TRANSFORMING HOMETOWN OKLAHOMA: COMMUNITY ECONOMIC RESILIENCY INITIATIVE

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACOG created the Community Economic Resiliency Initiative (CERI) Program, which was funded by the EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant, to offer municipal governments the opportunity to develop planning demonstration (demo) site projects that would model strategic community and economic investment with a focus on Placemaking and Cultural Heritage Tourism.

The CERI Program provided the opportunity for a city to envision greater economic potential through a process of community research and engagement, garnering citizen recommendations, best practices training, and proposed project implementation strategies.

In developing the CERI Program, ACOG partnered with the Oklahoma Main Street Center and the University of Oklahoma Institute for Quality Communities (IQC) to provide a toolkit of services to the selected municipalities that served as the foundation for effective economic revitalization and resiliency. With authorization from the ACOG Board, IQC was procured through an inter-local agreement with ACOG to provide planning consultant services to each of the selected applicant cities for the demo sites.

After a competitive RFP process, in March 2021, the ACOG Board approved three (3) planning demonstration site projects in the following communities as recommended by the CERI Application Review Committee:

The City of El Reno – Sunset Drive/Route 66 Corridor Study
The City of Guthrie – The Elbow Recreational and Cultural Area Plan
The City of Harrah – Sweeney Switch – Downtown Plan

 

CERI PROJECT ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Three (3) completed planning demo site project plans with community-driven proposals and long-term project implementation strategies. The selected Cities of El Reno, Guthrie, and Harrah were given a professionally developed road map that outlined the community’s vision and final recommendations garnered from their citizens. These recommendations were supported by community outreach, professional development and historical research, and suggested future grant funding opportunities that prepared these cities for the implementation phase. Other significant accomplishments included:

  1. Updated city planning techniques and best practices shared with each community.
  2. Economic development and transportation safety research conducted on behalf of selected cities.
  3. Urban design, streetscape, and development strategies created for each municipality.

CERI PLANNING DEMONSTRATION SITES

EL RENO

ROUTE 66/SUNSET DRIVE CORRIDOR STUDY

The Corridor Study area consists of Sunset Drive in El Reno, between Petree Plaza and Adams Park. Between both landmarks is one mile of Route 66, named Sunset Drive. Through community engagement and interviews with stakeholder groups, three major themes arose which became the three pillars of the Sunset Drive project:

  1. A Safe Place for All
  2. Community & Economic Development
  3. Public Image

 

Project Recommendations: 

A SAFE PLACE FOR ALL
Pedestrians feel safe crossing the street
Pedestrians feel safe walking on the sidewalks
COMMUNITY & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Public commitment to creating a district that attracts entrepreneurs to Sunset Drive
Businesses and services on Sunset Drive that serve tourists and locals alike
PUBLIC IMAGE
There is civic pride for Sunset Drive
Properties are well-maintained & attractive
TOURISM
Tourists respond to cues inviting them to stop & get out of their cars
Tourists easily navigate Route 66 in El Reno

GUTHRIE

THE ELBOW CULTURAL & RECREATIONAL AREA PLAN

The area known as The Elbow in Guthrie, was an African American community founded in 1903. After over a century of flooding, the neighborhood was condemned. Some residents relocated, while others decided to stay.

Traditionally, society builds museums and erects monuments to honor history and culture. For the Guthrie CERI Project, these methods are not available, due to no structure being built within a floodway; therefore, the Elbow community will be recreated virtually.

Visitors to the site will walk the former streets which have been reimagined as greenway trails, gaze upon virtual recreations of the buildings while viewing historic photos and listening to interviews of former residents and their descendants.

Project Recommendations: 

  • Allow the former residents and their descendants to name the recreational and cultural area
  • Continue to build the augmented reality model by gathering interviews and family memorabilia
  • Restore S. 5th St. to connect the Recreational and Cultural area to Downtown and install on-street parking and pedestrian pathways
  • Develop city-owned land along S.5th Street into socializing spaces to attract people to the Recreational and Cultural Area
  • Build a pedestrian/service vehicle bridge over Cottonwood Creek at W. Perkins Ave. to connect to the Recreational and Cultural Area

HARRAH

DOWNTOWN SWEENEY SWITCH PLAN

The goal of the Harrah CERI project is to provide a framework to transform downtown Harrah into a walkable destination branded as Sweeney Switch.

Harrah may seem like a typical rural Oklahoma town, but its circumstances are changing rapidly. The new Kickapoo Turnpike is inducing rapid growth of exurban development in large-lot residential subdivisions. Commercial development is sure to follow. The challenge is to avoid car dependent sprawl and funnel shops and businesses into a revitalized town center.

Project Recommendations: 

  • Remove downtown Harrah from the regulatory floodplain using natural barriers and compensatory storage
  • Calm traffic and improve the streetscapes of Church Avenue, Main Street, and Tim Holt Drive
  • Devise a parking strategy primarily using on-street angled parking
  • Connect downtown with the parks, schools, and neighborhoods by expanding trails
  • Encourage mixed-use downtown development of vacant lots and rehabilitation of older buildings

Community & Economic Development Team

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