"The Pearl" an area that will go down in History as a turning point in Tulsa

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It is very pleasant to read Good News associated with the rebirth of Downtown and surrounding areas.
Hopefully the coming year will see much, much more of the same.

2/9/2011 2:09:00 PM
The birth of a community
New developments push Pearl District closer to long-term vision

Jamie Jamieson has a theory about progress and popular perception.

“When one person goes into a blighted urban area, they’re a deranged lunatic,” said Jamieson, developer of The Village at Central Park. “With two, they’re still deranged, but not quite so. When there’s three, they’re not deranged anymore; they’re on the front edge of a curve.”

For a decade, the Pearl District advocate has worn the mantle of neighborhood quixote.

Now, with the opening of Lot No. 6 art gallery and bar, as well as the announcement of The Phoenix Cafe, a new coffee bar by City Councilor Blake Ewing; Square Records LLC, a production company and recording studio by Jeremy Grodhaus; and Black Pearl, a Mediterranean restaurant by Khaled Rahall, it seems Jamieson is finally on the forefront of downtown’s newest hot spot.

“Things are really cooking,” said Dave Strader, an area property owner and president of The Pearl District Association. “It took us a long time to get to this point.”

Originally formed to combat gangs, prostitution and drug use, The Pearl District Association is now fighting for federal funds – and form-based codes – to ensure the area’s continued success.

“You have to have a land-use policy that says, ‘Yes, you can built traditional, mixed-use, funky (and) walkable neighborhoods,’” said Jamieson. “For the last 80 years, the U.S. has enacted rules and policies that say you shall separate schools from homes and shopping from apartments. We need a new code to restore what’s already here, not to mention put in new stuff.”

Oklahoma’s first form-based code applies to The Village at Central Park TIF district, from 11th to Fifth streets and the IDL to Peoria Avenue. The Pearl District Association is now pushing to expand form-based codes east of Peoria Avenue. In November, area representatives presented the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission with a rezoning plan.

“The Pearl is at the forefront of economic development strategy,” said Jamieson. “Unfortunately, the city hasn’t noticed. We’re still wasting our money on widening roads to nowhere instead of investing in sustainable, urban neighborhoods.”

Rachel Navarro, of One Architecture LLC and Live Well Properties, owns several properties in the Pearl District with her husband Shelby Navarro, including the One Architecture building at 418 S. Peoria Ave., Lot No. 6 building at 1323 E. Sixth St. and Pearl Place at 1302 E. Sixth St. where The Phoenix Cafe and Square Records will open this spring.

The couple also owns the E House at 1319 E. Sixth St.; it is vacant.

“When we first started thinking about these projects, it was sort of like a pipe dream,” Navarro said. “Now, not only does it seem perfectly reasonable to us, it makes sense to other people, too.”

Strader, who has been working to improve the Pearl District since the late 1970s, said The Village at Central Park was the area’s first “big accomplishment.”

Today, the 60-unit, Georgetown-inspired development at 754 S. Norfolk Ave. is fully occupied, although Jamieson said some local realtors initially urged clients to avoid the urban neighborhood.

“Our concept was for a walkable, healthy neighborhood,” Jamieson said. “We wanted to create a beachhead to say it is possible for serious-minded people to invest their assets and to be happy and live comfortably in the inner city.”

Jamieson said he views The Village at Central Park, combined with the neighboring Centennial Park and Cultural Center, as the “first pearl” of what he hopes will be “a whole string.”

“We’re going to have a canal run down the middle of Sixth Street, which is part of a new, really creative solution to the neighborhood being in a flood basin,” said Jamieson.

The Pearl District Association is also working to secure $8 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to construct a 65 acre-feet detention pond at Fifth Place and Owasso Avenue. Long-term plans call for a 113 acre-feet pond near Eighth Street and Quincy Avenue.

“Places like Amsterdam and Venice have canals running down the streets and tall buildings on either side,” Jamieson said. “That’s what we’re thinking about here — an urban canal and waterway system so when we detain water, it’s not only stormwater detention, but also the context for repopulation, revitalization. It adds value, rather than subtracting value.”

High-density housing is planned around the ponds.

“Whether the canal happens or not — and, frankly, I would be thrilled if it did — I think the addition of the floodwater ponds, especially on the east side are a good thing,” Ewing said. “I think we’ll see a residential renewal following the commercial.”

Khaled Rahall, owner of the recently reopened Eclipse Cultural House, has been invested in the Pearl District for 35 years. He owns about 20 properties and plans to open Black Pearl, a Mediterranean restaurant and rotisserie at 1334 E. Sixth St., in March. He formerly owned Vagabond Restaurant.

“We will serve the same Mediterranean food we served back then,” Rahall said. “We will also have an outdoor facility and possibly a wine bar.”

Rahall said the Pearl District’s continued revitalization depends on the city.

“I have heard this for many, many years,” Rahall said, referring to new plans for the area. “I went to meeting after meeting for the neighborhood — and nothing. We’re still in a flood zone.”

Jamieson admitted progress is slow moving, but said the number of new investors coming into the area are suggestive of its recent successes.

“Leading change in a city that is pretty sclerotic is difficult,” he said. “Tulsa is still populated by a lot of people who don’t want anything to change, who are locked into the way they’ve always done things.

“But if you’re not delivering what the new demographics of people want, if you’re not delivering to the value system of new generations, then you’re going to be history. Tulsa has to realize entire paradigms are changing and that we must think and do things differently if we are to survive, let alone prosper.”

Pearl District zoning informational meeting set

By KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Published: 12/18/2011  2:23 AM
Last Modified: 12/18/2011  5:33 AM

Planning officials on Monday will hold a public meeting to discuss a proposal to apply the city's newly adopted form-based code to the entire Pearl District.

"It's an informational meeting to introduce the form-based code to the property owners," said Wayne Alberty with the Indian Nations Council of Governments. "The informational meetings are being held before the public hearing before the Planning Commission."

Monday's meeting will be the third of its kind. INCOG officials have given two presentations to business owners in the district. Monday's meeting is open to all residential property owners in the district or anyone else interested in the new code.

In April, the City Council voted to add the form-based code to its zoning regulations and applied it to a pilot area made up of a small section of the district with fewer than 100 properties. Alberty estimated that there are about 1,000 properties within the Pearl District.

The district as it is known today was created in 2006 as the Sixth Street Infill Plan. It covers slightly more than one-half square mile stretching from Interstate 244 to 11th Street and from Utica Avenue to the Inner Dispersal Loop.

The Pearl District Design Team, a citizens group, advocated for the creation of the infill plan with the intent of using a form-based code to implement it.

Unlike the current zoning code, which focuses on the separation of land uses and accommodates the automobile, the form-based code calls for the creation of a dense, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood such as those found in urban communities.

The code addresses issues such as a structure's orientation or placement on a lot, its height, and the use of windows and doors to create an inviting setting for passers-by. It also focuses on the streetscape, including lighting and trees.

The form-based code can, in theory, be applied to any section of town. However, each section of town that adopts the code creates its own regulating plan. The plan sets out in detail what is and is not allowed within the area as well as what is required.

Plans are created by interested parties in cooperation with the city. The plans must be adopted by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and approved by the City Council. Only then can a request be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council.

Even as the push to expand the form-based code to the entire Pearl District moves forward, the Planning Commission is working to fine-tune the new code.

Commissioners, at the request of the City Council, are working to address a provision in the new code that has some property owners concerned.

The provision requires property owners to rebuild according to the standards of the new form-based code in the event a structure is destroyed in a natural disaster or fire, even if the structure existed before the form-based code was applied.

I'm very happy to see the expansion of the form based codes... now I'm wondering what all they have in mind for the shape of development in this area.


“Leading change in a city that is pretty sclerotic is difficult,” he said. “Tulsa is still populated by a lot of people who don’t want anything to change, who are locked into the way they’ve always done things.

Flea on the back of the dog.  It's always been this way, since the early 70's.

So, I couldn't get the link to The World article, but the article in today's paper about the form based codes was seriously one-sided.  It was completely omited that existing building are grandfathered in.


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