Tulsa’s First Open Streets Event Reimagines Notorious Parking Crater

Photo: Zach Stoycoff, Tulsa Chamber of Commerce

Tulsa, Oklahoma, held its first open streets event over the weekend. Photos: Zach Stoycoff, Tulsa Chamber of Commerce

Typically, no one goes to the southern end of downtown Tulsa to socialize. This part of town has been so overrun with parking lots that Streetsblog readers crowned it the worst “parking crater” in the country in our first Parking Madness competition last year.

But last Sunday, thousands of people gathered smack in the middle of all that parking for an event called “Street Cred,” with the aim of transforming the area. Lifeless parking lots were remade as active spaces: an outdoor movie theater, a food truck court, and a disk golf course.

About 2,500 people biked and walked through an 18-block area during the event. It was the city’s first open streets event, organized by Tulsa’s Young Professionals group, which is affiliated with the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Young Professionals Executive Director Shagah Zakerion said a young couple who opened a coffee shop inspired her group to hold the event in this location. The couple mentioned Streetsblog’s Golden Crater award.

“We looked at that award as a wakeup call,” said Zakerion. ”For Oklahoma it’s kind of a new concept that streets are made for people. We really need to develop these areas for people and not just cars.”

Last year, under pressure from local developers, city leaders punted on a mild legislative reform that would have helped rehabilitate the area.

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Image: Tulsa Chamber

But Zakerion and her colleague Zach Stoycoff say some parts of downtown Tulsa are thriving and people are beginning to see the value of walkability. In total, 20 nonprofit organizations partnered to make this event happen.

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“I think we changed a lot of minds,” said Zakerion. ”They can’t ignore 2,500 people walking down the street talking about [parking craters].”

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Organizers also hosted a design competition, called (awesomely enough) the Golden Crater. Some of the region’s leading design firms submitted ideas for redeveloping the area.

This entry, by Miles Associates, envisioned the area as a educational center with apartment housing.

This entry, by Miles Associates, imagined a mixed-used development around Tulsa Community College.

This design, by Bos10, calls for a mixed-use public space.

This design, by Adelle York and Josh Carel, calls for a mix of residential, commercial, and retail, plus a public courtyard.

A winner has not yet been selected.

Zakerion says her group doesn’t intend to let this event be the last of it. Throughout the year, they will continue to advocate for redevelopment.

“We’ll keep beating that drum until it happens,” she said.