response to the strong desire for and prioritization of the economic development of SW 25th Street. Recognizing that this is an important topic for many people, and that the economic health of SW 25th Street is considered a barometer for the health of the area at large, this proposal lays out a way to think about long-term planning for the built environment of the Main Street District. it does not describe everything that can or should be done, merely a logical path to addressing the priorities that have arisen from this research and the opportunities that have been identified.
Phase 1: Retail incubator space. Different from a business incubator, the goal of this build is to become a retail destination for Capitol Hill while simultaneously helping small businesses to grow and gain an economic foothold in the neighborhood. It should be a unique and iconic building, housing shopping, eating, and gathering, much like a public market building.
In terms of architecture and design, this building provides the opportunity to forge a new design standard for Capitol Hill, honoring the Main Street designation district heritage, while infusing elements of new Hispanic influence and culture.
It is intended to be a catalyst project, addressing several urgent needs right off the bat with one project.
Phase 2: Destination Dining. Restaurant as attraction is a proven model in the city of Oklahoma City—word travels about new restaurants and people travel for them. A new late-night patio dining option would be the first of its kind in Capitol Hill. A back patio on the north side of SW 25th Street, if correctly sited and designed, has the potential to take advantage of views of the downtown skyline.
Phase 3: Old buildings are expensive to maintain, and many of these buildings have been empty for a long time, which means substantial improvements are needed to bring them up to code. Phase 3 is a targeted effort to invest resources in Main Street facades, in order to bring momentum to a revitalization begun in Phases 1 & 2.
Phase 4: Add density. Once a plan is in motion for upgrading the retail presence on the street, it’s time to focus on increasing street life and density by renovating existing second floors into apartments, and perhaps even adding second stories to some buildings. Bringing full-time residents to the district will increase the hours that the street is lively and will increase demand for a variety of businesses. Including housing for teachers and service industry employees will set a tone of socioeconomic diversity and carve out a foothold when market-rate housing comes in.
Phase 5: Invest in the cultural life of the neighborhood by renovating the Oklahoma Opry and installing a public plaza. With this phase complete, Capitol Hill is a destination for dining, shopping, and culture, and a thriving and interesting walkable neighborhood for those who live and work there.
Proposal #2: Write a New Zoning Overlay for a New Capitol Hill
Part of the lack of clear direction for the future is a lack of consensus regarding design standards that govern the rehabilitation and restoration of historic buildings. This is especially important because there is a lot of emotion tied to the rich history of the neighborhood. Clear design standards will help establish clear, mutually-agreed-upon priorities for the aesthetic nature of the neighborhood.
It is clear that both those who favor an historic preservation approach and those who have invested in bold and bright-colored upgrades are invested in the future and in the look of their properties. Historic buildings are difficult and expensive to maintain. If it is determined that the priority is to preserve historic buildings, then perhaps the neighborhood or business owners’ association needs to go after tax credits to make this feasible for all business owners.
This is an excellent time and opportunity to forge a new identity and standard going forward, as Capitol Hill establishes its identity for the 21st century. A new Capitol Hill celebrates the storied history of the place while simultaneously embracing the new cultural influences.
The approach detailed in this report is just one way to think about dealing with the challenge of incorporating old and new in the future of Capitol Hill. Revisiting the current Urban Design Code with a critical eye to cultural bias and a future vision may be sufficient. Celebrating a building’s history through a prominent plaque may be deemed a sufficient nod to the past. In any case, a clearly established common vision is an essential foundation for designing the future of the district.
Proposal #3: Plan for River Access and Waterfront Parks
The third proposal is a response to the apparent lack of consideration of the south bank of the Oklahoma River in planning and design initiatives for the waterfront and the growing downtown. This plan conceives of the Oklahoma River waterfront as front door of Capitol Hill, rather than back door of Downtown
In this design, a brand new Harvey Ave. Bikeway provides safe and direct connection from existing waterfront bike paths to the heart of the Capitol Hill Cultural District. In subsequent phasing, Robinson & Walker bike lanes are constructed as part of overall street improvement plan. Additionally, Manuel Perez Park is relocated from its current site (slated for demolition) to a prominent location on the South Waterfront