Before/After: The 80-Year Leveling of an Oklahoma City Neighborhood

Before and after shots of Oklahoma City's "Core to Shore" area. Image: The Oklahoman and Google Earth, via Dustin Akers.
Shots of Oklahoma City’s “Core to Shore” area. Left image 1932. Right image 2014. Image: The Oklahoman and Google Earth, via Dustin Akers

What happened in the last eight decades to Oklahoma City’s Core to Shore neighborhood? That’s what these two photos compiled by Dustin Akers will have you wondering. The one on the left is from a slideshow by the Oklahoman, shot in 1932. The one on the right is from Google Earth in 2014.

The answer, according to Akers, boils down to a few things: An elevated highway, misguided urban renewal policies, flight and disinvestment.

But there’s good news. That elevated highway, Interstate 40, was torn down a few years ago. There’s a plan to replace it with an at-grade boulevard. Oklahoma City wants to redevelop 750 acres area here. The concept currently calls for mixed-use housing surrounding a 40-acre park.

Here’s an illustration:

Source: Oklahoma City
Source: Oklahoma City
  • C Monroe

    what is that surviving building at the bottom of the picture? Train station?

  • Dustin Akers

    That is Union Station. It is currently home to the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority and will be preserved/enhanced as part of the MAPS 3 Central Park development.

  • Jump Drive

    OMG, look at all of that awesome green space!

  • Joe R.

    So we basically are trying to make it into something resembling what it was 80 years ago? Two lessons to be learned from this:

    1) “New” doesn’t always mean better. America’s cultural automobile fetish starting in the 1950s didn’t replace something bad with something better. It just replaced old with new for the sake of doing so, with no rational analysis given to what was being done.

    2) If you want to level a city, automobiles are far more effective than atom bombs. The picture on the right eerily resembles post-atom bomb Hiroshima:

    http://www.anglonautes.com/history/hist_usa/hist_usa_20_ww2/hist_us_20_ww2_hiroshima/hist_us_20_ww2_hiroshima_aerial_buildings_river.jpg

  • Tom Elmore

    No – there isn’t any good news. They very deliberately destroyed OKC Union Station’s elegant 12-track-wide, 8-block-long passenger rail yard – replacing it with the last thing this state needs any more of, a four-mile, hyper-expensive, unmaintainable 10-lane expressway. Oklahoma’s grandchildren already face “unfunded highway maintenance requirement” exceeding $100 billion and skyrocketing daily.

    And no “highway removal” – not at all. In fact – one highway is being replaced with TWO. I-40 was simply rerouted – directly through the Oklahoma City Union Station rail center, obliterating its direct connections to Will Rogers World Airport and points southwest and to Tinker Air Force Base and Tulsa.

    The new, 10-lane expressway – at a likely cost of over ONE BILLION DOLLARS (yeah, “just a little more” than their original $236 million estimate…) is already falling apart. They excavated 20+ feet of earthen fill and built the new road down on the old riverbed. They would have gone deeper – but they reportedly struck groundwater. They sunk piers for new bridges spanning the new expressway into subterranean, unreported, unremediated acid sludge pits from an old refinery. ODOT and ODEQ tried to hide this. This is pretty much the same gang that “sorta’ forgot” to protect the outer piers of the I-40 Webbers Falls bridge across the navigable Arkansas River with simple, cheap, barge-strike bumpers – thereby precipitating the May, 2002 disaster which claimed 14 lives.

    And the Riverside Neighborhood – now referred to as “Core-to-Shore?” Property and business owners have been run out, strong armed out of what was theirs by big shots who are taking all those holdings off the tax rolls forever. They’ll always COST the taxpayers money – but will never again PAY.

    Don’t believe anything you hear from what passes for leadership in Oklahoma City.

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