Preserve & Enhance: Two Exciting New Projects That Could Help Reshape the Future of MooreFeb 04, 2019
Change can be a fickle thing to manage.
Over the past 20 years, the City of Moore has managed to walk the tightrope of change, turning disaster into prosperity. In the wake of a devastating series of storms, including two EF-5 tornadoes, city leaders have earned the trust of citizens by transforming a once sleepy community into a thriving city with destination shopping and entertainment. Now two new projects are ready to help continue the reshaping of Moore’s future. Change is once again on the menu.
OLD TOWN REVITALIZATION
Elizabeth Weitman is the Community Development Director for the City of Moore, and she’s been working with citizens on the Envision Moore 2040 Plan for years. Weitman says the overwhelming majority of Moore residents want to see something done with Old Town. But Weitman says this kind of change is all about finding that delicate balance between preserving and enhancing the unique qualities of Moore.
“The number two response we got from all of the citizens was that they wanted a better Old Town,” said Weitman. “They wanted an old town where they could come to shop, eat, and maybe attend some special activities.”
The challenge of creating a “better Old Town” without compromising what long-time residents love about the area is proving to be tricky. Weitman says there’s a little bit of a difference between what younger, new residents want with the desires of those who’ve lived in the area for generations.
“The newer folks who moved into Old Town have young families and kids that walk to school,” said Weitman. “They want to walk to the library, they want to walk everywhere they can.”
Those desires have been translated into plans for more sidewalks and bike lanes, such as those installed on the recent Howard Avenue project. But for long-time residents, things like bike lanes and sidewalks are reasons to be nervous over fears of the increased presence of non-Old Town residents. Assistant City Manager Todd Jenson says city leaders are taking all of those concerns to heart as they look for ways to move forward in Old Town.
“I just think that it's essential that people know Elizabeth and her staff have done an excellent job about getting a great deal of community input and incorporating that into the plan,” said Jenson. “Anytime you can do that you can be assured that any plan is not driven by just one group but that everybody has a stake in what's going to happen.”
WHAT THE CITY CAN AND CAN’T DO
Weitman says that as of right now nothing is etched in stone when it comes to the revitalization of Old Town. The priority of city leadership is to help the area retain its unique character while enhancing it so that’s it’s a more vibrant town center.
“Everybody agrees that we don't want Old Town just to become another 19th Street,” said Weitman. “Everybody wants it to be different and unique. What we're trying to do is to plan and identify the areas that everybody can agree on and, the things that we can preserve, and the things that we can change.”
The change of zoning regulations will be the primary tool used by the City of Moore to bring revitalization to Old Town. Weitman says one of the problems that Old Town property owners face is that the zoning requirements are so outdated and inconsistent that it’s led to a hodge-podge of building styles in the area. Even worse, if the city’s center were significantly damaged by weather or fire property owners would be hamstrung in their rebuilding efforts.
“We want to provide some flexibility for the property owners to utilize their properties in ways they can't use today,” said Weitman. “So we’re looking at the possibility of allowing mixed-use in the commercial corridors, where you would have something commercial on the bottom floor and then residential on the top floor.”
Weitman says other zoning changes could change parking and landscaping requirements to give property owners the ability to count on-street parking against their parking totals. Another potential change would allow multi-story buildings to create more leasable square footage. And then there’s a potential change that would help bring some consistency to the Old Town area.
“Today’s zoning doesn’t require any consistency at all,” said Weitman. “So while we’re not looking at changing the uses in Old Town, we’ve heard enough from citizens that they’d really like to see some basic standards as new buildings are built or rebuilt. Not the kind of standards that you’d see in a historic district like other cities have, but just basic design standards you’d find in any commercial area.”
OLD TOWN PARK IMPROVEMENTS
Assistant City Manager Todd Jenson says that one of the projects he’s most excited about is a new park that will help provide a destination or gathering place for Moore residents. It’s a park that has some very unique ties to Moore’s beginnings as a railroad town.
“The oldest building that I'm still aware of from Moore is the old railroad Depot,” said Jenson. “The city doesn't own it anymore, and it no longer resides on city property, but we’re planning to build a replica of that building that will anchor a new park across from the Public Safety building on Main Street.”
The location of the new park will be where the original depot was located, Jenson says the city originally bought the land thinking it might be needed for parking. As it turns out, there’s plenty of parking so the idea of using it as a “destination park” is a bit of a no-brainer.”
“While it’s going to be a replica of the old railroad depot it’s going to be all-new,” said Jenson. “It will have some very nice landscaping, some public art that’s pretty typical for cities, park benches, lighting, and we’ll have an artist-in-residence and a coffee shop where folks can gather.”
Jenson adds that once work on the 4th Street railroad underpass commences; the new park will be connected with Central Park via an extended park that runs next to the railroad tracks between Main Street and 4th Street.
“Right now it's just a gravel road, some trees, some weeds,” said Jenson. “Our hopes and plans are to turn that whole strip into a connecting park from Main Street to Central Park.”
Weitman agrees that the park will be an essential piece of the Old Town revitalization puzzle. She believes this park will be another game-changer for the area.
“It’s one of the key points in our Old Town plan,” said Weitman. “It creates a connection between Old Town and Central Park that we don’t have right now. Plus bringing in an artist-in-residence and a coffee shop provides the kinds of amenities a new generation of residents expect to see in their community.”
The second major project coming to Moore is called “The Curve.” It’s one of the last projects using the $52 million HUD grant the city was awarded in the wake of the 2013 tornado.
“This has been a very long process that began back in 2013,” said Jenson. “It’s a mixed-use, mixed-income project that will be located on the spot of the old Royal Park trailer park.”
Jenson says that one of the most important aspects of The Curve is the potential for creating a vibrant area between 19th Street and Little River Park.
“After 2013 our plans were never just to build back what was there before,” said Jenson. “We wanted to come back with something that was better, stronger, and more resilient than ever while still meeting the HUD requirements for affordable housing.”
After a lengthy selection process, the City of Moore chose to partner with the Belmont Development Group, an Oklahoma City-based company with a history of developing these types of projects.
“We’re excited to be in this partnership with Belmont,” said Weitman. “They have a great history with these kinds of projects along with real knowledge and desire to provide affordable housing for residents of Moore and Oklahoma. I think the city and the residents are going to be really happy with what these apartments are going to look like.”
The Curve will consist of three buildings, two of which will be apartment buildings. The third building will feature commercial/retail space on the bottom floor with residential area on the second and third floors. In addition to the basic layout, The Curve will also offer amenities like a pool, 24-hour fitness center, a business center, and storm shelters. The property will feature a large open space called “The Great Lawn” for recreation and picnics and will be connected with Little River Park. Weitman and Jenson both want citizens to know that this mixed-income development is different than what is typically called “Section 8” housing.
“Mixed-income is gaining a lot of traction in the housing world because it creates a situation where market-rate housing exists next to affordable housing,” said Weitman. “It puts everyone on a level playing field by providing really nice apartments where you can’t tell who’s paying an affordable rate and who are paying market rate. It also forces the apartment managers to keep all of the apartments up to a high standard of cleanliness and maintenance to attract the market rate renters.”
The Curve will have a total of 280 units, a mix of 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom apartments. 80% of those units will be “affordable,” and the remaining units will be market-rate. The $49 million project uses about $13 million of the original HUD or CDBQ-DR funds with the remainder of the funds coming from private sources. The Belmont Development Group will manage the property, which will provide the kinds of new walkability and convenience features popular with young residents and families.
“It promotes the idea of living in a place where you don’t have to get into your car for every single trip you need to make,” said Weitman. “You have shopping, grocery stores, and restaurants all within walking distance and that’s really attractive.”
Jenson says that The Curve and Old Town projects are the kinds of projects that go a long way toward improving Moore’s quality of life, something that has been on the upswing for a couple of decades now. But he and city leaders realize there will always be more work to be done in the future.
“The progress we’ve made over the last 15-to-20 years has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Jenson. “It’s a tribute to the people who live in Moore and for the city government that we’ve been able to accomplish what we have. But we all know there are still areas of the city that need improvement and we’re committed to doing all we can to make Moore a great place to live, work, and play.”