Kaiser Foundation makes progress on Gathering Place park plans
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
11/06/12 at 7:26 AM
A lot of work is being done to construct the Gathering Place for Tulsa - the $100 million to $150 million park planned for the east side of Riverside Drive. It's just not work most people will ever know occurred.
"We have spent the last 4 1/2 months working on all sorts of details," said Jeff Stava, project manager for the park, which is being funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
The foundation plans to present its latest design for the park to the public the first week of December, with construction to begin sometime in the first half of 2014.
The foundation held several public meetings this year to gather input on the project and has spent the time since taking those comments into account as it finalizes plans for the park.
"We received just under 1,600 public comments between all of the meetings we had," Stava said. "And, believe it or not, there were a lot of comments that have a lot of good design potential.
"We have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to modify our plans to take advantage of those comments."
The modifications include maintaining and increasing open space in the park wherever possible and improving the park's connection to River Parks across Riverside Drive.
"We have gone back and literally relooked at every aspect of the project to keep as much openness as possible," Stava said. "People want the ability to get down to the water's edge, and they want to see the native habitat down on the riverbed, so we refashioned the plan on how it allows accessibility to those areas."
To construct the park, the foundation plans to transform land it owns east of Riverside Drive, including a small tract of city property, into a unique gathering place that ties into River Parks.
The foundation owns the 33.6 acres of the Blair Mansion property at 26th Place and the 21.5-acre tract that includes the Crow Creek Apartments, also known as the Sundance and Legacy apartments, south of 31st Street. The two tracts are connected by a 4.2-acre plot owned by the city.
The Blair Mansion itself will be moved and is not part of the plan.
As currently designed, the park and River Parks would be connected by two land bridges for pedestrians over Riverside Drive north of the Zink Dam and one pedestrian walkway under Riverside Drive south of the dam at Crow Creek.
Conceptual plans for the park include wooded areas, cascading lawns, meandering trails, a lodge building, gardens, a large playground, a splash park, wetlands, cafes and a large pond.
In addition to working on modifications to the park proposal, foundation officials have spent the past few months meeting with utility providers and public entities to ensure that the park's infrastructure needs - including electric power, water lines and roadways - are addressed.
"We have worked really hard over the last 4 1/2 months to understand the logistics of all those public and private utilities," Stava said. "Logistically, that has taken a lot of time."
The foundation also has been involved in discussions on proposed modifications to Zink Dam at 30th Street and Riverside Drive.
The final design of the dam project will be dictated by funding, much of which is uncertain. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments concerning the constitutionality of a planned $25 million state bond issue to fund improvements to the dam for Nov. 8.
The city of Tulsa has pledged to allocate $41 million of its Vision2 funding for the Zink Dam project should the sale-tax initiative be approved by voters Tuesday.
Stava said the Gathering Place for Tulsa will be constructed regardless of how the Vision2 vote turns out.
"We are just trying to make sure the connection works and their project fits together and that the land bridges and landscape features fit together along the Arkansas River," Stava said.
If Vision2 does not pass, he added, the connection to River Parks "might have to be reworked a little bit to make that drop into the park, (but) the core essence of the park will not be affected by whether the dam is modified or not."
Original Print Headline: Park progress
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
The Arkansas River flows past the Blair Mansion (foreground) this summer. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World
Jeff Stava stands on the Pedestrian Bridge last week near the current site of the Blair Mansion and the future site of the Gathering Place for Tulsa. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Traffic passes under the Pedestrian Bridge over Riverside Drive last week. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Pedestrians walk east across the Pedestrian Bridge at Zink Dam, near 31st Street, after fishing in River Parks on the west side of Riverside Drive. Plans for the Gathering Place for Tulsa call for two land bridges for pedestrians north of this site and a pedestrian underpass south of here. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World