Walking Western

The plan, culminated after a months-long study, would narrow traffic lanes and increase sidewalk space throughout the five-block area of Western. Proponents say it will create more appealing public space and ease parking and pedestrian concerns.

“We can make Western Avenue a better place,” said Blair Humphreys, executive director of the Institute for Quality Communities at the University of Oklahoma College of Architecture, at a July 11 public meeting.

The plan utilizes the principles of placemaking, which focuses on public spaces — including streets — to promote a sense of place, identity and community, thereby enhancing the branding and economic potential of an urban commercial district.

Humphreys said an analysis by his team revealed that the corridor is dangerous for pedestrians and there is 5,540 square feet of “lost space” between N.W. 41st and 46th — enough room for 200 outdoor dining tables.

The proposal would expand sidewalks and add curb cuts, curb extensions and median devices to slow traffic and increase pedestrian safety.

“The sidewalks are so restricted on the current Western Avenue,” Humphreys said. “It tells me that right now, we have a dysfunctional corridor.”

The plan also calls for metered parking and parking attendants for the most desirable parking spots between N.W. 41st and 43rd, he said, creating disincentives that could encourage patrons to find less crowded parking.

Humphreys said updating and enforcing zoning codes from N.W. 36th to 48th streets would allow the area to grow without hurting surrounding neighborhoods.

The project would be a boon to the corridor, but lost revenue due to construction inconveniences could force some businesses to close before reaping the benefits, said Richard Hill, owner of Eden Salon and Spa at 4200 N. Western.

“I’m overall in support of this. I think it will be a wonderful improvement to our business and the corridor, but I am very concerned about the city and its record with contractors,” he said.

Hill used to own another salon located downtown, but he said it had to close because of Project 180, the city’s $176 million streetscape and green space redesign.

“They killed one of my businesses. I can’t let them do another,” he said.

Local bar and restaurant patrons tend to park on 42nd, damaging homeowners’ property, according to Crown Heights resident Chris Sansam.

“That is a big concern,” he said. “I think the plan looks fantastic. We’re unsure whether it would address that problem.”

In 2007, voters passed a $835.5 million general obligation bond issue that included $3.3 million for the reconstruction of Western from N.W. 36th to 63rd.

This project would probably exceed that amount, and more funds would have to be approved by the Oklahoma City Council, Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid said.

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Brendan Hoover

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