For all of the talk about the resurgence of downtown Tulsa, city officials know the area won’t truly flourish until more people choose to live there.
The same holds true for the neighborhoods that surround it.
Toward that end, the city this week is joining forces with a private consulting firm to update its downtown and near-downtown housing study. Consultants with Development Strategies were in Tulsa on Monday to meet with local stakeholders and neighborhood leaders to begin the six-month project.
Nick Doctor, the city’s chief of community development and policy, said the project is about more than tallying the number of housing units in the study area.
“This is going to be a very community-driven process that intentionally speaks to what the residents who are here currently are hoping for and what they view as success when it comes to their neighborhood,” Doctor said.
The city’s first downtown housing study, completed in 2010, focused on whether there was a demand for downtown living space. There was, as evidenced by the long list of residential developments that have opened since then, or are about to open
But Kian Kamas, the city’s chief of economic development, believes even better times are ahead.
“I think Tulsa is generally more conservative in development,” Kamas said. “When you look at a city like Oklahoma City, you’ve seen a lot more speculative housing development. I think Tulsa is starting to pick up.”
The housing study will help the city develop policies and allocate resources as it works with the development community and other local stakeholders to accelerate residential growth downtown and in adjacent neighborhoods such as Crutchfield, Pearl and Crosbie Heights.
It will also explore what amenities potential downtown residents would like to see in new developments, whether they be single-family homes or multi-unit apartments, as well as what services and attractions would draw people to live in a downtown neighborhood.
“I think this study will also be focused on, how do we make sure that we have just the right mix downtown?” Doctor said. “How are we thinking about making sure downtown is accessible for all residents who want to live downtown? And how are we developing our incentives and our programs to ensure that happens?”
Matt Wetli, a consultant with Development Strategies, said the study would also look into what Tulsa can do to ensure that residents living downtown or near downtown aren’t hurt by the very development the city is trying to encourage.
“How do we harness some of this growth and ensure that the folks that are living here today, that this place continues to work for (those) people?” Wetli said.
The housing update is being conducted at an opportune time for the city: In 2019-2020, about $11 million will become available as part of the city’s revolving-fund program. Approved by voters as part of Vision 2025, the loans have historically been issued with a 0% interest rate with the intent of spurring downtown development.
The updated housing study, Kamas said, will be used to assess new applications for loans.
“We are not doing a study just for the fun of studying things, but to really, at the conclusion of this, take a look at the results of the study and figure out where we should redeploy those dollars,” she said.
Kamas said she’s especially pleased with the group of local stakeholders, including everyone from developers to bankers to city councilors, who have agreed to help guide the process as part of a steering committee.
“It is just great to have such a fresh group of people representing a variety of stakeholders,” she said.
In addition to holding meetings with stakeholders and the neighborhoods’ residents, the city also plans to create an online survey to gather input and take comments.
The study will cost the city approximately $100,000.
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