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Development Authority Hears Plans to Revitalize Neighborhoods North of Downtown Tulsa

A broad plan to transform neighborhoods north of downtown was heard by the Tulsa Development Authority this week.

The plan builds on the authority’s vision for the Unity Heritage Neighborhoods, calling for dense, mixed-use neighborhoods and walkable thoroughfares — some of which existed 60 years ago.

The first of three phases calls for development of mixed-use neighborhoods concentrated in the area bounded by Detroit and Denver avenues, I-244, and Independence Street; extending Greenwood Avenue to the north; and redeveloping the Evans Fintube site.

Architect Jennifer Griffin led the Notre Dame graduate design class that came up with the plan. Griffin said one big challenge will be a lack of current residents to support amenities.

"For a medium-size grocery store, you need about 6,000 people. For a full-size supermarket, you need about 10,000 people. So, if you want that to be in a walkable, mixed-use environment, looking at our square mile of a site, you’re going to need about 6,000 to 10,000 people per square mile here. And remember, we’re about 2,800," Griffin said.

Other challenges designers identified were the area being bordered by highways on three sides and a lack of connections between existing neighborhoods.

Future phases include mixed-use neighborhoods around OSU Tulsa and Langston University, and making Pine Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Greenwood Avenue pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares. Griffin said there’s a major concern among some residents that they’ll be priced out as their community improves.

"A large percentage of this area’s actually — both apartments and single-family homes — are rented, about 40 percent. So, these are the residents that are particularly vulnerable to this displacement," Griffin said.

Developer Clarence Boyd said while the community heard the plan last month, they need to have a stake in implementing it.

"How do we break it down? How do we parcel it out and redevelop it in a way that allows the community to be involved not only providing input, but also being an investor in these deals?" Boyd said.

The Tulsa Development Authority is the first public body to hear the plan to revitalize the area bounded by I-244, Highway 75, Pine Street and the Tisdale Expressway.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.