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Oklahoma City MAPS out big plans

Oklahoma City MAPS out big plans

Bryan Dean - The Oklahoman
September 18, 2009

A $777 million MAPS 3 plan unveiled by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett on Thursday certainly matches the ambition of its predecessors.

On Thursday, Oklahoma City officials unveiled the details of the MAPS 3 plan. It will include a 70-acre downtown Central Park, shown above in this aerial rendering, looking north. RENDERING PROVIDED BY CITY OF OKLAHOMA CITY

Sep 17 Watch the press conference given by Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett regarding the proposed developments to be funded by the tax.

Downtown park, $130 million

A 70-acre park, shown above in an artist’s rendering, is planned along downtown’s southern edge, between the Oklahoma River and a planned boulevard which will replace the existing Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway when it is relocated. The park would include a cafe, a lake and other amenities. City leaders compare the idea to Discovery Park in Houston, Millennium Park in Chicago and Centennial Park in Atlanta.

Convention center, $280 million

A new convention center is planned on the south edge of downtown near the planned downtown park. The new convention center will replace the Cox Convention Center, shown above, which opened in 1971. The new center will include exhibit halls, meeting rooms, ballrooms and parking.

Transit, $130 million

The money would pay for five to six miles of downtown streetcar lines and a downtown transit hub which will link streetcar, commuter rail and bus systems. Some money could also be used for building commuter rail lines, but the city is also seeking federal transportation money for commuter rail.

Oklahoma River, $60 million

About $25 million would go toward a whitewater kayaking venue. The exact location of that venue has not been chosen. The rest of the money would go toward improvements on the east end of the river where the city hosts rowing competitions. Those improvements include grandstands, lighting, parking, a floating stage, river beautification and other work on the rowing course.

State Fair Park, $60 million

The money would be used to upgrade public buildings at State Fair Park. Fair officials are in the midst of a $75 million overhaul of State Fair Park’s horse barns and State Fair Arena. MAPS money would be used for the other buildings at the fairgrounds such as exhibit space and meeting halls used during the fair each year.

Health and wellness aquatic centers for senior citizens, $50 million

An undetermined number of the centers would be built across the city. City officials have not said exactly where the centers will be located.

Trails, $40 million

A master plan calling for additional bicycle and walking trails all across the city has been largely unfunded. This money would pay for 57 miles of new trails, virtually completing the city’s trails plan.

Sidewalks, $10 million

Following up on the 2007 bond issue, which included $68 million for sidewalks, MAPS 3 will include money for sidewalks along major streets and near public buildings such as schools and libraries.

Other, $17 million

Contingency funds.


Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS)

Passed: 1993

Tax: A 1-cent sales tax over five years. Voters approved a six-month extension to the tax in 1998 to finish off the projects.

Money raised: $363 million

Projects included: The Ford Center, AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, Bricktown Canal, Oklahoma River improvements, downtown trolleys, renovation of the Cox Convention Center, renovation of the Civic Center Music Hall, Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, and State Fair Park improvements.

Metropolitan Area Public Schools (MAPS for Kids)

Passed: 2001

Tax: A 1-cent sales tax for seven years and a school bond issue.

Money raised: $714 million

Projects included: Work is ongoing. Every school in the Oklahoma City district will either be rebuilt or renovated when the project is complete. Suburban districts located at least partially within Oklahoma City limits also received money from MAPS for Kids, which went for capital projects.

Now it’s up to Oklahoma City voters to determine whether the plan matches their own ideas for Oklahoma City’s future.

City council members are expected to vote Tuesday to put MAPS 3 on the ballot Dec. 8.

The plan unveiled Thursday by Cornett and council members includes a massive downtown park, a new convention center, transit improvements such as a downtown streetcar and commuter rail system, Oklahoma River improvements, renovations at State Fair Park, health and wellness aquatic centers for senior citizens, 57 new miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails and money for new sidewalks.

It would establish a 1-cent sales tax for seven years. The tax would go into effect April 1 as the current temporary 1-cent sales tax funding Ford Center improvements expires. The sales tax rate would not change.

Cornett said it is a mistake for anyone to assume voters will rubber-stamp MAPS 3 because of the name it carries. Voters have approved two previous MAPS proposals.

"The city is just so fundamentally different from the past MAPS initiatives. I don’t think they are much of a guide for us,” Cornett said. "I think the citizens are going to look at this with a very discerning eye. Each of these projects is going to have to stand on its own.”

In 2007, the city conducted an Internet survey asking people if the city should go forward with a MAPS 3 and what the plan should include. The response overwhelmingly supported a MAPS 3. Including MAPS 3 and other city initiatives, 12 of the top 14 ideas cited in the survey will have been addressed.

"I would say transit and the park are the two things that this city most lacks,” Cornett said. "This addresses that, but it also does a whole lot more. We’ve been listening to the voters. This is what we think they are telling us.”

Filling the ‘gap’
Cornett has compared the downtown park to Discovery Park in Houston, Millennium Park in Chicago and Centennial Park in Atlanta. It would serve as a central gathering spot for downtown events and a green space connecting the Oklahoma River and downtown after the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway is relocated.

"We know that with the transformation of I-40, we are going to have a big empty gap there,” Ward 7 Councilman Skip Kelly said. "Now we have a large common area for everyone, including visitors to the city.”

Other projects will stretch beyond downtown, including $40 million for new bicycling and walking trails and $50 million for aquatic centers.

"I think we have something in the package for all our citizens,” Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer said. "A little bit unlike MAPS 1, we’ve reached out to the whole city.”

City leaders now have less than three months to convince voters the plan is worth their sales tax dollars.

Cornett said the city has kept its promises on previous MAPS proposals and will be diligent with MAPS 3, as well.

"I do think we have some level of voter confidence,” Cornett said. "But we want that same level of confidence to be passed on to future city leaders.”

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