The hiring of a director of the RedFork Main Street program has put into place a key element in the continued efforts to revitalize one of the oldest business districts in the Tulsa area.
Proponents of the program say the hiring this month of Katy Davis puts into place a needed position to tie together a growing number of business and community development projects in the area.
“We have had no staff person or central point of contact in any of those organizations that helps bring it all together,” said Gary Percefull, president of The Scissortail Group Ltd., Southwest Tulsa-based public relations firm. “I think Davis is that missing link.”
Anchored on the east by the Arkansas River and on the west by the now crumbling Crystal City, the one-time jewel of entertainment and commerce in Southwest Tulsa, the RedFork Main Street project spans a section of Southwest Boulevard that encompasses a four-mile stretch of historic Route 66 and the first oil well drilled in Tulsa County.
Selected as a Main Street Community in March, RedFork is one of 43 active units in the Oklahoma Main Street Program operated by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
The Oklahoma Main Street Program is a revitalization effort designed to provide communities with tools to improve their historic central and neighborhood business district areas. Since 1986, more than 60 Oklahoma Main Street communities have generated $569 million in total public and private reinvestment, created more than 10,868 jobs and helped in the development of almost 3,398 new or expanded small businesses, the Department of Commerce reported.
Main Street communities receive both technical and design assistance from the Oklahoma Main Street Center staff.
Envisioning the Future
Davis, a lifelong resident of the west side of Tulsa and a graduate of Jenks High School and the University of Oklahoma, has begun training in the organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring points of the program. The RedFork Main Street board and volunteers are also being organized into committees representing those four areas, she said.
Housed in temporary offices at 3908 Southwest Blvd., next door to the Scissortail offices at 3904 Southwest Blvd., Davis said she will develop the plan to accomplish the goals envisioned by those committees and the RedFork board. Those goals are part of a ”visioning report” prepared by Oklahoma Main Street Center State Director Linda Barnett.
“It is like a ‘pile of sky’ dream of what we want RedFork to look like 20 years from now,” Davis said. From that long-term vision, the committees set goals for the next year from which Davis establishes a work plan.
“I take all the pieces from the four committees and put it together and then I say this is what the next 365 days looks like to meet our goals,” she said.
One of the first projects is expected to be the renovation of a Chamber House on Southwest Boulevard, which will house the Southwest Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, the RedFork Main Street program and possibly other organizations, she said.
“The great thing about finally getting to this step,” Davis said, “is that you are talking about people who have full-time jobs who have done this in their spare time to get this project going. They have done the work with the Oklahoma Main Street Program, and they have gotten this ability to be a Main Street program and get their hands on this training and information. Now I can come in and I can put the pieces together.”
“That’s what I do. I want to know the people who are in the businesses; I want to know the people who want to be in businesses over here,” she added. “Somebody referred to the position of the director of the Main Street program as ‘the guardian of your community.’ In a way, the best interest of Southwest Tulsa is my entire job.”
Percefull, whose Scissortail firm is a seven-year member of the business community in Red Fork, said he believes the Main Street program “is going to really help accelerate the things that have been going on over here.”
Among the more visible projects:
? Vision 2025 and Route 66 plans include restoration of the 11th Street/Southwest Boulevard Bridge and establishment of the 11th Street Bridge Overlook and Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza on the east side of the Arkansas River. Other Vision 2025 projects on Southwest Boulevard in the RedFork Main Street area include $1 million in streetscaping and Route 66 planters.
? Sinclair Tulsa Refining Co. has purchased properties at 3149, 3251, 3225 and 3333 Southwest Blvd. that a company spokesman said would be used to create new entrances to the facility. He said Sinclair plans to allow 15-foot easements for RedFork Main Street landscaping and beautification use within security guidelines.
? Though details are not available, a contract is apparently on the table for the purchase of Crystal City Shopping Center at 33rd West Avenue and Southwest Boulevard, and RedFork Main Street and Southwest Tulsa Chamber of Commerce officials expect the possible new owners to participate in efforts to revitalize the area.
In addition, Percefull pointed to a Southwest Tulsa education initiative through which a magnet school is being developed on the Webster High School campus.
“We have $22 million as of the last school bond issue being spent in Southwest Tulsa, you have Vision 2025 spending money on Route 66, efforts to develop the Arkansas River and things happening at the OSU Center for Health Sciences,” he said. “I thing you are going to start hearing a lot more things that are coming out of Southwest Tulsa.”
Linda Jordan, chief executive officer of Scissortail and treasurer on the board of RedFork Main Street, said, “There are so many things that are happening in Southwest Tulsa right now that have been happening alongside our efforts to get the RedFork Main Street together.”
“We have actually had city planners who have come in and sat down with the citizens of Southwest Tulsa and talked with them about what they wanted for this area,” she said. “We think RedFork Main Street is going to be one of the tools that will help those things happen.”
Program a ‘Real Plus’
Jordan said the level of buy-in by local business in supporting the Main Street program has been “pretty astounding.”
She said part of the application process required the community to cover the first three years of its budget. With a commitment from the City of Tulsa for $50,000 a year for the next three years, “we did that,” she said. “We raised almost $300,000.”
Beyond the city pledge, “the rest of its comes from our stakeholders – more than 30 individuals and businesses, big and small. I think they recognized that this is a proven program and it was going to do good things. We all stand to benefit when this area become viable again.”
Percefull also sees the Main Street program as “a real plus” because it provides an opportunity for people who want to invest in this area.
“Southwest Tulsa right now is a real opportunity area for the city of Tulsa,” he said. “It’s under-developed and there are areas that are not developed. But, there is also a lot of developed infrastructure – you have streets, highways and good schools.
Percefull said the area has vacant and underdeveloped land located along a main street.
“It’s like a community within the larger City of Tulsa community, and Southwest Boulevard is kind of a historic main street through the area,” he said. “When you start looking at what the city’s needs are, it needs to grow its tax base. A lot of the growth in the metro area has been outside of the city limits. One of the things we are trying to do in our little community over here is see if we can’t stimulate more development and redevelopment of Southwest Tulsa, which is going to benefit the city.”
Jordan said the commitment to revitalization of Southwest Tulsa has long been a goal of area business people and community leaders and that the RedFork Main Street program provides a means to coordinate those efforts.
“It’s not new,” she said. “It’s just that we finally found a program that we can wrap our arms around that is a proven program and gives us a roadmap for getting done what we need to get done.” ?