Our highest potential: the Downtown Master Plan

Downtown Master Plan consultants from Ochsner Hare and Hare, the Olsson Studio, were in Sapulpa this week for the second stage of their planning process and to hold a community open house. 

Members of the Downtown Master Plan (DMP) Stakeholders Committee and city staff met with the consultants Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the SeneGence event center for workshops, informational sessions, and the public open house where they were available to answer residents’ questions and explain some of the proposed ideas. 

Members of the public walk around, watching for the new

As stated in the article published on August 14, the “30-member Stakeholder Committee consists of a diverse group of members of the community, including educators, community leaders, business owners, and leaders of local nonprofit organizations, among others” and “is to be the sounding board for the planning effort.”

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The study’s core boundary area goes east on Lee from Poplar Street to Oak Street, cuts north to Hobson, and then west back to Poplar. The “transition area” goes further south on Poplar to Thompson, east to the railroad tracks, and then curves northwest to meet the boundary of the core area. The entire area emcompasses 30 blocks. 

Ken Boone with OHH said the objective of the master plan is to, “Create a vibrant, mixed-use urban environment that leverages [Sapulpa’s] status as a designated historic district, stock of historic buildings, and presence along Route 66.” This week OHH came with a framework for the master plan, developed using ideas and information culled from the workshop in August. It includes suggestions for land use, streetscapes, focal areas, and even “what a district gateway or threshold would look like.” 

Fresh, innovative, and modern ideas for how to best utilize our downtown abounded, while also acknowledging and respecting the more historical and traditional aspects of it, such as its Route 66 designation and abundance of historically-preserved buildings. Ideas included utilizing alleyways, creating streetscapes, giving potential sites for a community gathering place and green space, widening the sidewalks, adding bike lanes, implementing more family-friendly nightlife options, bringing more dining and retail options to the area, having an apothecary or general store, slowing down traffic, having adequate parking and lighting, and having more live music options. OHH will “synthesize” all of this information with their experience and study results to help create their master plan. 

The plan will be an articulation of community leaders’ goals for downtown Sapulpa over the next 10 to 20 years and will combine existing planning documents into a long-term and comprehensive plan that positions our downtown for readiness and efficiency in attracting developer interest, emphasizes pedestrian access and “walkability” throughout downtown, helps attract quality and sustainable growth, raises expectations about downtown’s future,  promotes creation of public spaces, and addresses parking needs.

Of course, all of this will come to naught if the plan OHH creates is not put into action. OHH suggests creating a 501c3 (nonprofit) board with an executive director to guide the implementation, execution, management, and accountability of the plan and to liaise with all concerned groups. Boone said that implementing these plans “Takes time, effort, and money” and that we must identify “who are the pioneers, who are willing to take risks, and how we can help them.” 

He further stated that a “basic tenet for all redevelopment is that early, visible wins are the key to success. They build momentum and they show people you’re reinvesting in the area, so they can get over the hurdle of feeling like they’re reinvesting and not getting anything.” 

A large part of the proposed plan depends on what can be done with Dewey, which is currently controlled by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, because of it is designated as Highway 66, which is Route 66. ODOT representatives met with city leaders and consultants from OHH on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of taking a mile or so of Dewey and giving the responsibility of it to the City and away from ODOT. This would allow highway traffic to be rerouted to Highway 97 or Highway 117, and enable planners to narrow Dewey to two lanes of traffic, put in angled parking rather than parallel parking, and to widen sidewalks for easier pedestrian walkability and bike riding. 

This would not only increase local control, but also allow us “to have a downtown main street that can actually operate as a downtown main street,” said Boone. City Manager Joan Riley said that the city “would have to do a study session over this if there are going to be a lot of changes with ODOT” and emphasized that this will be a “multi-year process.”

Boone agreed when Sapulpa Times spoke with him this week, saying that it will take “years to resolve the street width issue with ODOT,” and that to get started, first a “decision needs to be made.” 

The primary objective of both the $40 million GO Bond and the Downtown Master Plan is to keep as many people in Sapulpa as possible and to bring as many people here as possible, whether to live, dine, work, or shop. Its aim is to embody the best version of ourselves that we can be, to reach our highest potential.  

Ochsner + Hare will be back in early 2021 to provide the results from this week and to host another open house where residents can come and give their input and how the plan is taking shape. After this they will develop their final master plan, which will be available for at least 2 weeks for community feedback. Taylor Plummer with OHH emphasized that they want this to be a “highly transparent” process, open to everyone. 

For more information, please visit the website at downtownsapulpaplan.com. You may also sign up for project emails there. Please direct questions to Sapulpa’s Urban Development Director, Nikki Howard, at nhoward@cityofsapulpa.net or 918-248-5917. Community involvement is welcomed and encouraged.