The Institute for Quality Communities within the College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma (OUIQC), is a forum for researchers, students and Oklahoma community leaders to collaborate in an effort to enhance Oklahoma communities. The Institute provides assistance and expertise on the forces of community growth and decline with a specific focus on improving the practice of community planning, design and governance.
Placemaking: Western Avenue
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Spring 2013
The IQC is looking at placemaking and the potential for an urban design framework for a unique stretch of Western Avenue in north Oklahoma City. You can follow along on the project’s website.
Shawnee, Oklahoma – Fall 2012
The IQC partnered with OU Regional & City Planning to manage the 2012 Comprehensive Planning Studio. The Shawnee Chamber of Commerce worked with the IQC to set the guidelines for a downtown revitalization plan. A team of thirteen planning and landscape architecture students worked to conduct building inventories, public meetings, and stakeholder interviews. A 10-member steering committee consisted of local leaders from the city government, school district, tribes, and business community.With a history of planning efforts that have fizzled, Shawnee wanted a plan that would be straightforward and attainable. The students designed the plan with a series of “stepping stones” as action items. Stepping stones offered short-term rewards as well as long-term projects to make the changes sustainable. The plan document also included “Success Stories” – short examples of simple strategies that have been used in similar communities. Most Success Stories in the plan are from Oklahoma towns.
Just two months after the final plan was presented to Shawnee, one stepping stone was already underway. Edmond-based Pelco Products worked with the IQC to donate Shawnee’s first pedestrian wayfinding sign, pointing the way to various attractions downtown.
Public Space, Public Life
Norman, Oklahoma – Spring 2012
Public Space, Public Life Norman is modeled on the work of Danish urban designer Jan Gehl. Students focused on the urban core of Norman including the University of Oklahoma campus, Campus Corner neighborhood, and Main Street. Study topics included bus ridership patterns, lighting, facade analysis, public seating inventory, population, auto traffic counts, and detailed bike and pedestrian traffic counts. The study revealed more than 6,000 daily pedestrian trips on OU’s South Oval and explores the patterns of the traffic throughout the day.
Historic Park Theater Report
Ardmore, Oklahoma – May 2011
The Park Theater was operating as early as 1928 as the Ritz Theater in Ardmore. Historic theaters often undergo many layers of renovation work over the years. In the late 1980s, the theater was converted to a 3-level mini-mall. The building is now owned by Noble Energy, which has a headquarters on the other side of the alley behind the theater. Noble Energy had a need for a storage facility and had previously considered removing the theater for parking or to build a storage facility.
With a goal of historic preservation, the IQC assisted in developing a plan to build a storage facility, conference room, and employee exercise facility within the Shell of the Park Theater. The IQC identified and collaborated with local organizations that could help make the project happen.
The team included IQC staff members, faculty and students from the College of Architecture Divisions of Interior Design and Architecture, and a representative from the Oklahoma Main Street Center.
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma – Spring 2012
As part of the IQC Community Workshop course, students focused on ideas for reuse of the remnants of the historic Alvis Hotel next to the Pauls Valley Amtrak station. The hotel burned in September 2009, leaving only portions of the shell of the building. An adjacent three-story structure is also on the site. Students came up with ideas about what can be done to use the space while respecting the history of the building’s ruins.
During the semester, students traveled with Professor Ron Frantz and Associate Director Hope Mander to examine a variety of historic buildings, renovation projects, and new construction. The field trips to Pauls Valley, Shawnee, Oklahoma City, and Sulphur provided interesting precedent studies to help the students envision a future for the Alvis Hotel. Along the way, property owners, developers, construction company representatives, Main Street directors and volunteers, and preservationists helped explain behind the scenes information about the building projects. The students were surprised by the great projects and dedicated people in Oklahoma, especially in the smaller towns.
Depew, Oklahoma – Fall 2011
Depew is a town of less than five hundred residents along historic Route 66 between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The five-block main street has impressive historic structures, but many were vacant and in disrepair. The two-day charrette featured meetings with residents and local officials to identify the goal of creating a ‘postcard moment’ that could get Route 66 travelers to stop in the town as well as provide a source of pride for the community.A major priority was making the strategy easy to implement in such a small community, using the lighter, quicker, cheaper approach. The simple strategy was based on a pun of Depew’s name. The recommended ‘postcard moment’ is a church pew with a vinyl wrap including the Route 66 logo, placed in the middle of the street to capture the charming main street facades in the background. Branding on the town’s prominent water tower and new wayfinding along Route 66 would encourage travelers to “Have a seat in De Pew on Route 66.”
Several months after the project, the town held a festival unveiling a temporary installation of the pew. At least one restaurant opened downtown as a result of the new interest in Main Street. In many ways, this project represents the successful use of tactical urbanism in community development.
Interdisciplinary team members came from the Institute for Quality Communities, OU-Tulsa Urban Design Studio, OU School of Art & Art History, and Indian Nations Council of Governments.
Attributes of Quality Communities
Quality Communities connect people through nourishing relationships of all types and across generations, including: family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and fellow citizens. They reinforce and strengthen these relationships through shared experiences and regular interactions, building understanding and awareness, and increasing social capital. They encourage neighborliness and inspire the sharing of time and resources to help others and the community as a whole.
Contextual & Sustainable
Quality Communities understand and adapt to their context. They take advantage of the opportunities and address the challenges of local geography and climate, as well as industry and economy. They appreciate community assets of both the built and natural landscape, and steward those assets appropriately for the benefit of future generations.
Healthy & Safe
Quality Communities maintain the safety and well-being of people. They actively support and enable habits, activities, and lifestyles that lead to whole and healthy people, and offer access to any required care and treatment for those that might need it. They protect all citizens and their belongings. They provide access to food, shelter, environment and resources that are safe and healthy. Quality communities are safe and healthy for all users, of any age, at any time.
Engaged & Collaborative
Quality Communities have a sense of who they are and where they are going. Their history and identity are clear and easily understood. Meaningful public discourse is encouraged and citizens are engaged in public processes that seek community input and open decision-making towards a shared vision for the future. Community members volunteer their time, skills and resources towards the community’s betterment, creating a cared for place that is worthy of affection.
Quality Communities offer goods, services and civic amenities that are accessible to all members of the community. They feature a mix of housing convenient to employment, shopping, dining, entertainment and schools. They encourage a variety of transportation options that provide people – independent of their age or income – the ability to safely and enjoyably move about the community.
Thriving & Prosperous
Quality Communities encourage learning, growth and economic productivity. They provide an environment that promotes continuous education and learning, and seeks the individual improvement and growth of all members of the community. They offer jobs that allow community members to contribute their skills and abilities, and be fairly compensated for their efforts. Their businesses – both large and small – have access to the people, financing, markets and other resources needed to be successful.