City Unveils Blueprint for Improving Tulsa's 30-Block Arena District

Jan 8, 2019

City of Tulsa officials have big plans for the 30-block downtown area that includes the BOK Center and Cox Business Center.

Planning and design firm MKSK Principal Chris Hermann said the Arena District Master Plan should make more cohesive a gateway to the city millions of visitors see as fragmented.

"The really critical assets that you have here, how do we better connect them both within the district and to downtown? And part of that is creating an active, vibrant, 18-hour neighborhood, and that includes great livable spaces," Hermann said.

The Arena District Master Plan includes street work, improved public spaces like parks and three "signature projects" that are anticipated to include public and private investment: an expanded convention center with hotel, redeveloping the Page Belcher Federal Building, and a new Denver Avenue transit center.

The Page Belcher Federal Building redevelopment could take one of several shapes, but the preferred option in the plan calls for splitting the block it's on to clear a path connecting the BOK Center to the Cox Business Center. That path would have a mixed-use residential building on the west side and a mixed-use office building on the east.

Other potential major changes in the plan are reclaiming Fifth Street west of Denver Avenue as an open-air pedestrian area called Civic Center Commons and creating a through street called Civic Center Drive along what is now Frisco Avenue to connect Third Street to Sixth Street.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation would also be asked to realign I-244 ramps as part of converting First Street to a two-way street.

While the Arena District Master Plan's projects are all aimed at making the district more cohesive and better connected to the rest of the city, Hermann said no project is dependent upon the others.

"I don’t want people to think that if we don’t achieve any one piece of this vision, the vision won’t go anywhere. This is a vision that is responsive to the market and, we think, really will help you achieve things across — incrementally — across the next 15 years," Hermann said.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said the plan will not collect dust on a shelf.

"This is a plan that we will be focusing on in the implementation of the Improve Our Tulsa renewal that we’re focused on that council and I will be developing and working on with the citizens of Tulsa and asking for their consideration before the end of this year," Bynum said.

Development of the Arena District Master Plan began in February 2018. It could be adopted by the city council next week.