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Dogged park

A pair of Oklahoma City Council members assail plans surrounding renovation of a downtown park.

Clifton Adcock March 7th, 2012

Controversy over the city’s plans for Bicentennial Park erupted during the Feb. 28 Oklahoma City Council meeting, with some council members irked that the park had been prioritized over other projects, and wondering who had made that decision.

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Bicentennial Park, located between City Hall and the Civic Center Music Hall, is home to a number of historical monuments and sculptures. Its renovation is part of Project 180, the massive downtown green space and streetscape redesign funded by the tax increment finance district surrounding Devon tower.

But renovation plans for Bicentennial Park hit a snag in January when the Downtown Design Review Committee took issue with some elements of the proposed design. The panel tabled the item, but approved the contract the following month after some modifications were made.

City Council received a presentation on the planned changes to Bicentennial Park on Feb. 21, with a vote on the contract at the Feb. 28 meeting. Although the council approved the proposal, council members Pete White and Ed Shadid unloaded a laundry list of complaints with the park and the entire process surrounding Project 180.

The two, who voted against the contract, voiced concerns about what would be done with the statues, monuments and plaques currently in Bicentennial Park; the cost of architectural fees for alternate plans not being used; and a lack of consultation from historic preservation experts.

“How this got prioritized ahead of fixing the streets, how it got prioritized over finishing [E.K Gaylord Boulevard] so we could facilitate the [intermodal transportation] hub,” White said, adding later that “it’s an absolute atrocity that we are taking that park out and storing everything in it with the idea that someday we’re going to figure out what to do with that stuff.”

Shadid blasted the Project 180 presentations to the council as “fluff.” He challenged the need for three downtown parks in such close proximity and asked who had given the Bicentennial Park renovation priority over other Project 180 work.

“The process has to be revised,” Shadid said. “We have … the longest sitting city manager in city history. City staff is very capable, but I don’t see them really contesting the city manager. The mayor is very popular across the country. He’s out of town a high percentage of time. The council needs to be the counterbalance, and it hasn’t been.”

City Public Works Director Eric Wenger said plans for Bicentennial Park’s renovation began in 2009 and the process for Project 180 project approval follows a fairly routine formula, going from city staff to the Devon Implementation Committee before heading to the city’s Economic Development Trust and eventually City Council.

Photos by Shannon Cornman
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