O’Connor: On the Innovation District (The Journal Record)

By Cathy O'Connor via the Journal Record 

One of the most interesting and exciting changes in Oklahoma City in recent years has been the emergence of unique districts throughout the city.

Investments in the MAPS projects and other public improvements have helped to bolster the efforts of the private sector to create new and interesting commercial and residential areas. Midtown, Film Row and the Plaza District are among the examples where public and privately funded efforts have created new residential, retail and office development.

Another exciting area is the emerging Innovation District. The Innovation District, which includes the area around the Oklahoma Health Center and Automobile Alley, is the subject of an in-depth study underway by the Brookings Institute and Project for Public Spaces. The study is examining the interplay between innovation, quality spaces and economic growth in Innovation Districts in both Oklahoma City and Philadelphia.

The study is looking at local and national data and using stakeholder and community interviews to gather information about the physical assets of the area along with the potential to catalyze entrepreneurial opportunities. Brookings and PPS will then work with community leaders to develop a unified vision and strategies for the district’s future.

The study will also look at ways to better connect and include the surrounding residential neighborhoods and community. Gathering information about the desires of nearby residents and developing ways that improve the physical connectivity is a priority. Ideas for more user-friendly public spaces, added amenities like restaurants and retail along with improved streets and sidewalks to enhance walkability have emerged during initial conversations with stakeholders.

Oklahoma City has a unique opportunity to use the information from the study to optimize and refine the physical assets already in place in the Oklahoma Health Center and Automobile Alley. These refinements will create the kind of atmosphere and resources needed to put in place a catalytic environment for innovation and entrepreneurship in Oklahoma City. The potential is great for job growth for the region as a result of these efforts and the place-making initiatives to add amenities that benefit people who live and work in the district.

Cathy O’Connor is president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

Via the Journal Record

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