Project pushes ties between neighborhoods and companies in Oklahoma City's innovation district

The Brookings Institute's pilot project to use Oklahoma City as a new model for creating innovation districts is being tested out with planners, developers, medical researchers and civic leaders this week.

Oklahoma City was chosen along with Philadelphia for the 18-month study, which is funded by the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative for Innovation and Placemaking. For Oklahoma City, the study represents an opportunity to add life to an area east of downtown known as the Oklahoma Health Center.

Kurt Foreman, executive vice president of economic development at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, promised the study by the Brookings Institute and the Project for Public Spaces will be acted on, and won't be allowed to “gather dust” once complete.

The Oklahoma Health Center, now being recast as an innovation district, dates back to the 1960s when civic leaders prevailed on the OU Medical School not to relocate from an impoverished neighborhood along Lincoln Boulevard between NW 13 and NW 8. The area has grown substantially and is home to a workforce of more than 17,000 people.

“A group of leaders came together and said are we going to let this evolve on its own and hope something happens, or are we going work together to make sure something happens?” Foreman said.

That question was answered when construction started on the $125 million GE Global Oil and Gas Research Center at NE 8 and Oklahoma Avenue.

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