Christa and the girls are in Texas for the week visiting family. This means that I can catch up on sleep and do some things that I might not have time to do.
Sunday evening, I parked the car in Automobile Alley just after sunset and took an evening stroll through Midtown/Auto Alley. Now, I know Sunday nights aren’t the nights that you’d expect activity, but nowadays you’d think there would be people about, especially when the temperature was a beautiful 73.
I was wrong.
The major activity nodes in Midtown and Auto Alley were bustling, but there was little to no activity elsewhere. Walking the area felt like a wasteland. It’s an eerie feeling. I passed about 4 people in my hour spent walking (7:45 – 8: 45 pm). One was leaving the Bleu Garten area with a Bible in his hand (I assume after evening at Frontline). Another was smoking a ciggarette at the OSHA housing at 9th & Robinson, and the other was a couple that appeared to be visitors (I saw them taking photos and studying the Spokies station at 9th & Broadway).
The only other people I saw were specifically headed from their activity node to their cars – leaving Bleu Garten, leaving The Garage and leaving Fassler Hall/Dust Bowl.
Maybe it’s because we’re a bit walled off in Lincoln Terrace, and I don’t get out as much as I used to, but the lack of public activity was striking to me. Midtown/Downtown still has quite a long way to go to have a truly active street life. We are still generally in a drive point-to-point mode in this area – drive from your apartment/house to a parking lot and walk as short a distance as possible. I did see a few people on bikes, but they were generally road bikes, not cruisers…
The full occupancy of the Metropolitan, the Edge and the Lift will help add population density, but when you look at map, they are generally on the outside of the district. OKC will need to improve the walk/bike infrastructure between these living areas and the activity areas to help build a true walkable experience.
Another note, certain streets in this area still need pedestrian lighting improvements. NW 8th between Broadway and Robinson in particular felt dark – this street will be a critical connection for OCU Law students to head over to Hideaway & other establishments in Auto Alley when they need a study break. N Robinson between 10th & 11th also felt extremely dark – Frontline’s decorative lanterns were on along 10th, but not along Robinson. Also, when Packard’s is closed, the corner really feels empty and dark.
All that said, OKC has come a LONG way since I moved here 10 years ago this June. It is absolutely amazing how much change we’ve seen in the core, and amazing knowing how much is coming and could come.