October 23, 2013
Is Altus ready for an “urban living experience?” Main Street Altus Design Committee held a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 23, to present ideas and receive comments from a public audience, including property owners, business owners, and Altus residents, for a new “Alley Park” to be constructed in the alleyway between buildings located within Commerce and Cypress avenues in downtown Altus.
“You want it be like your community living room,” Oklahoma Main Street Architect Larry Lucas said. “It would be a place to listen to music on Friday nights, or see a movie on the side of one of those big brick walls. It creates that comunity living room and atmosphere. Because we really do want this part of town to be the third place, not your home, not your work, but that other place you like to stop on your way home, or like to take your kids out for a walk on a Sunday Afternoon. That’s really your goal for Main Street.”
The Design Committee met with City officials, property owners, and business owners earlier during the day to recieve necessary input. Urban Development Services Scott Day of San Antonio, Texas, and Lucas, spent the next several hours coming up with possible scenarios or phases, for the proposed location. Day stated that they will return in four to five weeks with more concrete drawings.
The first phase involves a major clean up of the area, including utility, gas line, drainage, and other upgrades to the outside envrionment. Day explained that utility work will take up a major portion of costs. The second phase includes installing a staircase or elevator for accessing the upper levels of the building, and adding aerial catwalks.
Day, subcontarcted by the State of Oklahoma, is to help develop concepts based on public input to see how the space could be used best. “It’s purely conceptual at this point, it’s not hard edge drawing where we’re going to come back and start construction,” said Day. “Really, it’s at the very beginning stages and there are a funnel of ideas that we can all throw in of what we’d like to see out there, and as we go through the process we eliminate more and more things cause right now it’s a universe of opportunity.”
Lucas stated that using the area as a nice public space can be valuble for reinvestment and used to draw more people to live and or shop downtown. “I’m not saying people have to live on second floors, it could be businesses,” Lucas said. “If you have a small butique or something, you dont really need to rent the entire space. Sometimes these back alley compartments, when you can do it, are really great because it gives people a chance to get a business started.”
During the meeting there was a discussion about utiizing second floor space whether it be rental apartments or business areas. City Administrator Elizabeth Gray commented that having those spaces as residential would be key to contributing to a more secure public space where shoppers feel more comfortable and are drawn to come out and see live entertainmaint and expereicence some sort of “night life.”
City of Altus Planning Committee Barbara Burleson pointed out how Oklahoma City redefined itself through the development of Brick Town after having the OKC bombing event. “If you look at the success of Oklhaom City, no we’re not going to be the same, but somebody had a vision and just stuck with it, and they used old buldings like we have, and it just happend,” Burleson said.
A concern for funding the alley park project was raised by audience member Debbie Fick. Day explained that there are several possibilites including a Tax Increment Financial District for businesses and property owners in that location, or maybe organizing a property association.