The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has concluded, though staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation are still sending in field reports. Today, Barbara Campagna, Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, shares her experiences on a green tour and final thoughts on Tulsa.
I was in Tulsa for four days before I was actually able to get out of downtown, and start to feel like there may just be a community here. I took a wonderful tour Friday afternoon, “Going Green Tulsa Style”, led by the passionate and amusing Ken Busby, executive director & CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa. From Ken I learned that 60% of Tulsa’s downtown core is covered with parking lots and that the neighborhoods, communities and culture exist on the edge of downtown or the older “suburbs”. That encouraged me a bit, although I would like to understand sometime what happened to downtown Tulsa to devastate it to such an extent. There is no retail, few restaurants, no pharmacies, grocery stores, or dry cleaners anywhere in sight downtown. And while many downtowns around the country go dormant on the weekends, I have never seen a major city that is dormant during the week also. Let’s be honest, I was pretty depressed my first few days here. I saw no people, few cars, no sign of activity or life on downtown streets until Saturday –- when the streets came alive with runners for the Tulsa 5K in the morning and hockey-goers for the game at the new Cesar Pelli BOK Center in the evening. Ah hah! I figured, there are people close enough to enjoy these activities so maybe there is hope that downtown Tulsa may be reactivated and come alive again in the future.
First Street Lofts
All of the buildings on our “Going Green” Tour were outside of or on the edge of downtown. Our first stop was the First Street Lofts, a warehouse being adapted for use as 17 condos (ranging from 550 sq. ft. to 3,500 sq. ft.) with ground-floor retail. The First Street Lofts are your classic 20th century warehouse -– steel and concrete frame with brick infill walls. It was hard to tell what is actually happening there since it’s in the midst of construction and unfortunately, due to some glitches in scheduling, the owner never made it while we were there. So beyond the fact that an existing building is being reused, I can’t really confirm how “green” the project is. It did seem that an effort was being made to salvage materials with bricks and steel structure etc., being piled up in corners, hopefully to be recycled and not to end up in a landfill.
But Ken was able to tell us about a city program called Vision 2025 which is providing encouragement and funding to developers to improve the residential density of downtown. The developer of this project is receiving $3 million towards the work, which is the first of 5 projects to be funded and launched under this program. The intent is that the housing should be as affordable as possible and start to increase the dire lack of housing downtown.
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