Western Avenue Update

In 2013, we assisted the City of Oklahoma City with a design for the Western Avenue Streetscape in a commercial district between 41st and 46th Street. Our design for Western Avenue focused on maximizing pedestrian space, making it safer and more comfortable to be outside on the street, and calming traffic to slower speeds. Now, construction is underway on the new street design. Here’s a tour of some of the improvements along with images showing what the street will look like in the future. 1. Wider sidewalks Our observations identified “Lost Space” on Western, which has been used as a buffer between on-street parking and the driving lane. The design returned this space to the sidewalk to make people more comfortable and to slow down cars with a narrower driving lane. Construction on this block is widening the sidewalk by several feet in an area where outdoor dining has always been crowded into a small area. This block will get a much wider sidewalk with more room for street trees and dining areas. 2. Median Gateway One of the most important goals was to reduce speeds in the district to levels that would be safer for people to cross the street on foot at unsignalized crosswalks. At the entrance to the district at 41st Street, the team placed a small island median that will have space for landscaping, a district marker, and a pedestrian refuge. The gateway will signal to drivers that they are entering a slower speed environment. Half of the curbs for the median gateway have been poured. The other half will be added when crews begin...

Form-Based Codes Coming to Oklahoma

Yukon has approved a new form-based code, and Stillwater and Norman may be the next communities to adopt a new type of development regulation. Form-based codes are an emerging type of development regulations that focus primarily on the character of urban form in a community. Conventional single-use zoning has separated land uses and prevented the development of walkable neighborhoods for decades. Hundreds of cities have adopted form-based codes to encourage a new form of development, with specific guidance for the design of streets, public spaces, and buildings. Tulsa’s Pearl District: Oklahoma’s First Form-Based Code Tulsa was the first city to experiment with form-based codes with a 60-acre section of the Pearl District. The code has been a controversial subject with some neighborhood property owners, with a proposed expansion failing and some parcels asking to be removed from the code’s boundary. Yukon’s Form-Based Code for New Development Area On March 17, Yukon adopted a new 170-acre form-based code (pdf) that sets guidelines for block sizes, street types, trees, sidewalks, street-level retail, and other urban characteristics while allowing residential and commercial uses to exist in the same district. The code has been applied to an undeveloped greenfield area slated for redevelopment. Stillwater and Norman Propose Form-Based Codes for Urban Infill Areas Stillwater and Norman are both seeking to adopt form-based codes to guide redevelopment in historic central areas. Stillwater’s code (pdf) would apply to an area between downtown and the Oklahoma State University campus, and could be up for city council approval in April. Norman’s code would apply to the area between downtown and the University of Oklahoma campus, including Campus...

60 Years of Urban Change: West

60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed. We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century. In this post, we look at Western cities. More then-and-now sliders: Northeast | Oklahoma and Texas | Midwest | Southeast Follow IQC on: Twitter | Facebook How to Use Please click and drag the slider to reveal the comparisons between before and after photos. They are not a static left/right comparison, but overlaid on top of each other. Thanks to Matt Skrajner for this gif. Denver, 1953 to 2014 Denver largely avoided large highways within the downtown area, but this 1953 image of Denver shows the beginnings of construction on US-87, which wraps around downtown to the west. However, Denver has had plenty of growth and change since the urban renewal period. The area west of downtown is most transformed, now the site of a theme park, the Pepsi Center, and the University of Colorado-Denver. This area included the working-class Auraria neighborhood, which was destroyed in the 1970s and is now the site of the University of Colorado Denver campus. Albuquerque, 1959 to 2014 Like many other western cities, Albuquerque experienced huge population growth after World War...

60 Years of Urban Change: Northeast

60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed. We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century. In this post, we look at the historic cities of the Northeast. Expect New York City and Washington, DC in a future post. More then-and-now sliders: Oklahoma and Texas | Midwest | Southeast | West Follow IQC on: Twitter | Facebook How to Use Please click and drag the slider to reveal the comparisons between before and after photos. They are not a static left/right comparison, but overlaid on top of each other. Thanks to Matt Skrajner for this gif demonstrating the slider. Boston, 1938 to 2013 Dating from 1938, this Boston aerial image is one of the oldest available dates. Boston’s most dramatic urban renewal story is probably the clearance of the West End neighborhood, in the top center of the photos. Only a handful of landmarks were preserved in this area, which was a Jewish and Irish working class area. According to the West End Museum, a third of old Boston was lost to urban renewal. In contrast, the North End and Beacon Hill neighborhoods are wonderfully preserved historic districts. Another notable change is the...

60 Years of Urban Change: Southeast

60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed. We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century. In this post, we look at Southeastern cities in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. More then-and-now sliders: Oklahoma and Texas | Midwest | Southeast | West Follow IQC on: Twitter | Facebook How to Use Please click and drag the slider to reveal the comparisons between before and after photos. They are not a static left/right comparison, but overlaid on top of each other. Thanks to Matt Skrajner for this gif. South Beach, 1961 to 2014 Starting this post with a contrast to the incredible urban renewal clearance seen in almost all American downtowns we’ve looked at so far. Here’s an example where historic preservation has kept the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach remarkably intact, thanks to activists who at times literally chained themselves to Art Deco hotels in danger of demolition. Miami, 1961 to 2014 In contrast to many of the rust belt cities from the Midwest sliders, many of the cities in the southeast have experienced tremendous growth. This is clearly visible in the case of Miami, where the 2000s...