Muskogee Downtown Plan Steering Committee Meeting

December 7, 2016, 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Neighbors Building Neighborhoods Non-Profit Resource Center
207 North 2nd Street, Muskogee, OK 74401

Members Present

Wren Stratton, Committee Chair – Depot District
Darla Bennett – City of Muskogee Economic Development Coordinator
Mayor Bob Coburn – Mayor
Reggie Cotton – Muskogee Police Department
Frank Cooper – Arrowhead Mall/McKinley Real Estate
Gary Garvin – City of Muskogee Director of Planning
Wayne Johnson – City Council/Chairman Downtown Muskogee Inc.
Sue Vanderford – Pinon Creek Trading
Johni Wardwell – Muskogee Community Foundation

Members Absent

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

Others Present

Tish Callahan – City of Muskogee Planning Department
Joel Cousins –Downtown Resident & Property Owner
Ron Drake – Downtown Consultant
Avery Frix – Roxy Theater/State Representative
Brandon Garner – Muskogee Police Department Community Resource Officer
George Kingston – Assistant Public Works Director City of Muskogee
Mary Kay Martin – Muskogee community volunteer
Sig Schoonover – Muskogee community volunteer
Doug Walton – Muskogee Health Department
Mark Wilkerson – City of Muskogee Parks Director

Project Team Present

Ron Frantz – OU Institute for Quality Communities
Shane Hampton – OU Institute for Quality Communities
Shawn Schaefer – OU Urban Design Studio

1. Welcome and Review of Progress

Committee Chair Wren Stratton began the meeting and Shawn Schaefer presented a review of project progress. The project is approximately halfway complete. The team has analyzed the conditions of downtown and documented the assets of downtown. The community hope survey is still in progress. Approximately 300 responses have been received and the team is looking for a total of 384 responses for optimal results. Click here to take the survey until it is closed.

The community workshop was also a success, and the team will now move on to formulate the plan and explore potential urban design strategies.

2. Results of Community Hope Workshop


The team presented the results of what the team learned at the Community Hope Workshop on November 15. About 150 people came through the workshop to provide input, and the team identified five major themes based on discussion with community members. The themes are presented in the slides below:

Some additional discussion from those present at the steering committee focused on the Arrowhead Mall. Frank Cooper, the general manager of the mall, reported that the mall’s new ownership group, McKinley Institutional Commercial Real Estate, is enthusiastic about getting started with maintenance and appearance upgrades to the mall. Johni Wardwell added that the food court at the mall is often used as a meeting space, and that this could be a good civic use to consider with the mall. Additionally, some citizens present at the meeting discussed that the mall property could be a good location for a senior community center. This may be a good fit because seniors are already drawn to the mall for indoor walking, and because the mall is already at the center of the existing public transportation network.
Also, the committee requested an investigation of parking management issues in downtown Muskogee: Should Muskogee have parking with 2-hour limits in downtown? How should the parking supply be managed? Past issues with downtown employees parking in prime customer parking led to the existing time limits.

3. Pathways for Achieving Plan Goals


The committee brainstormed potential ‘pathways’ for implementation of strategies that may be recommended in the plan. Some of the top pathways mentioned include the Muskogee Community Foundation grants, work by consultant Ron Drake, the City’s capital improvement program, general obligation bonds, and citizen initiatives as in the example of Oklahoma City’s MAPs. Additionally, demonstrating that certain types of development can be profitable for developers may be another pathway.

In a discussion about traffic management, a traffic study or experimentation with traffic controls were mentioned as possible pathways toward implementing changes to stop lights downtown. Could some stoplights be replaced with stop signs?

The committee discussed the existing incentives for housing in central Muskogee. Loft units downtown are entitled to a $7,500 incentive for 2-bedroom units, or $4,500 for 1-bedroom units. Single-family homes on vacant lots, however, are entitled to much larger incentives. Some mentioned that the downtown apartment incentive could be expanded to get the ball rolling for downtown housing.

4. Arrowhead Mall Design Competition

In the spring, there will be a collaboration of several professors at the OU College of Architecture in the fields of Architecture, City Planning, and Landscape Architecture. 26 students will form 6 interdisciplinary teams to provide design concepts for the property around Arrowhead Mall. The teams will be working according to an established competition brief prepared by students at the Urban Design Studio in Tulsa.

The committee discussed that students should consider business implications of proposed changes at the mall. Will changes help grow the tax base generated by the property? Will proposals be feasible according to the market realities in Muskogee?

The committee clarified that the competition teams should consider both the exterior and interior of the mall.

5. New Business

Meeting guest Sig Schoonover discussed the idea for an excellent senior activity center for Muskogee. Schoonover recently visited the Cohen Center near Augusta, Maine, which is a nice new facility for seniors to meet each other, have lunch, and participate in activities. This type of activity center could fit as part of adding new activities for downtown Muskogee.

6. Next Meeting

The next meeting will be Wednesday, January 4, at 3:30 p.m.