Muskogee Downtown Plan Steering Committee Meeting
November 2, 2016, 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Neighbors Building Neighborhoods Non-Profit Resource Center
207 North 2nd Street, Muskogee, OK 74401
Wren Stratton, Committee Chair – Depot District
Ann Barker Ong – Action in Muskogee Co-Chair
Darla Bennett – City of Muskogee Economic Development Coordinator
Hon. Marlon Coleman – City Council
Reggie Cotton – Muskogee Police Department
Joel Cousins – Historic Preservation Commission
Gary Garvin – City of Muskogee Director of Planning
Hon. Wayne Johnson – City Council/Chairman Downtown Muskogee Inc.
Johni Wardwell – Muskogee Community Foundation
Mayor Bob Coburn – Mayor
Frank Cooper – Arrowhead Mall
Eric Miller – Port of Muskogee
Mike Miller – City of Muskogee
Oscar Ray – Bare Bones Film Festival
Johnny Teehee – City of Muskogee
DJ Thompson – Muskogee Chamber of Commerce
Sue Vanderford – Pinon Creek
Ron Drake – Ron Drake Consulting
Rex Eskridge – Muskogee Police Department
Dakota Jones – City of Muskogee Safety Manager
Doug Walton – Muskogee Health Department
Mark Wilkerson – City of Muskogee Parks Director
Project Team Present
Shane Hampton – OU Institute for Quality Communities
Shawn Schaefer – OU Urban Design Studio
1. Welcome and Introduction of New Members
2. Review of Progress and Schedule
Shawn Schaefer presented a review of the progress in the research and mapping stage. The project team is becoming familiar with the landscape and conditions of downtown Muskogee. The project is on schedule.
3. Discussion of Success Stories
Shawn Schaefer led the group in a discussion of Muskogee’s successes. Muskogee has made significant progress in recent years. Many individuals on the steering committee have been directly involved in successful efforts that have improved Muskogee:
- The formation of the community foundation is a great asset in Muskogee, as well as a potential ‘pathway’ for obtaining future hopes.
- Muskogee has engaged in excellent planning efforts, including the strategic plan, comprehensive plan, and Depot District plans. Almost everything in the recent plans has been accomplished or tried.
- Muskogee has had a number of great capital improvements and processes, including the Hatbox Sports Complex and events, the Little Muskogee Theater, and the Downtown Housing Initiative.
- Action in Muskogee has engaged hundreds of citizens and made progress on important community issues.
- The Martin Luther King Community Center is a fantastic new resource.
- New businesses and renovations like Hoope’s Hardware and other small businesses have created a vibrant area along the Main Street Katy District. Another renovated business success is the Club Lunch.
- The city has awarded 45 properties to new residents to build houses on, and cleared or repaired more than 600 structures that were in bad condition.
- New wayfinding system and gateways are helping create an identity for downtown Muskogee districts and destinations.
- Parks and trails have been improved and expanded.
- Education institutions in Muskogee have received a number of accolades: the Muskogee High School and Early Childhood Center have both earned the National School of Character award, Sadler Arts Academy has earned the Blue Ribbon School designation and the Rougher Alternative Academy won the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Alternative Education from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.
- Education institutions have also added innovative new facilities: The New Tech Academy has high-tech classrooms and laboratories for junior high STEM education, and Muskogee High School has created a Fab Lab with equipment for 3D printing, laser cutters, and other tools for creating and making.
- The Shawnee Bypass retail corridor and Four Corners areas have seen major commercial growth and 80 new apartments.
4. Presentation of Data and Analysis to Date
Shane Hampton and Shawn Schaefer presented items that the project team has been working on. Shane Hampton discussed how urban renewal efforts of the 1960s through 1980s have been a part of changes downtown. The population of downtown Muskogee and surrounding neighborhoods has declined since the 1970s, even while the total population of the city stayed about the same. Many towns and cities had similar urban renewal programs, including new downtown shopping malls. Urban renewal programs of this period often leave both challenges and opportunities.
Move the slider bar to compare Muskogee in 1972 vs. 2011.
Shawn Schaefer shared more themes the team is considering. For example:
- The urban fabric of downtown is a striking contrast from the Arrowhead Mall.
- Downtown Muskogee has the benefit of being a significant employment center, but there are many commuters coming from long distances.
- Downtown lacks good residential options, but there are programs like the Housing Incentive Program and incentives for new loft housing available. Some studies predict the demand for new housing is small in the area, but people who work in Muskogee but live elsewhere are seen as a potential target market.
- Suburban commercial and residential development corridors compete with downtown development potential. This growth is based on strong traffic counts and regional connections, but city policies and incentives are also playing a role in encouraging new development in these corridors.
- There is a shortage of nightlife and 24-hour activity, for example on Broadway. However, there are venues and bars that provide entertainment options in the evening and for events.
- The street grid has some connectivity issues, with east-west flow very predictable, but north-south movement in the downtown area disrupted by superblocks like the Arrowhead Mall.
- Downtown Muskogee has a fantastic stock of historic buildings. While many are occupied and in good condition, some need to be secured and preserved.
- Downtown Muskogee is a very large area, comparable to the size of downtown Tulsa. There is a scale issue and a need to prioritize certain areas, or break down the overall downtown into smaller districts to focus on.
- Food stores are located on outlying arterials with high traffic counts. Many people in Muskogee are within a ½-mile or 1-mile walking distance to a grocery or food store, but there is evidence for a ‘food desert’ in downtown and the area to the south and west. These areas also have more likelihood for poverty and lack of transportation.
- There may be new greenspace opportunities around downtown, to balance the amount of pavement found in the area.
The next steering committee meeting is Wednesday, December 7, at 3:30 p.m.