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November 23, 2017, 06:08:58 pm
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Author Topic: Downtown Overlay, Take 2!  (Read 1510 times)
cannon_fodder
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« on: May 02, 2017, 07:29:15 am »

Various parties are already getting their hackles up for a zoning fight downtown:

Tulsa World editorial: City again considers restricting downtown property rights
Downtown was built by visionaries, not regulations


And, of course, this isn't the first time this discussion has occurred:

Downtown Dustup: Why City Councilor Blake Ewing has some property owners really, really mad

Last night I tried to find the actual proposal for new zoning downtown, and I failed.  I couldn't find the actual plan.  Someone help me and, better yet, explain what is actually in the proposal.
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2017, 11:03:16 am »

I don't believe there is an actual proposal at this time. There was a page or two referring an overlay in the Walkability Assessment:
 http://downtowntulsaok.com/about/walkabletulsa/

But that's just a 'sample' and discussion of why there should be one. There's a Downtown Coordinating Council meeting this week where maybe they'll discuss it? I'm not sure the protocol for materializing Speck's stuff, but I'm assuming that's the rebirth of this
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2017, 08:01:20 am »

Ewing chimes in on the downtown overlay:

Quote
Overlays have proven to be a valuable tool for both small and large cities nationwide who seek to enhance the built-environment, both in the public and private realms.  These tools help achieve a sense of place by providing specific direction or development standards in areas of critical importance.  They are implemented for both the protection and/or enhancement of the community’s quality of life.
https://smartgrowthtulsa.org/blake-ewing-advocates-for-a-downtown-tulsa-zoning-overlay/

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RecycleMichael
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2017, 08:42:17 am »

I am hesitant to support this overlay.

I don't know what downtown growth will happen next year, let alone ten or twenty years from now. But this is going to be a bunch of people in 2017 putting down rules on property that they don't own because they have a vision of what it should look like.

I am not sure having my neighbors completely decide what I can or can't do on my property is wise downtown. The current rules seem to be encouraging development and downtown is really progressing. My fear is that a bunch of new rules could stifle that.

Or we can just have some bossy people demand they get to write the rules.
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« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2017, 07:48:29 am »

I am hesitant to support this overlay.

I don't know what downtown growth will happen next year, let alone ten or twenty years from now. But this is going to be a bunch of people in 2017 putting down rules on property that they don't own because they have a vision of what it should look like.

I am not sure having my neighbors completely decide what I can or can't do on my property is wise downtown. The current rules seem to be encouraging development and downtown is really progressing. My fear is that a bunch of new rules could stifle that.

Or we can just have some bossy people demand they get to write the rules.

From what I gather, and what I hope, this won't be a "bunch of rules" but will be very limited in scope with only a handful of rules.  It should be limited to only a few important "connecting corridors" that we want to be pedestrian friendly.  

Worry about the future of retail and development downtown? Let me tell you, the world is rapidly changing and this could be the one thing that makes a difference and saves our downtown.  Experiences will sell more than "things" or rather, if you want people to buy from brick and mortar, it also has to be coupled with a highly competitive, positive experience.  A crappy, disjointed downtown will not offer a competitive experience to help facilitate retail in it.  This is a critical time, the retail world is changing "bigly".  And its a critical time downtown in that there are only a few viable connecting corridors left in downtown and if they are not developed with even the most modicum of pedestrians friendly qualities, your screwed. We may survive, but we will not flourish.

1.  There is the old saying "There are 2 ways to make a lot of splash.  A. Throw in a big boulder. B.  Throw in a lot of smaller but coordinated pebbles."   This should simply be a way of coordinating some development downtown to help it make a lot of "splash".  

2.  If its good for the goose, it's good for the gander.  If suburban style, auto centric rules work so well for the rest of the city, then why can't urban style, pedestrian/transit centric rules work well for downtown?

I do not like the hypocrisy of people when they complain about adding rules downtown to help facilitate pedestrians and transit, but then when you suggest getting rid of the rules in the rest of the city that help facilitate car oriented development, they holler that they "like those rules! They help development!"  Development may happen either way, but the quality of the development will suffer downtown if you do not either get rid of the auto centric zoning in the rest of the city (which then impacts the little island of downtown) or protect some select corridors downtown with a small handful of rules that can help pedestrian friendly and transit oriented development thrive as well.
 

In some cities they have indeed gone to extremes with their rules, but this is in no way remotely close to that kind of scenario.  Not by light years. We are simply requesting the kind of basic rules that most people (including many banks and developers) are shocked and surprised that we don't already have in place.


I would really be honored if you and or the misses would go on a short walk with me downtown.  It's really hard to explain some things in a post without it rambling and getting too long.  This is very important and I will make sure to have the time available whenever you all are.  

Everywhere, all over the country where they have developed pedestrian lively/transit friendly developments those areas are bustling and thriving.  Our downtown is still not doing that.  Mayfest and Blue Dome Festival, you know how things are those few days?  That kind of life and foot traffic should be normal every day for a city our size!  What we have now is a sad joke and an embarrassment.  And the level of development we have had is pitiful as well.  We sit here and rattle around in our little "blinders on" world patting ourselves on the back while others look at us in shock and horror and ask "Whats wrong with your downtown? Where is everyone?" And if we do not implement this this very limited set of basic coordinating rules, we will very likely be hearing people ask that 10-20 years from now as well.  
 
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2017, 12:08:50 pm »

Development is heavily regulated by zoning in every other part of the city.  That is done to preserve the character and appeal of neighborhoods. 

Why does downtown, arguably the most important neighborhood in the whole city, not rate any protections?  The Tulsa World comes to mind - tearing down the Art Deco Skelly building



and replaced it with that godawful black cube of death.  It's the kind of cube where Darth Vader takes smoke breaks



You put that exam same building in Maple Ridge and people would lose their minds.  Why is putting it downtown, which belongs to the whole city, OK then?


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TheArtist
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« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2017, 12:39:42 pm »

Just ran across this from Jane Jacobs who wrote "The Death and Life of Great American Cities"


"Citizen Jane opens with a line from The Death and Life of Great American Cities typewritten across the screen: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”"


I run into and chat with multiple developers downtown all the time.  It has become quite clear that their interests and my interests are often quite different. They see the world from a different perspective, their perspective.  And that is fine.  But I think we will be strongest and have the best downtown if more peoples perspectives and interests are accounted for.  I am often stunned and shocked at some of the comments I hear, even when they "think" they are doing something that they think will help me the retailer out, but I know it will do nothing for me or will actually hurt me.  They just simply do not know the world from my perspective.  And granted, I have to understand that I do not fully know theirs. 

If I were to be king of downtown for a day I could really lay down some serious zoning let me tell you lol.  But really I wouldn't,  because I try to be open minded and remind myself that I do not know everything.  What I have seen proposed for the overlay is really a very watered down, very simple, very basic, very limited, giving the developers aaaall kinds of leeway, sort of deal.  They would still be the dominant consideration putting my concerns and perspectives way below theirs.  And still some of them complain that they are some sort of victim, meanwhile us "small people" just have to sit and wait and hope that they don't do things that will destroy us, all our hopes, dreams, hard work and efforts.  Like a leaf in a windstorm we, and the city, are completely at their mercy and whim.  This small overlay thing can give so many of us a great deal of positive energy and hope that things can indeed work out in the end.  TOGETHER we can use our talents and abilities to make a great and wonderful city


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« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2017, 04:59:51 pm »

 I just am not as reassured as you guys that these rules will be minor. I appreciate that many people have a vision of what they want, but so do the actual investors in downtown. Last time this was proposed, most of the people putting money into downtown were opposed. They tried to get their views across and were ignored or berated.

That is the thing I don't want. We have people putting up their money now, and there is talk of stopping all that unless it fits other people visions.

My experiences have been different than most of you. My grandfather had a business at 4th and Cheyenne that was torn down because an attorney bought an office building across the street and wanted closer parking. I am involved in a festival downtown that gives up large parts of our festival area because the fire marshall says we have to have a break every two booths and the city attorney says we can't play music before noon or after 1 pm on weekdays. I was involved in getting an awning on a building at 11th and Cheyenne four years ago that took two years for approval because it extended over a public sidewalk.

Little rules drive me crazy and can drive investors away too.

I am not convinced. I have played, worked, hung out in downtown for over 40 years. It is booming now more than any time in my lifetime. Now doesn't not seem the best time to suddenly add new regulations without serious consideration of all sides.

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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2017, 09:33:30 pm »

I just am not as reassured as you guys that these rules will be minor. I appreciate that many people have a vision of what they want, but so do the actual investors in downtown. Last time this was proposed, most of the people putting money into downtown were opposed. They tried to get their views across and were ignored or berated.

That is the thing I don't want. We have people putting up their money now, and there is talk of stopping all that unless it fits other people visions.

My experiences have been different than most of you. My grandfather had a business at 4th and Cheyenne that was torn down because an attorney bought an office building across the street and wanted closer parking. I am involved in a festival downtown that gives up large parts of our festival area because the fire marshall says we have to have a break every two booths and the city attorney says we can't play music before noon or after 1 pm on weekdays. I was involved in getting an awning on a building at 11th and Cheyenne four years ago that took two years for approval because it extended over a public sidewalk.

Little rules drive me crazy and can drive investors away too.

I am not convinced. I have played, worked, hung out in downtown for over 40 years. It is booming now more than any time in my lifetime. Now doesn't not seem the best time to suddenly add new regulations without serious consideration of all sides.



Let me tell you about last time.  There were a lot of developers who were for it.  The first vote on the DCC there was only 1 "for" vote "that was me" by the time the second vote came around it was 7 "for" votes as more people started to learn about it.  But even those last no votes were mainly driven by one person who has a lot of time and money to go to every meeting, meet and pal around with the other developers, and try to convince them its a bad idea.  A lot of the information that was being put out there was absolutely wrong or mischaracterized for when some of the developers did get up and speak against it, it was obvious they had some terribly wrong ideas about what that overlay would do and allow.  They were livid about things that had nothing to do with what we were trying to do!  And I was unable to get some of the larger developers that I had talked to, who supported the overlay, to the meeting which was unfortunate.  As for them trying to get their views across and being ignored or berated.  The overlay we originally proposed was designed with their concerns in mind.  We "watered" it down, talked to people, tried to address their concerns and made adjustments, worked on it more, made it "weaker" etc. until it was practically nothing.  I don't think any city anywhere would have had a zoning overlay as "minor" as what we came up with.  Those of us who wanted something, and yes we invested in downtown too, got nothing. Blake has invested in downtown,  Elliot Nelson has invested in downtown, Warren Ross has invested and developed a lot in downtown, I have invested in downtown, we and others were FOR the overlay got our views ignored and berated.


As for your examples, most of them are not about zoning and the awning thing is precisely something that should be fixed.  In many cities they actually help businesses on their downtown retail corridors pay for awnings for they realize that it helps increase pedestrian traffic and thus sales and helps the city financially.  Some even go so far as to PAY for the awning entirely! And yes, when we looked into putting in a practice on 11th we were told it would have been illegal to put an awning out over the sidewalk! Again, thats just one example of the types of zoning in the rest of the city that hamper pedestrian friendly areas from developing, and add on to that the rules that encourage auto centric development.  And that impacts downtown.  So yes, like I said, if you're not going to add zoning downtown, get rid of the zoning in the rest of the city.  But if you're not going to get rid of the zoning in the rest of the city, then allow some protective zoning downtown. 

And what is this "talk of stopping all that" unless it fits other peoples vision?  Can you give me an example? Sounds like the same threats and fear tactics that were used last time.  You know, the zoning things I would like done in parts of downtown work so very well in other cities.  Developers like them, banks like them, it helps investors have confidence, etc.  But, whenever I talk about them those against, start talking about extreme examples like "San Francisco" and saying how terrible it is and how it would hurt us to have that..... but again THAT is not what we are proposing! lol. Are they just not hearing?   

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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2017, 06:51:44 am »

I just am not as reassured as you guys that these rules will be minor. I appreciate that many people have a vision of what they want, but so do the actual investors in downtown. Last time this was proposed, most of the people putting money into downtown were opposed. They tried to get their views across and were ignored or berated.

That is the thing I don't want. We have people putting up their money now, and there is talk of stopping all that unless it fits other people visions.

My experiences have been different than most of you. My grandfather had a business at 4th and Cheyenne that was torn down because an attorney bought an office building across the street and wanted closer parking. I am involved in a festival downtown that gives up large parts of our festival area because the fire marshall says we have to have a break every two booths and the city attorney says we can't play music before noon or after 1 pm on weekdays. I was involved in getting an awning on a building at 11th and Cheyenne four years ago that took two years for approval because it extended over a public sidewalk.

Little rules drive me crazy and can drive investors away too.

I am not convinced. I have played, worked, hung out in downtown for over 40 years. It is booming now more than any time in my lifetime. Now doesn't not seem the best time to suddenly add new regulations without serious consideration of all sides.



I gather that you may be working with Mayfest this year or have in the past?

I was wondering if you all might consider applying some "free market/more open zoning" laws to the festival?

I mean why tell all those people who invest in their booths, artwork, food trucks, musical instruments, etc. etc. where they should set up?

Why not just let everyone set up anywhere they please downtown? You know, perhaps a few art tents will set up near one corner, then a few more on another side of downtown, then a few more perhaps by my shop, and then perhaps let the musicians and stages also just set up wherever they please and the food vendors as well?

They are the ones doing the investing, let them decide. Surely the festival would be much better that way than having all those artist be FORCED to be line up all in a row and with another row facing them on the other side of the street, etc.  I mean whats the logic in that! Who are you to tell them whats better?  

 Let everyone decide on their own where they want to be downtown next time! I am sure it will work out fine and draw a great crowd! And Mayfest (downtown Tulsa) will be in a much better than those other festivals (other cities downtowns and the suburban shopping areas with their zoning)!  Right?  If that kind of thing will be so great for downtown Tulsa, surely the same logic could be applied to the festivals and it work smashingly well!

Don't want a bunch of little rules to drive them crazy and run them off would we now!
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« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2017, 02:26:39 pm »

I would encourage everyone to read the proposed overlay:
https://smartgrowthtulsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Click-here-to-read-Jeff-Specks-Seven-Rules-for-a-Successful-Downtown-Tulsa.pdf

Now think about the parts of downtown that are thriving.  These are inevitably in the old places that were never demolished: Brady, Blue Dome, Greenwood, Hodges Bend and the Deco District. All the old buildings that have created the core of our entertainment districts would easily meet the requirements of this overlay. This is not a coincidence.  Buildings are built up to the sidewalk, have front doors and windows, and are not fronted by surface parking.

Now think about the places downtown that are not thriving. Think about the empty / dead zones downtown.  Guess what? None of them would meet the conditions of this overlay.  Blank walls and surface parking lots define these areas and people respond to these conditions by avoiding them as much as possible.

It's silly to argue that downtown is doing great and we should leave it alone.  It's only doing great in the places that are old enough to have utilized a traditional pedestrian-oriented building pattern.  In the past, people didn't need an overlay, they needed to meet the needs of humans on foot, and they knew how to do that.  Today, we have lost that skill because we're out of practice, and we need a little guidance so we don't F it up.
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« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2017, 07:47:46 am »

Lets say I wanted to build an office building at 1st and Main. It would become the tallest building in downtown and employ enough people to save downtown from closing. But a small group of people try to employ new rules to save some small two and one story buildings.

This actually happened.

If a small group of people decide they know what is best and there vision gives them the power to decide, then we wouldn't have the BoK tower.
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« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2017, 08:41:01 am »

Lets say I wanted to build an office building at 1st and Main. It would become the tallest building in downtown and employ enough people to save downtown from closing. But a small group of people try to employ new rules to save some small two and one story buildings.

This actually happened.

If a small group of people decide they know what is best and there vision gives them the power to decide, then we wouldn't have the BoK tower.

A.  This is not whats being asked now.  Nobody is asking to save any buildings with the overlay.

B.  Some would argue that downtown wasn't saved.

C. Some would argue that it was a small group of people that helped destroy downtown (including main street)

In the 70s we put in car centric suburban zoning all over the city, but downtown.   Look what happened to downtown, a tiny island surrounded by car centric zoning.  It was practically destroyed.

Some places with similar circumstances (smaller/medium sized cities with a lot of auto centric suburban zoning) also did something else, they added urban pedestrian friendly zoning to parts of their downtown.  Those areas did not die, instead they became some of the most lively and economically vital areas of their cities and regions. 

D.  Some would say it was a small group of people who helped revitalize downtown, many who are the same ones interested in the overlay, who then made it worthwhile for the larger investors to then take an interest in it. 

3 main things started before the "big guys" decided to come in and start developing again.

 1. Small businesses came in, fixed things up, made downtown "cool and interesting" again. 2. Public investment in large projects like the Arena and Ballpark.  3. A general renewed interest in urban living.  THEN the big guys were able to say "Ok, I too can begin to take some risks here."


I just read the 1 page overlay proposal.  There are some things I like, and some things that I think need to be changed and addressed to make it more understandable and palatable for larger developers. 

Rather than throw it out whole cloth.  I would hope people could work together to help address everyones interests and concerns.

I walked around downtown a couple days ago, for over an hour with one of the biggest property owners downtown and really got a better view of his perspective, and I hope he saw something of mine as well.  I really believe he wants to do good things for downtown and his businesses.  But I can also see that they don't get the retail aspect as clearly as I do.  I pointed out some things and got a little "Oh" and nod of understanding about some things I mentioned.  Some things that to me as a retailer are clear as day, but to a big developer with other concerns, simply overlooked or had not thought about or even knew to think about.  But again, I am sure there are plenty of other things I do not know about his perspective.  The interesting thing is that we both saw that we wanted a lot of the same things.

So again, surely there is some way to help everyone on both sides of the equation out?

If the overlay does not work out, I think the most important thing for someone like me to do would be to get the property owners to understand what would make retail work the best.  If it works well it can command great "price per square foot" rents.  And we all want it to work great!  But I can see that they may be doing some things that can harm that goal and not even realize it.

For instance, it has been pointed out to me several times that there is retail space in the Vandever building which is a good location, but has been sitting empty for a long time.  The developer obviously wants it to be retail for they have said they want it to be and have a retail space sign up. BUT.... from my perspective as a retail person I look at it and say "Well if you wanted it to be a retail space, why wasn't it designed to be a retail space?!"  It is currently designed as office space!  It has low ceilings for one thing and that is not going to work.  Apparently the developer either didn't know that when he redeveloped it or is lying that he wants it to be retail?  You tell me which?

On the one page overlay there is a mention about retail spaces needing minimum of 12 foot ceilings. 

The developer wants retail, but is not a retail person, so perhaps just made a judgment that harmed his own interests? And mine as well for not having more retail in my area hurts me and the other property owners who want that! I mentioned this to the property owner I walked downtown with and he didn't seem to realize that was even a "thing", that retail would do better in a higher ceiling space.  Trust me, there may be some exceptions, but generally you really need it. And thats just one example. 







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« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2017, 07:31:44 am »

Here is a 20-minute video that might help help inform this discussion:

Insights into a Lively Downtown
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« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2017, 04:10:24 pm »

Just ran across this from Jane Jacobs who wrote "The Death and Life of Great American Cities"


"Citizen Jane opens with a line from The Death and Life of Great American Cities typewritten across the screen: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”"


I just today saw the documentary "Citizen Jane" which is currently showing at the Circle Cinema (I was the only one there) about Jane Jacobs and her successful struggles against myopic developers (Robert Morse).  It supports that a well organized group can impact decisions which might not be in the best interest of the city (or its inhabitants).  I don't know if it will still be at the Circle after tomorrow.



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