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Conventional concerns


The Oklahoma City Council considers a MAPS 3 timeline that prioritizes convention center construction over quality-of-life projects.

Clifton Adcock June 22nd, 2011

Members of the Oklahoma City Council and several MAPS 3 subcommittees expressed concern over a recommended timeline for MAPS 3 projects.

Ed Shadid listens to Pete White
Credits: Mark Hancock

Two timelines, which were created by Architectural Design Group, were presented to the City Council at its June 14 meeting, and to the MAPS 3 park and modern streetcar subcommittees at their June 15 meetings.

MAPS 3 Program Manager Eric Wenger said the issue was not voted on at the City Council meeting because council members said they wanted more time to consider the proposal.

The two options are the latest of several that have been considered. The first incarnation of the timeline placed the completion of the convention center, the most expensive MAPS 3 project, toward the end of the program in 2021.

However, the convention center subcommittee requested alternative timelines and an economic impact analysis. ADG presented the subcommittee with several timelines that accelerated the convention center to a 2014 start date, but the subcommittee chose a 2013 start date instead.

Because work does not begin until it is fully funded, changing project order affects all of the projects, said ADG’s Mike Mize.

ADG recommended the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board — the body to which the subcommittees report — select a schedule that put convention center pre-construction in 2014.

The board recommended the 2014 option to the City Council, which moves pre-construction on the convention center up 30 months from the original timeline, rather than 36 months recommended by the convention center subcommittee; it also moves up the fairgrounds project by about a year, and the Oklahoma River whitewater project by about six months.

Compared to the original timeline, the working draft timeline delays the second phase of the modern streetcar, as well as the lower park, by about two years. It also divides the upper portion of the park into two phases. The first phase allows for construction of the SkyDance pedestrian bridge landing and landscaping along the northern edge of the park, which is across the street from the planned location of the new convention center, Mize said.

At the June 14 City Council meeting, City Manager Jim Couch said the idea is to find a workable solution to get all projects done within 10 years, and that each project has its champions who would like to see their particular project moved forward.

“It’s a zero-sum game on the schedule, and if something goes up, something else has to come back,” Couch said. “Our attempt is to get all eight projects completed within this certain timeframe based on the cash flow coming in. We’re trying to get something that works.”

Citizens Advisory Board and convention center subcommittee chairman Tom McDaniel said the working draft balances the wants of several competing interests, as well as economic development and quality-of-life concerns.

“What we bring you is not what the convention center subcommittee voted to recommend to the advisory board,” McDaniel said. “Going that far would have an adverse impact on some of the other projects.”

However, at least three council members said they had hesitations about the most recent timeline.

“It appears to me the goal was to move the convention center forward … And I’m troubled by that, to be honest with you,” said Ward 4 Councilman Pete White.

He said the MAPS 3 program was meant to balance community, quality of life, economic development and downtown development, and while he supports delaying some projects for planning purposes, the main consideration should not be purely to drive economic development.

“(The council) talked about a balance between both those things. It’s my personal opinion that this is not balanced; it doesn’t move in that direction. It moves toward satisfying the downtown-economic-development view of things and not the broader communitywide quality-of-life things,” White said.

“To push them back because they don’t generate as many bucks and create as many minimum-wage jobs as the convention center does ... I think that’s a mistake, and that’s wrong to do to the citizens who voted for it.”

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid also expressed concern about moving up the convention center, and that opportunities for economic development that could be spurred by other projects, such as the modern streetcar, were not taken into consideration.

Shadid also said the convention center, which prior to the 2009 MAPS 3 vote polled the lowest in project popularity, would have probably polled even lower if people had known there would be pressure to make an additional investment for an accompanying hotel.

“The popularity of convention center was only 27 percent because we kept from the people that we’re going to have to come up with an additional $50 million for a hotel,” Shadid said. “That wasn’t discussed before the MAPS 3 vote.”

Ward 7 Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly also warned that a less balanced approach could diminish credibility and endanger future MAPS proposals.

However, Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs said most of the projects that were pushed back were done so because they are still in the embryonic stages, or other reasons that would not allow them to immediately go forward.

“I don’t want the citizens watching this or hearing anything in the next few weeks to think that there’s any of these projects we’re not going to do,” Marrs said. “I think everybody has this great concern MAPS 3 is going to end up not what we said it was going to be, and it’s not true.”

When the timeline was presented to subcommittees after the council meeting, several subcommittee members expressed concern that the tentative timeline was not presented to their respective bodies prior to going to the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board.

“I see the park as a project that can be spaced out over the next 10 years. It’s easy to imagine that, but it would have (been) nice to have been consulted,” said park subcommittee member Anthony McDermid. “I’m stunned by the sequence of events and the evolution of Core to Shore. I think most political observers would agree we assumed the convention center would go early in the process, and I was very surprised when the first project order was released and the convention center (was) at 2021. That flew in the face of everything I thought was going to happen.”

McDermid warned that by delaying the park, the SkyDance pedestrian bridge linking the north and south sections would, for several years, essentially be a “bridge to nowhere.”

Modern streetcar subcommittee member Jeff Bezdek said politics became involved in the matter.

“I think the majority of this committee fully endorsed the original project order in March … because it makes a great deal of sense. Of course, after that got released, it is my personal belief that politics did get involved and pressures were exerted,” Bezdek said. “It would have been helpful if we had this meeting before it went to the oversight board. It would have been helpful to have these questions answered.”

 
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